My dear friends,
As some of you may know, I am owned by a tiny Bichon Havanese called Timothy and a large Labrador called Mahler. Every day they take me for a walk, whether I want them to or not. Timmy is almost 14 and Mahler just 4, so as you might imagine, they walk at very different paces. Indeed, one crawls and the other runs, it can be quite a challenge keeping all together. One is usually way ahead and the other way behind, which is what happened on a recent visit to Devonshire.
We tend to go up onto the moor at around 7am, when it is relatively quiet, which is how we like it. Marines from the base at Lympstone train there, which is what they were doing one morning when I was last there. As usual, Mahler was way out ahead, enthusiastically exploring every scent and sensation, Timmy was way behind, a mere blur in the far distance. One of the Marines was on his walkie talkie, overseeing the exercise the new recruits were on. Mahler raced up to him, wagging his tail, Timmy was hardly to be seen. "Come on, Timmy, get a move on," I shouted, looking back down the path and, as the Marine was heading in the direction Timmy was in I said "Give him a kick up the backside when you get to him will you? He`s so slow this morning." The Marine looked at me in horror, then it clicked why that might be. In the far distance there was an old man walking with the aid of a walking stick, Timmy is so small and was so far away, the Marine had no idea he was there. "I mean the dog!" I said, "Not that elderly gentleman. There is a small dog down there somewhere, he’s rather slow. I meant the dog!" I really thought he was going to shoot me for cruelty to the aged!
"Follow me," would seem to be a concept easier for Labradors than for Bichon Havanese to adhere to. "Follow me," two words spoken centuries ago by Jesus, which sound down the centuries and which we hear now addressed to you and to me. (Mark Chapter 1 verse 17) Not "Come here. Go there. Do this. Do that." No, "Follow me," an invitation as much to a relationship as to a journey, through the landscape of life’s possibilities and experiences.
This coming weekend sees the culmination of the Christian calendar as we celebrate Christ the King, before we start again the following week on Advent Sunday to long and look for the coming of the Christ at Christmas and then engage in the sequence of the story of our Saviour’s life on earth through the rest of the year. If Jesus is indeed our King, the one to whom we belong, the one to whom we pledge our allegiance and our loyalty, then I wonder where following Him may lead?
In looking again at the scriptures to find an answer to this question, it would seem that: Following Jesus, we will find ourselves going into places of extraordinary beauty, such as on the lake in the early morning, as the sun comes up over the horizon, transforming darkness into dazzling light. Following Jesus we will go to places where people are anxious and angry, lonely and lost, there to listen and to reassure. Following Jesus we will go into places of darkness and fear, such as the Garden of Gethsemane and the Cross, but that will not be our final destination, as they were not for Him. We will go beyond them, into being held in the energy of Heaven. Were we to follow Jesus, we can tell from the Gospels that we would certainly go into places where people are abused, misjudged, prejudiced against, there to offer acceptance and unconditional love, there to make a commitment to help fight their cause. Following Jesus will mean travelling toward the suffering of others; into their anguish; knowing their pain; reaching out into their suffering with the hand of friendship, empathy and compassion. Following Jesus could mean going into places where people try to manipulate truth, even manipulate the Faith for their own ends, as Jesus did when He overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple, confronting their hypocrisy, standing up to their self interest. Following Jesus may mean grieving for the death of a loved one, despite believing in the resurrection, as He did Lazarus, weeping outside his tomb and knowing the sharp sword of sorrow in His soul. Following Jesus could mean exposing oneself to the intimacy of friendship and entrusting oneself to another for a sense of wellbeing, safety and happiness. Following Jesus may mean being reached out to by others, who rob us of our energy and life force, as happened when the woman with the haemorrhage sapped the strength of the Saviour until He knew that He had been weakened. Following Jesus may mean that at times we crave the companionship of friends, as He did when He bid those closest to Him "Stay with me, just one hour," (Matthew 26 v 40) as He confronted the deepest darkness and doubt of His existence. Following Jesus could mean sharing in exquisite moments of piercing beauty, as when it was revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration that He was part of the life and light and love of Heaven. (Matthew 17 verses 1-9) Where He shone with a brilliance and a brightness such as has not been seen on this earth before. Following Jesus will surely mean that we cease to live for our own sake alone, but for the sake of others; will be to know that other’s suffering is our own personal suffering, other’s wellbeing and felicity, is our own wellbeing and felicity. Following Jesus may cost us our lives, but it would surely be a shadowland, half-life were we not to follow Him. Following Jesus will imply and involve that all others who are close to His heart, are also close to our own hearts too. Following Jesus will mean that there are imperatives other than satisfying our own wants, cravings and desires. Learning what is the will of our Creator and being obedient to that, higher call. Following Jesus will involve knowing the companionship and kindness, company and support of others who similarly seek to serve Him, follow Him and be inspired by Him, as we are drawn ever closer to each other in the life and communion of the Holy Spirit. Following Jesus will mean that we see in the newest born infant and in the wrinkled hand of a centenarian, someone of equal wonder and possibility. Following Jesus will mean that we are oblivious to class or colour, sexuality or social status, age or attractiveness, for to us each person’s life will be of unique worth, value and dignity. Following Jesus we will never know loneliness again, for in walking where He trod, His presence will surely fill and fuel us. Following Jesus we can be sure that nothing, nothing, will ever overwhelm or overcome us, for He has overcome all obstacles to the embrace of eternity. Following Jesus, King of King, Lord of Lords, is the most natural, the most serene, the most meaningful, the most useful-to-others, the most creative life you or I can ever know. So, as we prepare to celebrate the feast of Christ the King, let us pledge our allegiance afresh to Him, and commit our lives to following Him, wherever He leads, in faith and hope and trust.
With blessings and best wishes,
Stir up O Lord The wills of your faithful people That they, plenteously bringing forth The fruit of good works, May by you be plenteously rewarded; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN. ***
WELCOME to our worship at St Mary’s this Sunday, the feast of CHRIST THE KING, as we worship at both the 9.30am Eucharist in church and the 5pm Zoom service online. We shall be reflecting on the Gospel passage, which this week is John Chapter 18 verses 33-37.
Today’s Collect: Almighty Father Help us to hear the call of Christ the King And to follow in His service Whose kingdom has no end For He reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN
For more details, including the names of those whom we will be remembering in our prayers of intercession, visit our website Services page: www.stmarytwick.org.uk/services