Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
I was never much good at science at school. I was more interested in languages and literature; hence the large collection of books that fill the house now! I could explain the structure of a piece of poetry, iambic pentameters and the like, (not sure I could now!) but I had no idea how an internal combustion engine worked.
One lesson in physics did take my attention though, and that was the study of electricity. It is invisible, formless, cannot be heard or smelt yet contact with it will have an immediate effect on one, possibly life changing. It can power whole cities, just look at London lighting up the night sky whilst industry and commerce work at full capacity, homes are lit and heated, whilst meals cooked all at the same time. Yet it can also recharge a mobile phone or a heart defibrillator. How can such energy be harnessed to perform all these functions yet remain the same electricity? A more scientifically minded friend told me that something called a transformer is needed to reduce the voltage as required. I’ll take his word for it!
In Sunday’s Gospel reading we hear of the Transfiguration of Jesus. It, too, is a story about transformation. The event is also recorded in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels but our reading today comes from Mark who uses just seven verses to describe this transforming, life changing event. Let’s look at it little closer.
Mark starts the story with the words “Six days earlier”. So what happened six days earlier? Well, in previous verses of this chapter Mark describes Jesus questioning the disciples as to who they think He is. Peter rightly says He is the Messiah. Now there is a problem here for the word can mean Anointed One and at this time when Emperor worship was the accepted thing, kings and emperors would proclaim themselves in that way. In fact this is the type of Messiah Peter, and probably many of the other disciples, thought Jesus to be; a warrior king who would overthrow the Roman occupiers. That is why he was unable to understand what Jesus meant by saying He would suffer and die at the hands of the authorities. That couldn’t happen to the warrior king who was to restore Israel to its former glory! Maybe at that point the disciples began to wonder if they were right to be following this man. Was He really the Messiah promised by Moses and the prophets? Had John pointed out the wrong man? If Jesus was to suffer and die perhaps they should leave now before they too got caught up in the bloodshed.
The Transfiguration on the mountain changed all that. There, before their eyes and in the presence of Moses the Law giver and Elijah the greatest prophet of the Jews, Jesus was transfigured. He was the Messiah foretold by the prophets. The presence of Moses and Elijah was proof of that. If there was any doubt in their minds His divine nature was confirmed by the voice from heaven saying “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him!”
After hearing those words, everything appeared to return to normal. Moses and Elijah disappeared, Jesus resumed his human form and they all came down from the mountain to resume their journey to Jerusalem. Once again Jesus impressed on them not to say anything about what had just happened. As He explained to His mother at the wedding at Cana his time had not yet come. He wanted to keep His true identity secret until the appropriate time. At Calvary on Good Friday He would say: “Consummatum est” – “It is finished”. His true identity had now been made vividly clear to everyone, even the centurion standing guard recognised Him as the Son of God (Mark 15:39).
Now, let us be clear as to what happened at the Transfiguration. It was the disciples who were transformed, not Jesus. He was transfigured which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means: ‘To alter the figure or appearance of; to change in outward appearance’. This did not happen to the disciples, their appearance did not change, they remained the same human beings they were created to be. Yet they were changed. They were transformed and that transformation meant that their faith was confirmed, strengthened so that they were able to carry out the mission God had given to them; to nurture and develop Christianity after His death.
So what is God saying to us?
In this passage I think we are being reminded to listen to that voice from heaven; God’s command to listen to His beloved Son. In today’s hectic noise filled life, with its 24 hour news bulletins and commentaries by ‘experts’, with instant communication via social media and our daily busy lifestyle we tend to hear but not pay attention to what is being said. We shut out the extraneous noise. Yet unless we really listen we may miss that small, still voice. The other day I read somewhere: “Sometimes we need to be nudged into recognising God in what we perceive as interruptions in our busy schedules. Sometimes we need to be knocked over.” That, of course is something that contact with electricity will do! For example, a heart defibrillator will often restart a faulty heart. And that is what we need, a radical change of heart. We must put aside the scramble for material wealth, power, privilege, social climbing…. The list goes on! By listening prayerfully to God’s word we are called to embrace God’s gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, and use them to make a difference to this world in which we live. And yes, people will notice a difference in us; in our transformed selves, by the way we think and act.
So you see, paying attention to my science studies did pay off!
Unity is a word we have heard many times in recent days. At his Inauguration as President of the USA President Biden used much of his speech to call on his people to come together as one after the turbulence and divisiveness of the recent past; to put aside their differences and unite. Interestingly his Inauguration fell during this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and you know how difficult other Christians can be to get along with!
The USA is a huge country extending from mountains to marshland, forests to desert, from agriculture to industry with a correspondingly diverse population comprising many different races, religions, colours and affiliations. He has an immense task on his hands. Yet St Paul faced similar problems with the churches he had set up on his missionary journeys across what we now know as Asia Minor. The communities were insular in a way that is difficult to imagine today where global communications and 24 hour news are readily available. In those days all communication was by word of mouth or by letter carried by hand, on land or by sea. Corinth, to take just one example, had been a prosperous city but had declined until the Roman Empire expanded in the East. They re-opened the derelict port and the city grew rapidly which, of course meant immigration from East and West; freed slaves, rural workers, anyone with an eye to commerce. These people would obviously have brought their traditions and cultures with them. (Perhaps rather like the original settlers of the US?) It would have been difficult for the seed of the Word of God to take root, as Paul was well aware, but it did within a small group of people. However their different origins and customs meant they soon broke into factions with some declaring “I’m for Apollos” or “I’m for Paul” or I’m for Cephas”. Paul’s answer to this was to say “Well, I’m for Christ”.
And this is the crux of the matter!
As Christians, whatever our tradition, whether Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian or Anglican, we are the Body of Christ on earth. And since as St Teresa of Avila pointed out: "Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours”, our mission, set out in the prayer Our Lord taught us is therefore to work to bring God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. This will be a Kingdom of love, peace and unity where hatred, violence and oppression have no place. By our lives, our words, our thoughts and our actions we must show the world that Jesus, the Christ, is Lord of All and that the great God Mammon is not. Now, it is not going to be an easy task. Indeed, alone we can do nothing but Jesus promised that: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20 NRSV. So alone we can do nothing but united as a community of believers, the Body of Christ, the Church of God, and with faith in Our Lord and Creator we can. That task may not be completed in our time on earth. But the time will come. So let's get started.
The theme of last Sunday’s readings, 1 Samuel 3:1-10 and John 1:43-end, is “calling”. Samuel’s call to his future ministry, serving God in a world where the worship of the One True God was ambivalent to say the least, and Jesus’ call to His disciples.
I know this is a subject that I have addressed before but I make no apologies for revisiting it, since I believe that at this time, perhaps more than ever, this turbulent world needs to hear God’s message of joy, of peace and of love.
In the previous week’s Gospel reading we learned of Jesus’ baptism. Now He starts His ministry but first needs to gather around Him those who will assist, learn, follow Him and carry on His mission after His death. And what an odd- ball bunch of humanity He chooses! People who follow Him on His exhausting journey round Galilee, cheering enthusiastically on His entry into Jerusalem and deserting him just as swiftly in His greatest time of trouble. Now before you sneer at them remember they were, like you and me only human. What would you have done? Remember too that after Jesus’ death and resurrection they were baptised with fire, as John the Baptist had foretold; baptised with the Holy Spirit. As a result of that baptism they were able to carry on Jesus’ mission to bring God’s message to the whole world.
At our baptism we too have received the Holy Spirit. Therefore we too are called to carry on Jesus’ mission on earth. That sounds a daunting prospect I know, but there are two points to bear in mind here. Firstly, whilst on our own we can do nothing, with faith in God anything is possible, and we have the Holy Spirit with us. The second and equally important point is that God does not expect us all to do great things. We are not all called to be one of the great Saints of old, or even St Teresa of Calcutta of our own day. We are, however, called to be what Father Peter referred in a recent sermon as saints with a lower case “s”. In other words our mission calls us all to do something for God however small that may be.
So what can we do today to show the world how much better a place it would be if instead of our present pursuit of power, fame and material wealth, God was, as St Paul puts it “Lord of All”? Well, we could start by showing in our own lives as Christians what scripture, in both the Old and New Testament, sets out quite clearly; we are to love God and our neighbour. And let us not forget that our neighbours are not just the folk who live next door, or attend our church or who look and think just like us, they are also those who perhaps we would rather not be associated with; the poor, the hungry, the refugee, the homeless drug or alcohol addict sleeping on the street. In other words those who we might find it difficult to like let alone love. Yet God loves each and every one of us unconditionally, and so this is our calling, to love our neighbour as God loves us. By loving our neighbour we show our love for God.
Here are two prayers I prepared for Sunday’s service you may like to use:
As Jesus called Philip and Nathaniel to follow Him, so we are called to be the Body of Christ. Make us worthy of that calling we pray, fervent in all our prayer and worship, loving, faithful and honest in our lives, so that the whole Church displays to the world what God is like. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We remember those of our sisters and brothers who, like Samuel, as yet have ‘no knowledge of the Lord’. We ask that they may come to know the safety and peace such knowledge can bring in this uncertain world. Comfort and heal all who suffer in body, mind or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles and bring them the joy of your salvation. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
And now may God bless you and walk with you on your life’s mission to love God and your neighbour.
Yesterday my wife and I had the first of a two part vaccination against the Covid- 19 virus. The next part is due in 21 days’ time. A light at last in the darkness? Certainly the last nine months or so have seemed like a journey wandering in an unforgiving desert with no end in sight. So many people around the world have suffered and some have died from the virus, whilst many have lost their jobs, their source of income, perhaps even their homes as a result of its effects. It has seemed that there is no end to the trouble besetting us; and still it is not over, there is so much more to do before this pandemic can be considered under control.
The other day I came across a poem, written by T S Eliot in 1919, part of which I would like to share with you:
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
In his notes Eliot tell us that “The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton's): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted.” The expedition to which he refers was, I think, the 1914-1916 British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition that Sir Ernest Shackleton led. He planned to cross Antarctica from a base on the Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound, via the South Pole. However, his ship, the Endurance, was trapped in ice off the Caird coast and drifted for 10 months before being crushed in the pack ice. It took another nine months wandering in the Antarctic before his party reached safety, thankfully without any member losing his life.
Can you relate these lines to today’s events? Do you feel that, even in these dark uncertain times, there is ‘a third who walks always beside you’? Can you recognise in Eliot’s words: ‘In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’? (John 1:4-5)
Many years ago God made a promise to the Israelites as they wandered in the desert of uncertainty: ‘It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you nor forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed'. (Deuteronomy 31:8) In two days’ time we will celebrate the birth of Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, reasserting that promise to all mankind. Let us hold on to that promise and give thanks to Almighty God.
May I thank you all for your support and encouragement during this past year and wish you a happy, safe and blessed Christmas.
Let’s start the day with a thought provoking question. Is Christianity relevant in today’s increasingly secular world and does it have anything to offer society in the 21st century?
The world today seems consumed in a headlong rush for material wealth, with greed, avarice, sexual misconduct, a lust for power and the desperate clinging on to it, whilst a look beyond the comfort of our own homes reveals a scene of depression, despair, hunger, strife, with whole populations around the world living in desperate poverty without access to food, water, or medicine, the things we take for granted. Indeed, there are millions in the world who do not have access to the many “luxuries” we in the Western world enjoy, although often we may prefer not to look too closely. It seems to be a place where the great god Mammon, the god of evil, Satan as the old books name him, is very much in charge. Yet as St Paul wrote to the young church in Rome, Jesus Christ is Lord of All (Romans 10:12). Now, clearly if Jesus Christ is Lord of All then Mammon is not, and therefore there is a good case for us, as Christians, to do what we can to change the status quo; to show the world that there is a better way. In other words, that Christianity really does have something to offer the 21st century world.
Since, as St Teresa of Avilla reminds us: ‘Christ has no hands on earth but yours….’ the question becomes what can we do? Do we wring our hands in despair saying “Yes, of course, I agree and they should do something”? Or perhaps, “I am too old to do anything. It’s up to the younger generation.” Or maybe “Me? What can I do? I am not qualified to do anything!”
Today is the Second Sunday before Advent. Advent is a time of preparation; preparation for the coming of Our Lord and in today’s reading from St Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 25 v14-30 we are reminded that we have been given talents. Talents that do qualify us to make the world a better place. In the reading Jesus explains the Kingdom of Heaven to his followers. To do so He uses the allegorical example of the master leaving on a journey, giving care of some of his money to his servants. To the first he gives five talents, to the second two and to the third one. The first two servants invest their money and return a profit to their master, whilst the third does nothing with his; he simply buries it. On his return, the master is naturally pleased with the first two and rewards them accordingly, whilst the third is punished and thrown out.
Now let us look at the parable in a bit more detail. The master was obviously a wealthy man, an important man since in New Testament times the talent was a gold Greek coin equivalent to a whole year’s wages for an ordinary working man. Yet he was willing to leave eight of them in the hands of his servants whilst he was away. Notice that the servants expected him to return as two of them worked with the valuable resources they had been given for the benefit of their master. On his return he rewarded those who had used the talents wisely to make a profit for him by promoting them to a higher status, whilst dismissing the servant who did nothing with his.
Of course, the word talent has a different meaning in English today; one which the Jews of Jesus’ time would not have recognised as so would have understood a different message. And maybe you see a different message in this parable, so be it. Anyway, the Oxford English Dictionary defines the word talent as: ‘Power or ability of mind or body viewed as something divinely entrusted to a person for use and improvement; considered either as one organic whole or as consisting of a number of distinct faculties; (with plural) any one of such faculties.’ ‘Divinely entrusted’? That’s interesting. Let us look at the parable again since perhaps this is a clue as to its meaning for us today. The master must be Jesus whose death and resurrection caused him to leave this mortal world to go to His Father. But as Christians we believe that He will return to this earth at some point to unite it with heaven in a glorious Kingdom where all His Creation will live with him in peace for ever. In the meantime He has entrusted us with something valuable, talents, which like the servants in the parable we must use to prepare the world for that great and glorious day of His return. Here we must remember that no one knows when that day will come, and that is a vitally important point – no one knows when that day will come. When it does those who have used their talents for His purpose will be rewarded with a crown of life. (Rev 2:10), whilst those who haven’t will be cast into the outer darkness.
So, how are you using the talent(s) God has given to you? Are you using it to improve your neighbourhood, your society, your world, to make it a better place, ready for the coming of the Kingdom? Or are you using it for your own benefit? Of course you will not change things overnight. Indeed you may feel there is very little you can do. But, whatever it is, you are called to use your God given talent, to do what you can for your neighbour and thereby serve God. That the task will not be easy since it will turn the present state of affairs upside down for, as we have seen, God’s Kingdom is diametrically opposed to the habits, manners and customs of today’s society. It may well involve getting out of your comfort zone and perhaps going places you would rather not go. As Rowan Williams once said: “You don’t go down into the waters of the Jordan without stirring up a great deal of mud”. But perhaps this advice I read the other day may help: ‘Breathe deeply and know that you are in the presence of God who is with you as you continue your ministry.’ Thus we have the reassurance God gave to the Israelites in the desert that is just as valid today: It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV) Indeed, apart from our talents, the greatest gift that God has given us is the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Make no mistake this is your ministry, to start now in helping to build the Kingdom of heaven that is to come, to make the world a better place today by demonstrating the love God has for all his Creation. As Christians we are the Body of Christ, each having been given his or her own distinctive talents. Together as a community of believers we can, with God’s help move mountains – and let’s face it there are a great number of them to move!
So, yes, Christianity is relevant in today’s world and it does have a great deal to offer to society. It offers a completely new world, a world of peace, love and justice for all. And since we have been given talents to use for that purpose it is up to you, and me, to do something about it. (DV)
A few weeks back I wrote about the weeds in my lawn. Now, as any gardener knows, weeds tend to return and so here is another piece on the subject. This one ends with an environmental plea; one that I hope we will all take to heart.
Firstly, let me introduce you to a man with whom I share the same birthplace and religious upbringing. He was born just over one hundred years before me but, like me he was brought up in the Anglican tradition. There, however the similarities end as our life journeys took a very different course, although a love for poetry and the environment is common to each of us. Indeed, if he were alive today he would have welcomed wholeheartedly the Pope’s Encyclical Laudato Si. Like Pope Francis he became a Jesuit, having taken the advice of John Henry Newman to embrace the Roman Catholic tradition whilst studying at Oxford aged 22. I am referring, of course to Gerald Manley Hopkins SJ.
Hopkins had been a prolific poet since his days at Highgate School and continued to write poetry alongside his duties as a Jesuit priest. In 1881 whilst a pastor at a church in Glasgow, he spent some time in the little village of Inversnaid, some 40 miles north of the city at the head of Loch Lomond. Near the village are some streams that race down over rocks into the lake. In addition to his love of the natural world Hopkins loved to hear how people speak, their dialects, their accents, their intonation patterns and that love shows up in this poem that I invite you to read aloud as Hopkins intended. Importantly as I said earlier, the poem ends with an environmental plea that resonates with us today. I hope you enjoy it.
This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.
A windpuff-bonnet of fáawn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.
Degged with dew, dappled with dew,
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
Gerald Manley Hopkins SJ
If you enjoyed this poem I invite you to visit: https://hopkinspoetry.com/ where you will find out more about the man and his poetry.
How can we as Christians be distinctive in the world?
The answer one might expect is that ‘faith divorced from action is futile’ James 2.20(RSV). But this implies a Christian faith whereas compassion for our neighbour whether in terms of social justice, or concern for the environment is not the sole prerogative of the Christian. There are many Jewish and Muslim charities, for example. Indeed, some charities do not appear to have a link with any religion at all. Equally some people who deny any religious affiliation do, and have done, great and vital work in the field of social justice. So, rather than ‘faith without works…’ it seems to be ‘works without faith’ (certainly a Christian faith.) Let me explore this a little further by introducing you to two very different people from different backgrounds and a different period of history.
The first is Annie Besant (1847-1933), who was born into a wealthy family. She was five when her father died at which point she went to live with her teacher, Ellen Marryat. Religion was her chief preoccupation although she preferred ritual to her teacher’s plain serviceable faith, (She was prevented from converting to Roman Catholicism only by a prior commitment to the Oxford Movement). In 1867 she married the Rev Frank Besant, ‘an impecunious, parsimonious, stiff necked young man whose evangelicalism was described as serious’. In 1871 she felt that God had been unjust in failing to spare her daughter from a near fatal illness and so lost her faith. Three years later, in 1874 the marriage broke down and she moved to London. Here she devoted the same relentless passion she once had for her religion to social justice for the poor of the East End. She published a halfpenny newssheet called The Link that sold like hot cakes. Its object was “building up” of a “New Church dedicated to the service of God”. In her autobiography she writes: ‘There the petty injustices inflicted on the poor found voice; there the starvation wages paid to women found exposure; there sweating was brought to public notice. A finisher of boots paid 2s. 6d. per dozen pairs and "find your own polish and thread"; women working for 10½ hours per day, making shirts - ' fancy best" - at from 10d to 3d per dozen, finding their own cotton and needles, paying for gas, towel, and tea (compulsory), earning from 4s to 10s per week for the most part; a mantle finisher 2s. 2d. a week, out of which 6d for materials; "respectable hard-working woman" tried for attempted suicide, "driven to rid herself of life from want. Another part of our work was defending people from unjust landlords, exposing workhouse scandals, enforcing the Employers Liability Act, Charles Bradlaugh's Truck Act, forming "Vigilance Circles" whose members kept watch in their own district over cases of cruelty to children, extortion, insanitary workshops, sweating, &c., reporting each case to me.’ Charles Bradlaugh MP was an avowed atheist though energetic social reformer and a good friend of Annie Besant
The second character is Cyrus, one of the most powerful rulers of his time (around 500 years BC). In the Old Testament reading for this Sunday, (Isaiah 45:1-6), we learn that even though Cyrus did not know God, yet God worked through him, giving him all that he needed to help accomplish God’s plans; the release of the Israelites from their Exile, enabling them to return home to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem.
Each of these cases seems to illustrate that good works can be achieved without faith in God. Yet each confirms the view that God has a specific purpose for every member of His Creation, whether it is humankind or the rose in my garden whose specific purpose is to be beautiful, and brighten an otherwise dull day by reminding me of God’s glory.
The message of Sunday’s Gospel reading, (Matthew 22:15-21), is that we all belong to God completely and are therefore called to offer God our entire selves. Jesus confirms that our first duty is to serve God, and to give God what is due. So whether we volunteer to work in a soup kitchen or a food bank, give money to charity, or simply phone a friend who we know to be lonely at this time for a chat, we are serving God. John Henry Newman once wrote: ‘I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. God has not created me for naught.’ It is in this way we Christians can be distinctive in the world. By being a 'bond of connection between person', for by loving our neighbour we love God.
This week, let us pray for the rulers and leaders of our world, particularly during these difficult times, asking that God will work through them towards justice and peace. We ask too that the Holy Spirit will guide each of us in how we can serve God best.
Each year Her Majesty the Queen invites a number of members of the public who have made a positive impact on their community to a Garden Party in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Tea and sandwiches are served with a slice of cake, but the highlight must be to see the Queen who will come down at 4pm to take tea in the Royal Tea Tent with specially selected guests. Dress, of course is formal, morning suit or lounge suit for the gentlemen and day dress with a hat for the ladies. Obviously any old dress will not do, and so time for an expensive new one! As only a relatively few members of the public are invited to the Party it is a great honour, something that will bring great joy, so that the Royal invitation will no doubt remain on the mantelpiece for years to come as a reminder.
In Sundays Gospel reading (Matthew 22:1-14) we hear about another garden party. Here Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to the wedding feast of a king for his son. Here, too, many people are invited but, strangely, the select few who were originally expected to attend declined, and so the king ordered his servants to scour the highways and byways to bring in any person they found. Thus the party was filled with a variety of people who might not normally have been seen in polite society, “good and bad alike” (Matt 22:10); even the thief crucified with Jesus found a place at table. You see, rather than just a select few being invited, everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation is welcome in the kingdom of heaven. And, yes, like the guests at the Queen’s garden party they were attired in their best wedding clothes.
Now, think about that for a few minutes. How wonderful is it to know that God welcomes each and every one of us into His kingdom “good and bad alike”! Remember, however, that although we are all invited we do not have to accept His invitation; as the parable tells us many did not. What about you, will you accept His invitation? Maybe you think yourself unworthy but our loving compassionate God loves every member of his Creation equally.
Let me repeat that, we are all invited to God’s wedding banquet; in accepting we must allow the rags of our old life to be exchanged for the freely given robes of holiness and right living. ‘Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ’ as St Paul says in his Epistle to the Romans (13:14).
And what should be our response to such a wonderful invitation? St Paul again, this time from his Epistle to the Philippians that we also heard on Sunday: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say Rejoice.’ Philippians 4:4
I invite you to join with me in a simple prayer: ‘Father it is such an honour to be invited to your banquet; make us worthy of our calling. Amen’.
On Sunday at St Mary Magdalene we celebrated Harvest Festival. It was not the usual service, with the church decorated with the produce of God’s bounty, no singing the familiar harvest hymns but, sadly, just a bare church. Nevertheless it was a celebration of thanksgiving for all that God has given us, as it should be and has been down the years.
This morning’s mist reminds us that autumn is on its way, “The season mists and mellow fruitfulness”, as John Keats once wrote. So we leave one season behind to enter another. There will be difficulties and dangers ahead, with no doubt, some pain and sorrow; the coronavirus is after all still with us and shows no signs of abating. But let us, at this harvest time, rejoice in the bountiful abundance of God’s good gifts to us and be thankful that God has promised to walk with us every step of the way. Let us also remember that whilst autumn will be followed by winter still, to quote Shelley this time: “If winter comes can spring be far behind?”
Here are the prayers I prepared for yesterday's service:
We have no right to be envious at the generosity and mercy God shows to others
Loving Father, We thank you for the rich provision of the harvest gathered in but:
We dare not ask you bless our harvest feast
Till it is spread for poorest and for least
We dare not bring our harvest gifts to you
Unless our hungry brothers share them too.
Not only at this time but every day
Those whom you love are dying as we pray.
Teach us to do with less, and so to share
From our abundance more than we can spare. (Lilian Cox)
Strengthen Peter and John our bishops, Michael, Graham and Peter our priests and all your Church in the service of Christ that we may be united in your truth, live together in your love and reveal your glory to the world. Lord in your mercy
Loving Father, increase in us love not only for the victims but also the perpetrators of evil and violence in our world; for all governments which run on corruption and fear. We pray for a change of heart and attitude, an awakening to a better way of living, and the courage to reject wrong principles. Bless and guide Elizabeth our Queen: give wisdom to all in authority: and direct this and every nation in the ways of justice and peace: that we may honour one another, and seek the common good. Lord in your mercy
Loving Father, The current restrictions make it difficult for us to gather together as much as we would like, but may our closeness to family and friends make us never exclusive, shutting others out, but always inclusive welcoming others so that we may serve Christ in one another and love as He loves us. This year we cannot collect goods or donations for those who have so little at our Harvest Festival, so let us show that love for our neighbour by supporting the local food banks for those in need. Lord in your mercy
Loving Father, we pray for those suffering from diseases for which at present there is no cure. May they never lose their faith in your loving purpose. Grant wisdom to all who are working to discover the causes of disease, and the realisation that through you all things are possible. Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body mind or spirit: give them courage and hope in their troubles: and bring them the joy of your salvation. Lord in your mercy
Loving Father, at this hour some souls will pass from this life into the unknown world. May their release be merciful, and may they find light in Thee, who art the God of all flesh and victor over the grave.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years