Category Archives: Yorkshire

Light upon Light: The Sunday of the Transfiguration (Year B, 19 February 2012)

Light upon Light


2 Kings 2.1-12
2 Corinthians 4.3-6
Mark 9.2-9


I don’t often speak very personally, but I’m going to do it for the second week in a row. Don’t get too used to it though!

I want to tell you about my dad. Dad was born in 1931. His father was a Yorkshire tenant farmer, his mother was born in the west of Scotland. Dad’s father died of pneumonia; dad was three years old, and there was none of the antibiotic treatment we take for granted.

When it came time for dad to finish primary school, he was one of two students selected to go on to secondary education. It just wasn’t guaranteed in those days. But his mum prevented him from doing it, because she needed him to earn money for the family. He was the man. Times were tough; it was during the Second World War.

Dad was brought up a Methodist. He said to his minister that he’d like to be a methodist minister when he grew up. The minister told him to forget it; he hadn’t had enough education.

The unfairness of his situation caused dad to draft away from the church. Did he ever lose his faith? I don’t know—he never spoke about it. (But you wouldn’t expect him to, he was a Yorkshireman.)

Dad had mixed feelings about my practice of faith. He was wary of my getting over-involved in church things, but he was proud that I was choosing a moral way of life. And he was proud of my knowledge of the Bible.

Twenty one years ago last month, dad died of lung cancer. He was 59, and he’d been a lifelong smoker with a pretty heavy habit.

We spent what time we could talking together in those last few weeks. Time was limited; I was in Central Queensland, in Biloela, and I couldn’t get to Brisbane as much as I wanted.

To my surprise and to my puzzled delight, dad recovered his faith in his last weeks. He asked me to buy him a Bible, and a particular book of prayers. He read them and prayed them.

What I saw in my dad in that brief time astounded me then, and astounds me still. His body was wasting away, but he came to life. His eyes shone in a way they never had before. He was at peace with God again.

He was transfigured before my eyes. It wasn’t the vision that the disciples shared; his clothes didn’t shine ‘extra brite’, and neither did his face. But his eyes unmistakably shone.

When Jesus was transfigured, it was at a time that he had started telling the disciples that he would be put to death. They didn’t want to hear it. They wanted this wonderful man to go on to great things. And they wanted to go on to great things with him!

They saw a glimpse of his greatness that day. He was greater than their heroes Moses and Elijah. Elijah was a great prophet of Israel, and his time was drawing to an end. His successor Elishah had asked for a ‘double portion’ of Elijah’s spirit; he wanted to do even more than Elijah! Elishah may have received that double portion, but Jesus had even more than that. God’s Holy Spirit had come upon him in her fullness when he was baptised. Then God had spoken to him:

You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

On the mountain, the voice said so everyone could hear:

This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!

If Elisha received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, what do we receive from Jesus? We can’t receive a double portion of his Spirit, because his Spirit is the infinite Holy Spirit. But we can share his Holy Spirit. We can receive grace upon grace, hope upon hope, love upon love, peace upon peace, joy upon joy, light upon light.

And we receive all this in the midst of troubles and sorrows. We’re not spared them. I recall a Lenten home group in Biloela. People were sharing together about the troubles they had known, and the difficulties they had faced. It amazed me that as they did so, they were smiling and laughing and finding real support in one another. I said ‘If someone were to look at this group through the window, they’d think we were talking about happy things.’ God’s Spirit was transforming their spirits. As Paul says,

it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

God’s light, the light of the Spirit of Jesus, shines in our hearts. It shone in Jesus, it shone in my dad, it can shine in us. Whatever our circumstances, because we have the light of Jesus Christ within our eyes can shine, our faces can shine, our lives can shine, all to the glory of God. Amen.




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Kate Rusby: The Elfin Knight

The lovely Kate Rusby is my favourite folk singer, singing as she does with her South Yorkshire twang. The Elfin Knight is a great showpiece for her voice… I’ve tried to embed the code, but it doesn’t seem to be working, so go to YouTube to listen:

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14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 4 July 2010

Bear one another’s burdens: Ubuntu

Galatians 6.1-16
John 8.2-11

A couple of weeks ago, I reminded you that I’m from Yorkshire. I’m happy that my birthplace was in Yorkshire; it means that I’d achieved something as soon as I was born!

It can be a hard place, Yorkshire. People sometimes wrongly say that Scottish people are mean. Well, it’s been said that the difference between a Yorkshireman and a Scotsman is this: A Yorkshireman is a Scotsman wi’ generosity sooooked out of ’im. And there’s a saying that Yorkshire folk are famous for:

’ear all, see all, say nowt;
tak’ all, keep all, gie nowt;
eat all, sup all, pay nowt;
an’ if th’ivver do owt fer nowt,
do i’ fo’ thisseln

Hear everything, see everything, say nothing;
take everything, keep everything, give nothing;
eat everything, drink everything, pay nothing;
and if you ever do anything for nothing,
do it for yourself.

But you know, anyone who were to live by that motto would be making a mistake.

Perhaps another piece of English wisdom is better: it’s from the poet John Donne, who eventually became the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. In 1624 Donne wrote,

No man is an island, entire of itself…
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.

John Donne got it right; others have got it right, too. I’ve been reading something of Desmond Tutu lately. He speaks of the interdependence of all people using an African word, ubuntu. I want to spend a few minutes on what he says later; some of it may be familiar to those of you from Africa, particularly southern Africa.

So, according to John Donne and Desmond Tutu, we are all interconnected; therefore, next time you do something for nothing, do it for someone else.

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Clog Dancing

I saw an article about clog dancing in The Yorkshire Dalesman today. I remember dad talking about it as something that happened in his childhood, and I wondered what it was like.

I realised that YouTube would likely be a place I could see what it’s like. I wasn’t wrong!

While my late dad would enjoy this clip immensely, I can see why clog dancing didn’t survive into the swinging 60s, when we left England…

If you can last to the end of the clip, a thousand days off purgatory!


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The Wild Goose—Kate Rusby

Some more from Kate Rusby—this time, The Wild Goose, which is normally sung a little more raucously than the lovely version Kate has here…

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Ey oop an’ away

If Yorkshire Airlines existed, this is just how I imagine it would be! Hilarious!! 

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My Young Man—Kate Rusby

It’s a few days after Anzac Day. Without taking anything away from those who suffered and died in wartime—on any side—let’s also remember some ‘ordinary heroes’, like those who lost their health or even their lives in mines for you and me.

My Young Man is sung (beautifully of course) by Kate Rusby to a YouTube video, a stunning collage of pictures evoking the lives and sacrifices of miners. Here, it’s Yorkshire miners, but let them stand for all:

My young man wears a frown
With his eyes all closed and his head bowed down,
My young man never sleeps.
The rain it falls upon his back
The dust before his eyes is black,
Oft the times, oft the times my young man weeps.

My young man wears a coat,
Once, long ago, a bonnie coat
Which my young man wore with pride.
Now I dress the coat all on his back,
For love for him I will not lack,
But to see it now, that collier’s coat, I can’t abide.

My young man, where’s he gone?
Once in his eyes my whole world shone
Now my young man he looks away.
Man and wife we used to be
Now he’s like a child upon my knee
And in my arms I help my young man through the day.

A young girl no more am I
But I shall not weep and I will not cry,
For my young man needs me still.
If someone’s watching up above
You’ll see how much my dear I love,
So leave him here, I need him now and always will.
Oh if someone’s watching up above
You’ll see how much my dear I love,
And If he must go, let your best angels keep him well


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