Thought for the week, 11th May; looking to the skies

Last week I wrote this column on holiday in Scotland, on the Isle of Tiree in the Hebrides. The topic of that reflection was inspired by a visit to a Celtic monastery, clinging to a headland and facing out to the sea. But that same day, before visiting the headland, we had spotted some birds, soaring high in the sky above us. The bird-spotter in our party confirmed that they were a pair of sea eagles; through a pair of field glasses even I could see their white tails. Later in the walk we saw two more pairs. Whilst we had one eye to the ground that day, we also kept raising our eyes heavenwards, to the sky.

The God of the Bible, Yahweh, is always seen as a sky god, no doubt reflecting the early religious experience of the Hebrew people. Three thousand years of religious reflection has of course resulted in a more mature picture, not least because the so-called “sky-God” came to earth to live, die and rise again in the human that was Jesus. But still the old picture stays with us; this week we have celebrated the ascension of Jesus, when in particular the author of Acts picks up the traditional picture as he describes Jesus lifting up into the sky. Those who share my liberal theology sometimes smirk at this picture, but on this I think they miss the point. There is something magical and inspirational about gazing to the sky, the home of such magnificent creatures at the sea eagle. When showing off in front of other vicars, I might spout forth of how God is beyond Being. But the truth is, that if I want a picture that inspires me, it is that of the Lord of earth and sky, whose power and mystery I glimpsed in the eagles. Lift up your eyes.