Thought for the month
Those of you who heard Andrew Wedge talking about his pilgrimage to Santiago last year, or read about it in our magazine, might have expected a more exotic picture, but it’s St David’s Day on 1 March, so this is St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, built on the site of a 6th century monastery that the Patron of Wales founded in the inhospitable area known as Glyn Rhosyn. David and his followers lived a simple life – they refrained from eating meat or drinking beer – and he taught them to “be joyful, to keep the faith and to do the little things”.
From early times the cathedral has been a focus for pilgrims. In the twelfth century the medieval shrine (recently restored) was so important that two pilgrimages to St Davids were equivalent to one to Rome, and three were equivalent to one to Jerusalem. The cathedral is still a place of pilgrimage as well as “a house of prayer, a sacred space, and a place that encourages personal honesty and growth in a context where the presence of God has been experienced through centuries”, as its website puts it.
Their education and pilgrimage centre makes the point that “there are two strands to pilgrimage. One strand is an actual spiritual journey to a holy place and the second is the pilgrimage that takes place in all our lives in all sorts of ways. Pilgrimages take us through rough places and bring us home, they help us make decisions and they give us new directions. Pilgrimage is also the Christian journey through life from Baptism.” And it is the second strand that the Churches Together in Britain Lent course takes, inviting us to embark on a spiritual journey through Lent, both alone and in company, sharing with others our personal reflections, stories and insights. It’s not too late to start …
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, otherwise known as Candlemas. As recorded in Luke 2:22–39, the child Jesus is met by the old man, Simeon, who has been watching and praying for the consolation, the salvation of Israel.
Many Greek Orthodox icons portray this wonderful moment, the meeting of the eyes of the old man and the young child, in fact, sometimes this feast is known as Hypapante, or the Meeting, in Greek.
Sometimes it seems to me that God uses the very old and the very young among us to teach us something new, something we had not been expecting. Simeon had been waiting for the consolation of Israel, not for a king to overthrow the Roman rule, but for a special kind of Messiah.
I know many of you find the loss of mobility frustrating and you can begin to wonder what value you have in the life of the church. Let Anna and Simeon be an example for you.
Sometimes in old age prayer can take on a special meaning and ministry, an ability that comes with age, to see what is really happening around you and to lift it to God in prayer. And sometimes the children in our midst can give us the promise we have been waiting for of a new beginning, a new chapter in the life of our church or community or family.
The old man Simeon and the prophetess Anna see in the child Jesus the redemption of the world. May we too have eyes to see and ears to hear the good things that God is doing among us!
From Alison Cozen’s sermon on 31 January 2016
O Lord, our Father! … at the turn of the year … our hearts are filled with somber thoughts as we reflect on our misdeeds of the past year. And our ears are deafened by the voices of the radio and in the newspapers, with their numerous predictions for the coming year. Instead we want to hear your word, your voice, your assurance, your guidance. We know that you are in our midst, and are eager to give us all that we need, whether we ask or not.
… We ask for one thing only: that you collect our scattered thoughts, getting rid of the confused and defiant thoughts that may distract us, and thus enable us to concentrate on your limitless generosity to us. You were abundantly generous to us last year, and will be no less generous to us next year, and in every year to come. Fill us with gratitude to you.
A prayer for the New Year by Karl Barth (1886–1968)
The kingdom of God lies in the future – it is in the process of being created. We are not called to fear the modern world but to sanctify it – to see God’s will within it and help all humanity continue the journey. Our faith is not an escape from the complexities of life, but rather it should give us the strength to face life.
We don’t know what the future holds for our world, particularly in the short term, but God’s future depends, in a quite terrifying way, at least partly, on how we women and men commit ourselves to that future, trusting the Spirit, searching for the positive possibilities, being willing to risk. We have to engage with the great themes which we traditionally remember from the archetypal stories of the Bible on these four Sundays of Advent – the Patriarchs, courage moving into the unknown; the Prophets, passion for justice; John the Baptist, calling the people to repentance, believing a new beginning is possible; and Mary, who welcomed God into her life.
The dawn of a new year is not an invitation to repeat the past. Neither our Church nor our world can remain repeating year after year, like a mouse turning their wheel in their cage. A rut, dug deep, becomes a grave. A new year calls us to renew our search for life in all its future fullness. We are not created in the image of the amoeba from which we evolved, but in the image of God to whom we journey. The God who is always ahead of us, calling us into a new year, new hope, new life. God bless you on the journey.
This is the end of the sermon that Jim Mein preached on Advent Sunday:
to read the rest, click this link.
November is a month when we remember the people we loved, who were important to us, who made an impact on our lives and then died and left us behind. Whether on All Saints’ Day, or on Remembrance Sunday, we’re engaged in a corporate activity of mourning. As Whitney Rice puts it in her blog: “We are all in this together, and the ones we are remembering are long settled in their resting places. It’s the chance to be private about our grief, taking out our memories in the quiet of our hearts and turning them over one by one, taking our time to remember and reflect … We enter the valley of the shadow of death together, and walk through it in solidarity with one another.”
And of course we think about our individual responsibility to carry on where those who are no longer with us on earth have left off. We particularly commend two of the prayers offered by Lay Anglicana:
Lord, throughout the ages you have raised up a great cloud of witnesses from all nations and from all tongues. May we in our generation be strengthened by their example, and may their inspiration reach beyond the shores of Christendom to illumine the hearts of all who dwell on this earth, particularly those in government and who have power over others.
Lord, teach us once again to recognise the divine spark in each other, for there are so many ways of serving you to bring about your kingdom on earth. We thank you for those without number who have followed you through the centuries of earthly change down to the present day. Help us, too, to leave behind our egos and to follow you all our days.