Christ the King – In Him, can we? Colossians 1:11-20 Luke 23:33-43

What I think is a male Duke of Burgandy butterfly... a close view of the photograph suggests  stubby legs at the front! (Noar Hill, near Selborne, late May 2016)
What I think is a male Duke of Burgandy butterfly… a close view of the photograph suggests stubby legs at the front! (Noar Hill, near Selborne, late May 2016)

This morning as part of my placement in the North Hampshire Downs I was in All Saints, Odiham marking the end of the liturgical year with the Feast of Christ the King. My reflections start with the super-moon and a very small butterfly!

Epistle: Colossians 1:11-20  Gospel: Luke 23:33-43

I suspect few of us will have seen the full-extent of the super-moon on Monday, though on Sunday as I returned from a late afternoon service in Greywell I was blessed with a wonderful view of the apparently huge rising of the ‘nearly’ super-moon, in the glowing colour of autumn’s glory. But as there was no-where suitable to pull-off and capture the phenomenon in a photograph, it has to stay purely as a memory.

There was something so fascinating about this phenomenon of the moon being 30-thousand miles closer to the earth than usual, that images of it filled our news bulletins, our papers and our social media. Something we usually feel very far removed from, suddenly appeared closer (due to angles and orbits) and we were drawn into the detail of the moon, especially the craters and their impact ray systems. From a greater distance we normally just accept these by projecting onto them features with which we are more familiar: a man, or a rabbit, depending on our cultural context and physical viewpoint. Instead the different materials of which the moon is made were highlighted, emphasising for those of us that aren’t scientists that the moon is a far more complex thing than perhaps we realised. We understand more of the universe when we are able to see the detail of what we are looking at.

I originally come from the New Forest and have been fortunate to be surrounded by wildlife most of my life, learning to understand the differences in coat colour, markings, size and other physical attributes of some native animals and birds. But it took the discovery and accessibility of digital photography to bring to the fore the detail and significance in an insects eye, antennae, wing-case or legs. Did you know for example that some of the small, rare and beautiful Duke of Burgundy butterflies have only four apparent legs, the vestigial remains of the front two marking out such individuals as males?! It’s important to those studying the viability of butterfly populations to know whether individuals are male or female. We understand more of the world around us when we are able to see the detail of what we are looking at.

On this final feast of the Christian year, known as the feast of Christ the King, we are given the opportunity to understand in more detail the significance of our Servant King by drawing close-up to the cross on which he died.

In Luke’s account of the crucifixion the accepted view of Jesus’ pretentions to the role of a Messiah who brings salvation, inspire mockery and derision with the thrice repeated challenge to save himself. The Jewish leaders, the Roman soldiers and one of the criminals with whom he is being crucified see Jesus as-if only from a distance, and even then, perhaps only as what they want to see: not a man or a rabbit on the moon, or an insect with the usual legs but another defeated and humiliated trouble-maker put out of the way.

Yet the second criminal takes a much closer view. Recognising his own death as justified by the law of that time because of his own wrongdoing, his vision of the innocent next to him is enhanced, and he sees clearly in his character, words and actions, the truth of who Jesus is, and the power of which his crucifixion speaks. For the irony of the mockers demand that Jesus should “save himself” to prove he is “the Messiah, the chosen one”, is that in his crucifixion lies the means by which this King achieves his royal power and offers salvation not to himself, but to all humankind. As in so many other examples from his earthly ministry, it is an outcast from society who is capable of a unique insight into who Jesus is, the Servant King.

The early Christian Hebrew poem that we now read in English prose in Colossians, draws this image of Christ as Servant King still closer, like a telescope on a distant moon or perhaps the macro lens on the minute detail of a passing insect. Here is visible even more detail, highlighting the supremacy and sacrifice of Jesus, giving us a greater understanding of the nature of the God we too are called to serve.

Jesus, it highlights, is the first-born of all creation. In him all things hold together. It is easy to forget when looking in awe at a super-moon or the beauty of a butterfly, that actually they are, because Jesus. Jesus Christ wasn’t simply the person for whom the whole creation was made, it was his idea, his workmanship in the first place, designed for humans to enjoy and care for. He who flung stars into space, created us to rule with justice what he had brought into being (Psalm 8).

But, we’re told, he is also the first-born from the dead. Why? Because the evil and pain that came into that creation through humans wrongdoing, their inability to care appropriately for it and for each other, could only be healed by the very one who created it, the living God. Christ the agent of creation is also the agent of reconciliation, forgiveness and hope, which is why Christ the King, the head of the church, the fullness of God, is a crucified Christ, the Servant King.

As WE look in detail at these close-up images of God made man, refusing to save himself because of you and me, and the world we live in, we should also see something else: Jesus is the blueprint for the genuine humanness which is the gold-standard of what we are called to be as humans. The cross isn’t just about the perfection of love, grace, forgiveness, humility and sacrifice which Jesus made, it is a summons to find and exhibit that love, grace, forgiveness, humility and sacrifice in our own personal humanity.

Unlike the images we have of a super-moon, a butterfly or any other aspect of the world and life around us, whether purely in our memory or on a camera or computer chip, this close-up, detailed image of Christ, the Servant King, can only be retained in our memories, and, importantly, shared with others, IF we willingly admit our own wrong-doings, strive constantly to understand who Jesus is by being up-close to him in all things, and bring that image alive in our own lives.

JESUS withstood the mockery of those who really should have understood and recognised him, and rose with humility above the derision of those whose last laugh was at the expense of an innocent. In him, can we?

JESUS recognised in the words an outcast criminal condemned for crimes he really had committed, a hope and faith in God that deserved a place with him in paradise. In him, can we?

JESUS, first-born of all creation, brought the world into being as a place of beauty, in which the abundance of life was to be enjoyed, celebrated and cared for. In him, can we?

JESUS, first-born of the dead, brought healing and forgiveness to a broken world and to broken people. In him, can we?

In the image of Jesus we show to others in our own lives, can we welcome people into this kingdom of Christ, our King?

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Noar Hill, Selborne – birds, butteflies, moths and orchids

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post about wildlife sightings, largely because they have been few and far between – not so much the sightings as the time to make them in the first place! However, having spent both my husband and my father’s birthday’s on Noar Hill, near Selborne in Hampshire, I thought I’d share our increasing love of the place.

At the very end of April my husband and I spent a rather cool day in this nature reserve which boasts among other things great views, and a friendly throughput of knowledgeable wildlife experts happy to stand, talk and share their expertise. Though we met people who had seen a Duke of Burgundy (a rare butterfly for which the hill is known) and also Green Hairstreak, we drew a complete blank, notching up only more common species like a Peacock and an Orange Tip.

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Chiff Chaff… or Wood Warbler?

We did however see emerging Twayblade orchids, early Common Spotted Orchid, and got some good sightings of singing Chiff Chaff and I photographed this little warbler at close range, which I assumed was a Chiff Chaff (it wasn’t singing so I couldn’t be sure). I’ve since been told by a chap on a birding Facebook group that it might be a Wood Warbler because it has brown legs, though it would have only just arrived on migration if that was the case. Any guidance or definitive explanation would be most helpful via the comments please!

The end of May is my father’s birthday, and leaving poor husband to an INSET day in school, I took Dad to Noar Hill, and this time came away with a list of 7 butterflies seen (Duke, Orange-Tip, Green Hairstreak, Dingy Skipper, Large White, Green-Veined White, Speckled Wood), 4 species of moth (none rare), a Dark-Edged Bee Fly, Twayblade, Common Spotted (including a white one) and Early Purple Orchids, and a Wood Warbler heard (but not seen – Dad’s warbler id skills stretch to song, and certainly wasn’t a Chiff Chaff singing that beautifully!)

Here are a selection of the treats from the day, though not including father’s fab photo of a Yellowhammer taken out the car window before I’d even managed to park!

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Duke of Burgundy
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Early Purple Orchid

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Twayblade Orchids
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Green Hairstreak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dingy Skipper

 

I thoroughly recommend a visit to Noar Hill, but don’t miss out on Selborne. There a great public loos at the free car park by the pub, and of course Gilbert White’s house and it’s associated walks, but there is also The Selborne Tea Room and it’s lovely cheese and watercress scones that aren’t to be missed, unless they’ve sold out (again)!

 

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Dark-edged Bee Fly

Ordination Retreat and it’s wildlife

Park Place Pastoral Centre, Wickham, Hampshire
Park Place Pastoral Centre, Wickham, Hampshire

For Winchester Diocese, like Portsmouth, ordination retreats are held at the beautiful Park Place and Wickham in the Meon Valley.  Last week was my Diaconal retreat, shared with those being ordained to the priesthood in our diocese. There were periods of silence, reflection and free time to restore the soul and focus on the role to which I am called.

Anna Norman Walker, Canon Mission of Exeter Cathedral was our excellent retreat conductor, and for me managed just the right balance of humour, Biblical reflection, personal stories, poetry, images and music. Using the ‘scaffolding’ of the Eucharist our 5 reflections focused on the words “take”, “thanks”, “blessed”, “broken” “shared”. I would particularly commend the poetry she used, which was by Gerard Kelly (“Spoken Worship” was the recommended title – something I shall be buying for future use).

Anyway, before succumbing to a lurgy that meant I would have to be nursed with prayer and paracetamol through the ordination day itself, I took a couple of lovely walks in the afternoon free time we were given, along the edge of the neighbouring Wickham Park Golf Course and down to the River Meon at the bottom of Wickham itself, before winding back along the disused railway line to the golf course and pastoral centre. The golf course, it’s bramble and grass lined edges and it’s water features in particular, were a haven for wildlife, and alongside the insects shown below, I also saw Ringlet butterflies, Beautiful Demoiselle damselflies in courtship chases by the Mean, an Emperor dragonfly and a Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly that took a Meadow Brown butterfly on the wing over a pond before taking it high into a will to shuck it’s wings and eat it!

Unexpected update: delighted that this post appears to have inspired Archdruid Eileen to the most wonderful parody of the wild life to be had on ordination retreats; Ordination retreats and their wildlife

A butterfly in the hand is worth…? Dandelions?!

Small White rescued from drowning in a plant trough!
Small White rescued from drowning in a plant trough!

I had spent the morning finishing a book about Forest Church and connecting more consciously with God through nature, and the idea of natural theology where we actually come to understand God directly through his creation.

I went into the garden to have lunch on the bench in the sun and spotted a butterfly, apparently dead, floating in the water trough under our raspberry plant (itself rescued from the compost heap last year). I fished the Small White butterfly out to get a close up of it’s wings – at which it promptly struggled feebly in my hands.

Minutes later, sat in the sun and with the heat from my hands, it was much revived and posing for photographs, some of which are here. A real resurrection moment!

Peacock butterfly on a Dandelion.
Peacock butterfly on a Dandelion.

I had already planned to take a walk in the sun – the forecast telling me this was the best day of the week to do so (Wednesday) – and spend some time with God. I also consciously broke one of the rules of Forest Church, which is not to be too attached to your camera!

On my usual walking route through which I watch the seasons and wildlife, I notched up a further species of butterfly: Green Veined White, Peacock, Tortoiseshell and Brimstone. I also found the Common Lizards, Graham and I had found about ten days previously basking back on their piece of car part on Blackbushe.

Male Common Lizard on some car refuse up on Blackbushe
Male Common Lizard on some car refuse up on Blackbushe

To my utter delight, I also found two species that have been missing from my usual route since the filming of Rush. There were three Stonechats present, and a pair of Schedule 1 species I’m not naming! Time to start being even more careful not to disturb those nesting in the Gorse and Bramble bushes methinks.

So what among this wealth of wildlife did God say to me? Well it involves Dandelions. As a gardener I loath them, far, far more than Daisies which I’m more than happy to live with. In fact as I finished my butterfly rescue I picked all the Dandelion heads I could in the garden.

Female Brimstone on a Dandelion.
Female Brimstone on a Dandelion.

Once outside though, all down the verge, across the public field that is not longer cut regularly (which I claim as a blogging success story because they only stopped mowing after I got my Councillor friends to look at the issue), there were literally thousands of these bright yellow heads, or their seeds blowing everywhere in the breeze. For starters I though they’d make great evangelists, noticeable, prolific and seed well into the surrounding community! Then I realised what all the butterflies I photographed were feeding on,… Dandelions! So they’re full of nectar too, obviously a good source of nourishment to our little winged friends.

So, there’s a challenge or two:

  • should I stop dead-heading the Dandelions in the garden, or see if I can at least put them to good use – Dandelion tea anyone?
  • should we try to be like Dandelions in our ministry; bright and noticeable, providing refreshment, prolific and sowing seeds everywhere?

Best Butterfly Day 2013 – New Forest

Silver Washed Fritillary, New Forest, 26th July 2013
Silver Washed Fritillary, New Forest, 26th July 2013

Back at the end of July before we took our holiday, I grabbed a few hours with my Dad wandering one of his favourite butterfly woods in the New Forest. It was a veritable bonanza of butterflies, when I got my best ever sights of Silver Washed Fritillaries.

I also learnt the difference between Green Veined and Small Whites. It seems to have been a big year for Whites – in the Yorkshire Dales a fortnight later there were clouds of Small Whites in the gardens where we were staying in Askrigg, with a few Green Veined among them if you looked hard.

Small White on the Corn Marigold's of my Dad's wildflower garden, New Forest 26th July 2013
Small White on the Corn Marigold’s of my Dad’s wildflower garden, New Forest 26th July 2013
Green Veined White butterfly, New Forest, 26th July 2013
Green Veined White butterfly, New Forest, 26th July 2013

We also saw a Ringlet, common here in Yateley but I’d never found one in the New Forest before, and also Gatekeeper’s but my photos of them weren’t very good!

 

Reviewing the photographs I have also now learnt to tell a Small Skippers from a Large Skippers – the large ones are (obviously) slightly larger, but also have more a dull brown around their wings. I love these little butterflies – I think of them as the cute teddies of the butterfly world!

Female Small Skipper (male's have a black line on the upper wing), New Forest 26th July 2013
Female Small Skipper (male’s have a black line on the upper wing), New Forest 26th July 2013
Male Large Skipper, New Forest, 26th July 2013
Male Large Skipper, New Forest, 26th July 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was also this beautiful Peacock butterfly – I’ve seen only a few of these this year in Hampshire.

Peacock Butterfly, New Forest, 26th July 2013
Peacock Butterfly, New Forest, 26th July 2013

We missed out completely on my dream of seeing a White Admiral but that means there’s plenty to keep me looking next year.

There’s more photo’s on my Flickr account if you’re a real fan, feel free to wander over there.

Hopefully I’ll be uploading some holiday photo’s soon – a week which was defined for me by the sound of Curlew.

Roe Buck and other spring evening delights

Peacock Butterfly on Gorse
Peacock Butterfly on Gorse

Very quick post with a record of our evening stroll. The venue was Blackbushe and it’s surroundings again as usual.

This Peacock Butterfly looks like it overwintered – though how any butterfly can survive the winter we’ve had, I really don’t know.

Whitethroat, Blackbushe, Yateley
Whitethroat, Blackbushe, Yateley

 

The Whitethroats are still showing well, and with patience, I’m getting closer!

The Roe Buck was the star of the evening though, he was in the bottom corner of my favourite field, not far from the gate. I got close enough to lean the camera on the gatepost, and took loads of photos, until a couple who had entered the top of the field and walked round to the gate, disturbed it and it headed back into the copse. We were surprised, they never even paused to watch, even though they can’t have failed to see it!

Roe Buck, Yateley 1st May 2013 - looking slightly moth-eaten because it's starting to moult into its' summer coat (which is a much more glossy chestnut)
Roe Buck, Yateley 1st May 2013 – looking slightly moth-eaten because it’s starting to moult into its’ summer coat (which is a much more glossy chestnut)

There are more photo’s on my Flickr site, including a couple taken yesterday in the old chapel at college. They’ve kept the ‘chancel’ area round the altar for quiet prayer meetings, but the rest is now a quiet space to work in – by far the most comfortable and now my favourite place in college.

In case you’re wondering, the walks are an attempt to keep me sane when I’ve got lots of stuff to think through, and the fresh air and exercise are good for me too!

Beetles and butterflies between the showers

My favourite field as one of those showers closed in. Probably the best photo taken on my smartphone so far! 7th July 2012 (just before I saw the butterfly shown below)

Today the sun has come out, term is over, the lad is home from his school music tour to Austria, and all is well with the world. But, it has been a tad showery recently, don’t you think?!

I guess most of us have grumbled about the wet; even if we’re delighted there is no-longer a hosepipe ban, it’s not like we’ve needed the hosepipe!

Female Stagbeetle struggling through the mud 14th July 2012

But just think how the little creatures have faired? Even if you’re a big Stag Beetle, the mud and the wet must make life a huge struggle, not to mention the fact that mid July is actually quite late in the summer to be seeing them! It suggests that the female shown here, hadn’t yet had a chance to lay her eggs perhaps?

For the butterflies, it might seem even worse. If you’re trying to hatch and dry your wings as a deluge like the one shown above arrives, what chance have you got of survival I wonder?

Very poor photo taken on the same smart phone of a Purple Hairstreak butterfly trying to dry its wings as a storm blew in – 7th July 2012

But, the sun has been out, and between the showers it has been a joy to grab a camera, and a walk, and make the most of it. Now that summer has really come perhaps, what more #dogwalkdelights (as I call them) will be revealed? Who knows!

Meadow Brown (left) and Little Skipper butterflies on a thistle 14th July 2012

Small Heath butterfly finds an Early Marsh orchid

Small Heath (female I think)

I remembered the camera when out walking the dog today. After a little incident with a young Roe buck (when I didn’t have anything except my phone) a few days ago, this was a major step forward.

There are often plenty of these Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) butteflies up on the disused part of Blackbushe airport at this time of year, but rarely do we get close enough for a half decent photo, which is what this is; it’s not as well in focus as I would like.

But whilst trying to get that shot, I found this little beauty disguised among the Red Clover. I think, that with the kink at the end of the leaves, and the lack of spots it is an Early Marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata), but I’m more than willing to stand corrected. There is a close-up of the flowerhead on my Flickr account here if it’s any help with the ID.

Such is the joy of the countryside; sometimes you just have to look really closely to find the hidden gems!

By the way, despite comments I’ve seen from people saying this isn’t a good thing, I think it’s wonderful to see the fields still haven’t been mown at the Red Cross Centre!

Last Swallows of Summer (and other news)

Young Swallows photographed at The Bell, Willersey in August 2011

It looks like the Swallows left before summer had had it’s last gasp!

It’s now just over a week since I last saw Swallows heading South-East across the heath at the back of Blackbushe Airport. For the sake of the records in was 21st September.

But there are plenty of other wildlife sights to keep me interested on our regular dog walks. This week alone I’ve seen Buzzards and Red Kites riding high in the late summer thermals. There are Nuthatches hard at work in the copse, and out on the heath there are still a smattering of butterflies including numerous Small Heath and what I think was a faded Grayling.

Is this a late and faded Grayling?

And if you’ll excuse the pun, we’ve been swallowing the last fruits of summer too. The french beans and courgettes are over, the chard is probably on it’s last legs. We’re still pulling pot-bound carrots. I had hoped to late sow more carrots, but gardening looks like it’s going to be purely maintenance this autumn as we’re now spending alternate Saturday’s in Winchester where our son is rehearsing with the County Double-Reed ensemble. That means we’re exploring new places with the dog too, especially Farley Mount Country Park, that started our Sloe picking season. This year we’re freezing them before starting the Sloe Gin process!

We’re still eating the last few tomatoes (some were roasted with garlic and sieved to a mush for winter stews). Of particular note have been the Dasher turbo tomatoes which are by far the most delicious addition to the summer salad. I shall be looking to have more than one plant next summer. Outside the late Alicante tomatoes have meant we’ve been able to produce big batches of Green Tomato Chutney (with, and without onions). Even the rather odd apple tree is feeding us. As well as contributing to the chutney, I’ve discovered a fab Dorset Apple Cake recipe in The Countryman and they are now keeping us well caked, despite not being particularly tasty raw!

The best of summer 2011 - Brimstone

So that’s a bit of a round up of late summer interest really. Amidst it all I’ve completely failed to make a link to what I reckon is my best photograph of the summer. So here it is – photographed in August on a footpath near Upper Slaughter:

In other news, this weekends sees the 5th Reader from St Peter’s Yateley to be licensed in 3 years, and we’ll all be turning out tomorrow at Winchester Cathedral to celebrate at the annual Reader Licensing Service. In fact with a new vicar to be licensed to, we shall all be getting our new licenses I guess. It was really wonderful that (together with those with ‘permission to preach’ and pastoral training) we have so many people in our church who have committed to authorised ministries as lay people.

Gems and faded gems of meadow and heath

So my menfolk are now officially both into the school holidays! Fortunately this has arrived just after the new vicar has started to get his ‘feet’ under the parochial table, and I feel a slight sense of pressure lifting. But in some ways the balancing act of family and ministry gets more difficult – I want to increase the time I spend with the family, but I still have responsibilities to things like preaching. But that’s next week!

One of the things I really appreciate is walking our favourite routes regularly again with my husband, which means lots of time crouched over tussocks of grass, heather and the like, watching and photographing insects – especially (but not solely) butterflies. [The vicar has already spotted the blog and my thing about insects – I hope eventually I become memorable for other things as well :-)]

Six-spot burnet

First, and update on the Burnet moths which I noted on 29th June were almost non-existent. Well not a lot has changed. Just this last week, we’ve started to see the occasional one, but despite there being loads of trefoil (the main foodplant of the lava) they are still incredibly scarce this year compared to the previous two.

I really miss them as they’re such a delight, with their stuttering flight across the heath, and so vivid in their green/black and scarlet livery.

The number of ringlets in the tussocky field we frequent did eventually pick up, peaking about the 2nd July. Now though, they are almost all gone, though we did find a faded one yesterday. The contrast in the density of ‘chocolate’ colouring between early July and now, just 4 weeks later is really noticable!

Ringlet 2nd July 2011
Ringlet 29th July 2011

There are still a few Common Blue’s out on the heath, but the noticeable newcomer for me has been the Grayling. Not as startling in colour, it’s actually proved really tricky to photograph: you see it in flight, registering it as ‘different’, only to lose sight of it on landing – it’s camouflage is incredibly good, especially if it lands on a stoney footpath. I was fortunate that this one settled on some ling but even there it’s still fairly well hidden!

Common Blue
Grayling on ling (what we think of as 'heather')