Coniston Water

Happy 2021.

I think I might be slightly autistic—which I believe is a sign that I’m not—but I do have vast understanding for people who don’t like change. I don’t mind some change, but I struggle with mess, and ‘Christmas and visitors’ does result in a lot of mess, doesn’t it? The Christmas tree is beautiful, but after a while you stop being able to ignore the pine needles on the floor, and the cardboard box stuffed behind the sofa, and the chair that’s dumped on the landing because there’s no space for both it and a guest in the guestroom, and the gifts that never made it beyond the kitchen table, and the cards that drop glitter on the hall table, and so on. Therefore, as I write this, a few days after New Year’s Day, I am in my happy place. All the upheaval has finished, and although I delight in my family and love spending time with them, there is something wonderfully satisfying about putting everything back into place.

Tomorrow, the college semester recommences, and my schedule returns to the pattern of lectures and learning, intermingled with raising animals and cleaning the house, and secretly—just between you and me—I am really looking forward to it. I have an exam at the end of January, and I am even weirdly looking forward to that. I like structure and routine. Maybe it’s an age thing.

How did you find the weird story that I told you last week? I was messaged with various suggestions as to where it came from, some people thought it was a Chinese fable, others from Japan, some from the book of Genesis. It actually came from the book of Judges. I think it was about people being satisfied with the job they have been given, and that we should be wary of those who want to have power. But I’m not entirely sure. There is a lot in those Old Testament books that are weird and confusing and don’t have an obvious meaning.

I read another story this week (another one that my Sunday School teachers forgot to mention!) You might recognise the beginning: A man is travelling and stops overnight in a foreign city. A man of the city says he shouldn’t sleep in the town square because it’s not safe, and he welcomes him into his home. During the night, the men of the town bang on the door, demanding the visitor should come outside so they can gang-rape him. The owner of the house refuses, saying that they will send outside the women instead. (You might be thinking this is the story of Sodom, because it’s similar, but you would be wrong!)

The end is rather gruesome. They put the women outside, and they are abused all night and when the visitor opens the door in the morning, there is his wife, dead on the doorstep. So (brace yourself, this is horrible) he chops her into pieces and sends bits of her to all the tribes of Israel. They are astounded by this, they meet, they destroy the evil city.

It is a very similar story to the one about Sodom, though I have never heard it linked to the debate around whether homosexuality is wrong (which the Sodom story often is). Perhaps it’s because the women were also abused, and no one wants to suggest that it shows being heterosexual is wrong!

I have no idea why this story is in the Bible, or what we should learn about it. Some parts of the Bible are like that, if you read beyond what you were taught as a child, some bits are simply weird. Sometimes we have to accept that we don’t understand them. Personally, I wish that more people would admit that they don’t understand things; I think that being too certain that our theology or politics or lifestyle is right can be dangerous. It closes our ears to things that might teach us something. Not having everything in a neat tidy package—whether it’s our home or our theology—is probably good for us.

Hope you have a good week.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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