Last Sunday we celebrated two special things: at 11.30am we hosted the Civic Service as the Mayor, Council and representatives of local Charities and other leaders of the community met together, and we also celebrated the zeal and wonder of one of the most popular of Christian Saints, Francis of Assisi. What could possibly unite these two celebrations, you might ask, well, perhaps more than you might imagine....
Although Francis eschewed pomp, circumstance and worldly power, the theme the current Mayor, Cllr. Geoff Acton, has chosen for his Mayoral year, relates to climate change, ahead of the COP26 Meeting in Glasgow very shortly and as you will remember, Francis is the Patron Saint of matters relating to ecology.
We were joined at the Civic Service by the charismatic Professor Alexandre Antonelli, Head of Science at Kew Gardens, who will be at the COP Meeting and who had disturbing as well as encouraging things to say to us all ahead of that event. In brief, his view is, to quote from Saint John’s Gospel, that the measure of the meeting will be if "Words become flesh," if countries end up doing what they pledge. It was because this theme was being explored that I suggested the date of last Sunday, as it knit so nicely with the feast of St Francis.
You will recall that the story of Francis’ life really begins when he is walking in the valley below Assisi and stumbles into the ruined chapel of San Damiano. There amidst the rubble, he hears the voice of Christ speak to him from the Crucifix which is leaning against the wall, "Francis, rebuild my Church." At first, Francis thinks that the Lord is asking him to repair the physical structure which surrounds him, but in time it becomes clear that what he is really being asked to do is to reshape the whole life and ethos of the Church, so that it relates once more to the teaching and example of Jesus Christ.
And perhaps that is God’s call to us now- to rebuild: the church, the community, the country, hope, relationships, our relationship with the climate and the whole of creation. Some of that is of course a specifically Christian endeavour, but so much of it includes the whole of humanity, regardless of race, culture, economic background, religion or politics. The world post pandemic is a world which is being required to rebuild on so many different levels and in so many different ways and each of us is being called to be part of that rebuilding project.
I continue to be heartened by what I hear some of our children and young people saying to me about the sort of world they wish to live in, where there is more fairness, equality, health and education freely available to all, where we respect the planet and don’t just exploit it to satisfy our own desires and appetites. I pray that their zeal and vision may not be quenched and that they may be our conscience as we look forward together as a community, country and creation of God’s making.
We all have a responsibility to change things for the better, from planting pollinating plants and being responsible about our use of plastics, to how we vote, how we hold our politicians to account; from how frequently we travel, to how we support local charities. Like the young boy in the midst of 5,000 hungry people who offers Jesus only a loaf and a few small fish, we may feel that what we have to offer, given the scale of the challenge, is so inconsequential, but as we saw in that story, giving what we have is all that we can do, and that God can use, to make the difference which is needed. Let all of us take strength and encouragement from that and recommit ourselves to the rebuilding that is needed.
In the strength of the Spirit and with blessings and best wishes. Jeff
WELCOME to our worship at St Mary’s on this, one of our special Celebration Sundays, as we are joined by our children and young people in church and as we continue our worship on Zoom.
Today 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 Mark Chapter 10 verses 17-31. Today’s Collect, for the 19th Sunday after Trinity:
O God, forasmuch without you We are not able to please you: Mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit May in all things direct and rule our hearts. This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN
This weekend, some of our parishioners are on pilgrimage at Walsingham, we pray for them and I am sure that they too will be praying for us.
Today is World Mental Health Day, and we will be remembering especially in our prayers all those who are suffering in this way, particularly in relation to the experiences of the last 18 months. We will also be remembering the following in our prayers of intercession:
The hymns we shall be singing this week are: 15. 442. 501.