Breaking the ice
Leading a quiet day at our diocesan retreat house, I surprised myself by acting out the Epiphany theme of humbled kings. I addressed the gathering in the chapel, seated on a rickety wooden throne that creaks with every gesture. Right in the middle of my third talk of the day, however, the throne collapsed into pieces, sending me and my notes sprawling. I picked myself up and nonchalantly resumed, seated on a more reliable, if modest, chair.
By sheer coincidence, I’d been describing a popular previous vicar of Helmsley. To forestall his exodus, his parishioners had threatened to lie across the road to prevent his coach ever leaving the parish. So I’m not entirely sure that my amused audience realised that my prostration wasn’t a visual aid. But certainly the day defrosted after my gaffe: kenosis can be a great icebreaker.
I didn’t journey to Jerusalem seeking a newborn king on the feast of the Epiphany. Instead, as I often do on Saturday afternoons, I wandered around Tesco in Scarborough.
With its ornate turrets, and wide aisles flanked with golden goodies on either side, Tesco is a quasi-palace; so it was easy to cast myself as a magus. I wasn’t particularly seeking anything, just more alert to epiphanies than usual.
Beside the gluten-free section, a doddery couple ground to a halt — not advisable on a crowded Saturday afternoon. The old man stooped down painfully, and took off his wife’s shoe, rubbing her raw heel, while she wobbled on one leg.
“Is that better?” he asked, matter-of-factly, as if there was nothing unusual in rubbing your wife’s heel in Tesco on a busy Saturday.
“Yeah, thanks, love,” she replied, kissing him on the forehead as he nursed her swollen foot back into its cheap shoe. A better line than “I should be doing this for you, Lord.”
By THE tinned-fruit-and-jams aisle was a harassed mother and her infant daughter — a nice child, although her mother seemed too busy to notice this.
“Get me a jelly, Shelley,” she barked, totally unaware of her unintentional rhyme.
The little girl saw the funny side, though: “Jelly, Shelley, jelly, Shelley, jelly, Shelley,” she recited. The joie de vivre of that child matched the exceeding great joy of the Magi, but was missed because Mum was looking for the tinned peaches.
Rolling in the aisle
BEING unable to find the golden syrup, after walking up and down for about a mile, I asked an assistant. We found it completely hidden beneath the lowest shelf. She peered at the familiar picture on the tin: honey bees swarming around a dead lion.
“Out of the strong came forth sweetness,” she read. “Ooh, is that from The Lion King?”
“I don’t think so,” I smiled, sparing her the gory details of Samson and the Book of Judges.
A Cana moment
next to the towers of Pringles, I bumped into a teacher from our local comprehensive. With him were his elderly father, recently widowed, and his frail-looking uncle. As the teacher and I were talking, the moribund uncle sprang into life and shot off with the trolley towards the drinks aisle, with a purposeful Father Jack look.
“Come back, Uncle. We’ve got enough wine,” the teacher shouted, without rancour and ever patient. “I’ve only got to turn my back, and he fills up the trolley to overflowing with booze,” he smiled.
For a moment, Cana seemed as near as Scarborough.
Singleton seeks veg
supermarkets can bring smiles as well as epiphanies. A cousin who was housebound decided to use Tesco Online for his Christmas shopping. Coming to the all-important Brussels sprouts’ col-umn, he wasn’t sure whether they were sold by kilogram or by pack, but plumped for one of whatever it was.
When the order arrived, there at the bottom of the box lurked a single, organic Brussels sprout, beautifully wrapped, and itemised on the bill at 4p.
The Revd David Wilbourne is Vicar of Helmsley in the diocese of York.