As winter passes and spring arrives, Bob has been doing a few odd jobs in the garden – including repainting the sundial.
It is an ‘armillary sundial’ – we gave it to his father many years ago – and then we inherited it and it usually stands in the corner of the garden on a square plinth.
As the sun journeys across the sky each day, shadows mark its movements on the earth. Sundials date back to prehistoric times.
The word "armillary" derives from the Latin "armilla," meaning bracelet or ring.
The arrow across the centre is the gnomon, whose shadow falls on the copper band and indicates the hour.
As I was standing in the garden taking the picture, I found myself humming a favourite old hymn
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
I started thinking about ‘no shadow of turning’ – it is a quote from James 1;17. I wondered what James had been thinking about as he wrote it [was he looking at a Greek or Roman sundial?] James would have believed that as the sun moves across the sky, so the shadow turns – but God is constant, he does not change, there is no ‘shadow of turning’ with him.
And that’s all lovely and comforting and I could my Lent Pause there.
But I can’t. Because I know that since Galileo realised that it is not the sun moving round the earth, but the earth moving round the sun which causes the change in shadows, there is something more to say. God is constant, his light is unchanging – so if I feel there is a shadow, maybe that means that I have moved in relation to Him.
I suspect that many of us can identify with that comment “If God seems distant, who has moved?” But I am heartened by the number of bloggers who not only share their difficult moments – but also speak of the way that God has been with them even through the shadows, until they can walk in the light again. Floss has spoken movingly in her Lent Pauses about her spiritual struggles over the past year or so – and of how she has found many reasons to hold on to her faith. Similarly, Gaz has shared his experience of depression – and how God has helped him deal with it.
And I look at the sundial again, and remember a favourite carol -and the verse from the prophet Malachi which inspired it
Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace, hail, the Sun of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His Wings.
Mild He lays His Glory by, born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the New-born king!"
But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.
May you be blessed today, as you walk in the light – and frolic in the Son-shine!