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WE WEREN'T THERE FOR THE CHICKEN: Memory, Gratitude and Joy


My friend was telling me how she makes gravy out of chicken wings, the mention of which brought me right back to the winter of 1976 and the night club in the basement of the International in Salthill. In order to be granted a late opening licence they were obliged to serve food and my memory is of chicken wings on paper plates and peas that had a mind of their own, going everywhere except into our mouths. Of course, we weren’t there for the chicken and peas!

It was the best of seasons, a very happy time, being still only 21 and out to taste the joy that life offered. Innocent joy, love with a lot of laughter in it and music. Smokie were singing ‘Living Next Door To Alice’, the Eagles ‘New Kid In Town’, Leo Sayer ‘When I Need You’, Chicago ‘If You Leave Me Now’, Joan Armatrading ‘Love And Affection’ – funny how food and songs stir up old memories.

Lately I’ve listened to people looking back on things they regret. Regret is something that subtly insinuates itself into the experienced mind and the sensitive conscience but we mustn’t let it hold us captive or discourage us.

The New Testament Christian impetus is to forget what lies behind and strain forward for the prize that is ours in Christ Jesus. But there is also a Biblical way of remembering which involves not forgetting what God has done in our lives; to remember these with gratitude. And if we do remember our sins of the past it is so that we should learn from them, turn from them to God and be grateful when we have been delivered from sins that no longer cling to us as they did in the past.

It is a remembering that is part of Mary’s Magnificat, her recognizing the great things that God has done for her. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour, for He who is mighty has done great things for me and Holy is His Name.” (Luke 1:46-55) It is a prayer that has the power in it to heal our memories so that we can recall the story of our lives in a graceful and life-giving way. We can choose to allow the Holy Spirit to inspire in us our own personal Magnificat. We can choose to rejoice.

It is a remembering that leads to gratitude. What return can I make for all his goodness to me? The cup of salvation I will raise! (Psalm 116) The cup of salvation is the Eucharist which is the highest prayer of remembering, the ultimate prayer of gratitude in which all our blessings are gathered together and lifted up to the Lord, the prayer that contains the promise that He who has carried us to this point, the One who has blessed us all along the way, will continue blessing us in the present and into the future. It is then the source of hope and this gratitude is the stepping-stone to pure joy.

Naming our blessings matters, announcing our gratitude empowers us, giving testimony reinforces what God has done to us.

As I have been saying quite a bit lately, Samuel has brought a blessing and a joy to us over the past few weeks and on December 8th it seemed that his and our prayers were answered when he announced that he had been given temporary emergency accommodation. It was this joy that I encountered when I opened the door of the church that morning. He was delighted and excited and I was taken in to his joy, quickened by it as I got paper and a marker for him to write his message of gratitude to the people of this community. I was actually sad to see him leave but it's what was best for him. He arrived at the start of Advent and left us on this beautiful feast of Mary. I prayed that she would go with him and bless him as he had blessed us.

And off he went into the day and to his new temporary home, leaving his tent behind with some of his belongings, promising to come back and take them away gradually. When I asked what if the tent and his stuff got stolen, he said he would start again. That’s his constant attitude to his belongings. Even if he lost absolutely everything he would simply start again. That is a key element to his joy and even when joy turns to sorrow, he simply begins again.

May it be so with us when sorrow snaps at our heels, when happiness is short-lived, that we may have the grace to turn and quickly begin again.



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