Over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing testimonies and devotions from some of our band members.
Today we want to share another thought from Willie Young.
D.C. Thomson, the Dundee publishers of the Dandy and the Beano and who bask in the popularity of characters such as Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan, et al, have many printing contracts with industry and the world of commerce. At a more modest level, Thomson prints for several local newspapers who gather together various features and human-interest stories etc …
The Peterhead office received a call from a local man who enquired about the cost of having an obituary notice printed for someone who had died, emphasising the need to keep the cost to a minimum. The office assistance explained that the price was based on groups of ten words, and asked the gentleman what he would like printed. After giving it some thought, the man said:
“Pe’er Reid fae Pe’erheid, deed!”
After a short silence, the assistant asked him to repeat. Not bothering to conceal his indignation, the man repeated:
“Pe’er Reid fae Pe’erheid, deed!”
A little taken aback (not by the brevity, but by the startling curtness of the statement), the assistant, in an attempt to guide him, asked if he would like to add anything, such as (for example) “Sadly missed”.
“Okay quine”, he says, “write this doon”:-
“PE’ER REID FAE PE’ERHEID, DEED, COMMA, VOLVO FOR SALE”.
I cannot vouch for the authenticity of that story, especially since I happen to know its source (!). The one positive thing about it, however, is that both the man and the assistant knew what each other was saying, making sense of their conversation. (Goodness knows what would have happened if the same man had telephoned the Royal Tonbridge Wells Gazette!)
I wonder if it is possible to conduct a conversation in which no or few spoken words are exchanged; or perhaps one person responds by, say, eye contact only. Do you recall the song “Some Enchanted Evening” from the musical “The King & I” (…I think!) and the dancefloor scene where “two eyes meet … across a crowded room”? No need for words there, but a “conversation” none the less; a moment of wordless eloquence which rejects any form of duplicity.
Well, while I was thinking over the Peterhead story, plus the various types of conversations which are shared between people, my mind went back to another very different moment of interaction from more than two thousand years ago … and yet, in a way, similar to the “Some Enchanted Evening” scenario, but ending in a statement of emphatic assurance: a single sentence which has shaped humanity and has inspired civilisations right through the centuries in a way that one individual Roman soldier could never have imagined.
That soldier’s job was to control the crowds who turned up to witness crucifixions … and this one was special! No doubt he would also need to control his own soldiers also, men who had seen too many such events and whose behaviour was regulated by their sense of cynicism. But here was a Roman Centurion, not brought up to understand, far less respect, the beliefs, the religions, the faiths of any society outside his own, who now seemed to acknowledge that this figure straddled on a wooden cross, and with whom some form of contact had been established, was somehow different to any other victims who had seen that same fate. Oh to know and to understand what was going on in the mind of that soldier when he exchanged eye contact with the Christ on his cross and was compelled to admit: “Truly this man was the son of God”.
Just as a parent can look into the eyes of a child and know, without a word being spoken, that within that look is an absolute confirmation of unconditional love (a conversation between kindred spirits), then that is, to my mind, what passed between Jesus and his soldier friend. And those words come back to all mankind again and again, echoing through the ages: “Truly this man was the Son of God” … a statement which became a confirmation of understanding and love when all Jesus did was look at him.
“O love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give you back the life I owe
That in your ocean depths its flow
May brighter, fairer be.”