Fast and loose

I wanted a catchy title for this entry that alluded to fasting -because I AM today -but my little girl is currently tucking into fish-fingers potatoes and peas and I’m finding it very hard to concentrate…

As I typed, ‘fast and loose’ and considered how I’d heard the phrase used… usually relating to someone behaving incautiously or carelessly to the detriment of others, playing fast and loose… I realised I didn’t know the origins of the phrase and had always related it to a red-haired girl running around in a madcap way with poorly fastened clothing… must’ve been the expression my mother wore as she said it.

I realised today as I typed it that in fact of course it doesn’t mean ‘quick’ fast, but ‘fasten and loose’… apparently it relates to a medieval street-conjurors’ trick where the punter was invited to try and make a coiled knot of rope ‘fast’ by inserting a stick somewhere… the knot was a trick one, which, regardless of where the stick was inserted, would undo, ‘loose’ around it at one tug of the trickster’s hand and the punter would lose the bet.

What recalled me to its proper meaning was Matthew 18:18 ‘Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’

Jesus words to his disciples, a sobering and awesome thing… that the decisions of human beings would clearly have repercussions in the realms of heaven. I haven’t done a thorough biblical dissection of this phrase but I know that there was always an ancient Jewish tradition that things written on earth had their counterpart writing in heaven, rulings, judgements, decrees, prophecies and so forth. The same was regarded as true of certain places (such as the holiest of holies in the temple) and activities (such as sacrifices)… Christians believe that the conclusive, or better perhaps pivotal act, which occupies a place in both earth and heaven is the historical life, death and resurrection of Jesus… Read the book of Hebrews for more on this.

Since those who are baptised into Christ now share in the life of Christ -our activities and decisions have both heavenly and earthly effects… we are participating in things of eternal significance…

Which brings me in a roundabout way to what’s presently on my mind (aside from the woeful lack of fishfingers)…

My husband and I are fasting because we have an important stage facing us, the offer of a curacy… the kind of practical ‘internship’ stage which follows theological college… when students return to their diocese (usually) and are ordained, first deacon, and then priest, at a real church, with an experienced priest in charge, and where, for the next three years or so, they will start ‘learning the ropes’.

It’s a big step, both exciting and scary,  and will mean a huge change for the whole family, with potential repercussions for a new priest’s entire subsequent ministry.

So we’re not ‘playing fast and loose’ in the original sense, but we are fasting, before just letting go ‘loosing’ and placing ourselves again in God’s hands…


About Jemma

Learning to be both a priest and a human being in the Anglican Church
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