I used to live in a great old house in Derbyshire, hewn from the limestone hill on which it stood. There was a cliff in the garden and the stone of the house came from that cliff. There was an absolute ‘rightness’ about the house and its place in the world. It was built in about 1545, by the Babington family (one of whom went on to be one of the plotters in the Gunpowder Plot) and in its long life it had been a cottage hospital, one of the first cottage hospitals, opened by Florence Nightingale and a local doctor, to tend to the casualties from the limestone quarries all around Wirksworth. There was a mortuary in the garden, its glass roof long gone, and occasionally we would find tiny shards of blue glass in the ground, and I would imagine the attendants bringing the body of a quarryman to rest in this small room, under the blue blue light crystallised from the sky, concentrated, purified almost. A peaceful and sad imagining.
Today I read one of my favourite verses in the Bible, and one that always catapults me back to that Derbyshire House, Isaiah 51:1 (I can’t help it! I’ve been stuck on him for nigh on three years now) ‘Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn;’
That old house was part of the hillside. Unlike Stonehenge, which is always an alien in a strange landscape – rock brought from Pembrokeshire to make an empty gesture to the empty sky- this house was part of the geology, the fabric of the place. It belonged. It stood steadfast through civil war, ‘gunpowder treason and plot’ , the Industrial Revolution, Victoria’s reign, the Boer War, two World wars….. and it stands today.
‘Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn;’
Look to Christ. He is the rock from which we were cut, God is the quarry from which we were hewn, at great cost. Great great cost.