Tag Archives: Robert Runcie

Behind his back

Robert Runcie: Photo Credit Wikimedia

Robert Runcie: Photo Credit Wikimedia

John Mortimer, in an interview with the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Doctor Robert Runcie, asked the question, “To get back to God . . . . would you like Him, if you were really to know all about Him?” To which Robert Runcie candidly replied, “Jeremiah shook his fist at God and asked Him what He was about. I do not believe that prayer is necessarily peaceful. It may mean arguing with God.” Harry Williams in Someday I’ll find you tells of his struggle with God and in the course of the battle being reminded of Yeats’ line: Hatred with God may bring the soul to God. “God,” Williams says in language less refined, “will never push off, however much you tell Him to, even if He remains in the wings and returns every now and then with His filthy magic.”

As the Old Testament Book of Exodus tells it, God warns Moses he will not see “the dazzling light of His presence”: in other words, God’s face. God does not allow such an intimacy, does not permit what Moses seeks – to see His glory. The privilege is confined to seeing only His back, not because we might drop dead at the sight of his face, but because we are following Him. From that position we feel free to express our rebellious emotions, to shake our fist at Him, thumb our nose at Him, tell Him to push off!

Reference: Exodus 33: 18–23

A rebel’s prayer

Lord God, it helps us to know you understand us, even in our dark and rebellious moods. If you didn’t we might as well let go the little faith to which we cling. Just as well you are patient with us. The mood affects our attitude to you and you do not always come off best.

In spite of our good intentions and our promises to love you, to be true to you, never to doubt you, sometimes we hate you, turn our backs to you – curse you.

God we are a bundle of contradictions trying hard to please you; failing miserably, sometimes hating ourselves for it, at times indifferent – couldn’t care less.

Praise be! You don’t hold it against us, never abandon us, always love us. Be patient, absorb our anger and never let us go. Amen.

What matters most

 The birthplace at 71 Chesterton Road TL4459 : Aaron House of Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury. LinkExternal link  © Copyright James Yardley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The birthplace of Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury at 71 Chesterton Road, Cambridge
© Copyright James Yardley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Michael Ramsay was greatly loved within and beyond the boundaries of the Church of England. He was a gifted scholar. He would require special skills of leadership to become an Archbishop. The high office to which he was appointed gave him a privileged position in the pecking order of high society in Britain. In the eyes of many there was an element of eccentricity about him. Cartoonists certainly appreciated the large eyebrows over which he never seemed to be in control. In retirement he was to be seen on the streets of Durham with a perpetual smile on his face. You thought he was about to speak to you. One young couple met him and returned the smile. They weren’t disappointed. Isn’t it nice to be in Durham” he said as he continued on his way.

Robert Runcie in a Foreword to a book about prayer written by Archbishop Ramsay says, ‘ It is a consolation and encouragement to a present Archbishop that one of his predecessors, after decades spent at the heart of ecclesiastical administration, is able to produce a work like Be Still and Know. The style is as serene as the title. It has an authentic, apostolic simplicity.’ A tremendous compliment, but to those who heard Bishop Ramsay speak about prayer, particularly during his freelance days of retirement, Dr Runcie’s tribute is to the man Michael Ramsay was in himself. He was not the exposition of a theory. He spoke a personal testimony. His life radiated a humility and a serenity ranking him with the saints of whom he delighted to speak. No doubt above all else he recognised that the Christian prayer and the Christian life are properly inseparable.

“‘To intercede is to bear others on the heart of God’s presence…..There are times when prayer vibrates with joy and eagerness, there are times when the brain seems stupider than ever, the imagination wanders far away and the feelings are cold and the will very weak.”

Michael Ramsay Be still and Know. (A Fount Original, 1981)