The View from the Vicarage: Light in the Darkness – St Caedmon

Welcome to a View from the Vicarage, as we walk through these days of darkness and lockdown together yet apart I want to share with you some of the brightest lights of the history of our own region, our Northern Saints and the way they coped with the darkness and looked to the light that is Jesus Christ as an inspiration to us all.

As I publish this blog on the day associated by many with St Hilda I turn from Hilda in my last blog to one she fostered in his vocation and holy life, in this blog we look at St Caedmon.

Caedmon was perhaps the earliest English poet, he wrote biblical poems and song in Anglo Saxon, his birth date is unknown but is thought to have died between 670 and 680AD. As with many of our northern saints we owe the account of Caedmon’s life to the writings of St Bede.

Caedmon was a herdsman to Hilda’s monastery in Whitby, one night as the servants were gathered at the table a harp was passed from person to person and in his shame of not being Able to sing Caedmon left the table and went to sleep in the stable with the cattle. As he slept an angel called him by name and asked him to sing, Caedmon protested as that was the very reason he had left the table and yet his heavenly visitor persisted that he should sing, that he should sing of Creation. Caedmon sang verses of praise to God he had never heard before.

Caedmon’s Cross at Whitby Abbey

In the morning Caedmon told his story to Hilda and recited the verses he has sung the night before, Hilda and the learned of the monastery agreed he had received a divine gift. Caedmon went on to write more verse and took on the religious life himself with Hilda’s support and encouragement.

Caedmon wrote poems of biblical stories, and Bede wrote that while many had tried to imitate him none had equalled him.

 

Caedmon’s hymn, that very song of praise he sung to his heavenly visitor was recorded, it exists in Bede’s manuscripts and has been translated into English as follows:

Now we ought to praise the Guardian of the heavenly kingdom,
The might of the Creator and his conception,
The work of the glorious Father, as he of each of the wonders,
Eternal Lord, established the beginning.
He first created for the sons of men
Heaven as a roof, holy Creator;
Then the middle-earth, the Guardian of mankind,
The eternal Lord, afterwards made
The earth for men, the Lord almighty.

It is a hymn of out and out praise to the God of creation, the God of Caedmon and the God of us all.  Caedmon’s gift from God influenced many other writers of sacred song and continues to this day.

As we seek to find light in the darkness we could do far worse than to look to Caedmon a humble herdsman who let God speak to him and who even in the darkest of times could sing of the beauty  of Creation. Life can look bleak, and right now even with the hope of new vaccines it can be pretty tough – but inspired by Caedmon let us find the beauty in life, look for glimpses of the kingdom in our everyday lives, and when we find them let us too sing of God’s creation.

St Francis of Assis wrote the Hymn “All Creatures of our God and King” in 1225, an inspirational hymn bidding us to look at the beauty of the world and praise God. The hymn we know paraphrased by William Draper in 1890 shows us this very point in verse four with the words “Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
praise God and on him cast your care”.

All creatures of our God and King,
lift up your voice and with us sing
alleluia, alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
thou silver moon with softer gleam,
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
ye clouds that sail in heaven along,
O praise him, alleluia!
Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice,
ye lights of evening, find a voice,
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
make music for thy Lord to hear,
alleluia, alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
that givest man both warmth and light,
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

And all ye men of tender heart,
forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye, alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
praise God and on him cast your care,
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless,
and worship him in humbleness,
O praise him, alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
and praise the Spirit, three in one,
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

I finish with the collect (prayer) for St Caedmon

Almighty God, you have built up your church through the love and devotion of your saints: inspire us to follow the example of Caedmon that we in our generation may rejoice with him on the vision of your glory; through Jesus Christ your son our Lord who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Your friend and Vicar

David

The View from the Vicarage: Light in the Darkness – St Hilda

Welcome to a View from the Vicarage, as we walk through these days of darkness and lockdown together yet apart I want to share with you some of the brightest lights of the history of our own region, our Northern Saints and the way they coped with the darkness and looked to the light that is Jesus Christ as an inspiration to us all, today we look to St Hilda.

Hilda was born in 614 and was of the Royal House of Northumbria being baptised in York by St Paulinus. She received significant encouragement by St Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne and at the age of 33 turned to the religious life.  Hilda was responsible for establishing two monasteries, the first at Hartlepool and the second in Whitby.  Of that monastery five men later became bishops including John of Beverley and Wilfrid of York.

Whitby Abbey became a great seat of learning as well as the meeting place of the Synod of Whitby in in 664 where our very own St Wilfrid fought for church unity. Hilda was a celt in her own religious beginnings but one of her significant accomplishments was to reconcile others of her tradition to the decision of the Synod to follow Roman not Celtic customs as a symbol of unity.

Hilda is noted as a great educator and teacher and that shone in her nurturing of St Caedmon a herder at her monastery in his gift of song. She was described by The venerable Bede as a woman of great energy, as well as teaching she was a skilled administrator and manager, Hilda gained a reputation for wisdom that was sought by Kings and Princes, St Bede wrote “All who knew her called her mother because of her outstanding devotion and grace”

It is said in Whitby that as the sea birds fly over the abbey they dip their wings in honour of St Hilda. Hilda shone brightly as a light in the darkness, a light that inspired men and women to join and perfect the religious life of prayer and solitude, a light that still inspires educators and culture to this day.

As we look to the example set by Hilda we must be inspired by her wisdom and, care and skills. As we minister to others in these days we can take hope from the great Abbess of Whitby and pray for a portion of her devotion and her Grace. Hilda was given gifts by God which she used in his name for the building of his kingdom, we too must follow her in using the gifys we have to bring light and inspiration to others.

In 1874 the Hymnwriter Frances Havergal wrote these words which I have chosen today in response to the inspirational life of Hilda of Whitby.

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
*Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

I finish with the collect (prayer) for St Hilda:

Eternal God, who made the Abbess Hilda to shine like a jewel in our land and through her holiness and leadership blessed your church with new life and unity: help us, like her. To year for the gospel of Christ and to reconcile those who are divided; through him who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Your friend and Vicar

David

The View from the Vicarage: Light in the Darkness – St Cuthbert

Welcome to a View from the Vicarage, as we walk through these days of darkness and lockdown together yet apart I want to share with you some of the brightest lights of the history of our own region, our Northern Saints and the way they coped with the darkness and looked to the light that is Jesus Christ as an inspiration to us all, today we look to St Cuthbert.

Our most Venerated and well known Northern Saint is St Cuthbert, Confessor and Bishop of Lindisfarne. Cuthbert is intrinsically linked to St Aidan the subject of my last blog, it was a vision of Aidan himself that was the beginning of  St Cuthbert’s vocational journey and mission to this region.

Aidan not only founded the monastery of Lindisfarne but also that of Mailros on the bank of the Tweed, both lived life under the same rule. Born not far from Mailros Cuthbert knew the monks in the order at the monastery and tried to imitate their teachings and faith as he worked in solitude tending his father’s sheep.  One night as Cuthbert watched the flock and was in prayer Cuthbert saw the soul of Aidan carried up to heaven by angels, this was the very night of the death of Bishop Aidan. Cuthbert reflected on the happiness and joy within this death and felt he too must join the monastery, going to study at Mailros.

Cuthbert then went to Ripon where he was given the responsibility of welcome, washing the feet of others as his saviour had done, he returned to Mailros and was made Prior in 664. In this role Cuthbert went out to preach to those who lived nearby, St Cuthbert drew great crowds, had a persuasive eloquence and it is written “an angelic brightness of face.”

Cuthbert was made Prior of Lindisfarne monastery, he was known for his prayers, he often went without sleep to pray and if sleep tempted him would go outside and walk while he prayed. After 7 years as prior he retired to the island of Farne with his abbot’s permission. Cuthbert desired a deeper union with his God moving to this uninhabited Island where he would live in his cell. It was with some significant reluctance that Cuthbert accepted the episcopal see of Lindisfarne and became Bishop of that place. He went back to preaching, feeding and caring for the poor.

Known for miracles of foresight and prophecy as well as healing Cuthbert maintained that prayer was always at his centre and it was that closeness with God which we should all attend to.  Seeing his death nearing  Cuthbert retired his see and moved back to Farne Island where he died two months later in March 687. His body was buried in St Peter’s on Lindisfarne and Bede writes of the very many miracles at his tomb. Cuthbert’s body was said never to decay, on opening the coffin 11 years later and indeed 450 years later at Durham.

The Monks Carrying Cuthbert’s Coffin

Upon the Viking invasion the body of Cuthbert was taken by the monks as they tried to protect their saint and after many journeys rested on a mound high above the river Wear, that which we know and love as our very own Durham Cathedral a place of prayer for the region.

St Cuthbert brought light into the darkness because his life was almost a continual prayer, from those hilltops looking after his fathers flock through to those last two months on Farne Island Cuthbert prayed continuously.  He never missed an opportunity to pray, even admonishing monks for complaining for being awoken at night as this for him was an invitation to prayer. Prayer was Cuthbert’s inner light but one he used to shine outwards into the people and place he served, a light which still shines to this day.

Our prayers can too bring light to our darkness and to the darkness of others, that is why in this month of lockdown we are called to a month of uninterrupted prayer – but perhaps like St Cuthbert we too should be considering a life of continual prayer, prayers that light our own world to enable us to light the worlds of others.

Alcuin of York wrote his beautiful hymn, Eternal Light, Shine in My Heart in 780 and could not only have been writing of St Cuthbert but wrote a hymn that we could all aspire to as we pray to bring light to the darkness.

Eternal light, shine in my heart;
eternal hope, lift up my eyes:
eternal power, be my support;
eternal wisdom, make me wise.

Eternal life, raise me from death;
eternal brightness, make me see:
eternal Spirit, give me breath;
eternal Saviour, come to me:

Until by your most costly grace,
invited by your holy word,
at last I come before your face
to know you, my eternal God.

I finish with the Collect (Prayer) for St Cuthbert

Almighty God, who called your servant Cuthbert from following the flock to follow your Son and be a shepherd of your people: in your mercy, grant that we, following his example, may bring those who are lost home to your fold; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen

Your Friend and Vicar

David

The View from the Vicarage: Light in the Darkness – St Aidan

Welcome to a View from the Vicarage, as we walk through these days of darkness and lockdown together yet apart I want to share with you some of the brightest lights of the history of our own region, our Northern Saints and the way they coped with the darkness and looked to the light that is Jesus Christ as an inspiration to us all, today we look to St Aidan.

In order to understand St Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne we need to understand the background of Northumbria at the time.

In 635AD King Oswald after several successful battles was the undisputed King of the land and peoples from the Humber to the Firth of Forth. A charismatic and inspirational King with the Christian Faith at his heart Oswald sent for a person who could bring Christianity to his land, to preach the faith to his pagan subjects.

This did not go so well on the first attempt, it was an unfortunately short visit for Corman who returned stating the English ‘were ungovernable and of an obstinate and barbarous temperament’. The next to follow was Aiden who won over those who would select him by his words suggesting the Corman had been to harsh and “should have followed the practice of the Apostles, and begun by giving them the milk of simpler teaching, and gradually nourished them with the word of God.”

Aidan a native of Ireland and a monk of Hij was received by Oswald who made him Bishop of Lindisfarne. Aidan was a missionary Bishop, he not only preached on his many trips to the mainland but travelled far and wide to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of England.

Aidan shunned the opulence and luxury of the world and while Oswald lived at Bambrough Castle in all is glory and splendour Aidan preferred the simple monastic life of Lindisfarne, or Holy Island as we know it now. Any presents offered to him by the king or other rich men would be distributed to the poor and he would rarely go to the kings table.

Venerable Bede remembers him for reproving the proud and the great, for a love of peace, charity and virtue, a humble servant of Jesus Christ.

In St Mary’s Churchyard on Holy Island stands Kathleen Parbury’s iconic statue of the bald headed saint in monk’s garb with a torch in his raised left hand and a bronze crook in the right. The torch in his left hand reminds us of a Bishop in dark times, times of war, times of poverty and disease who brought light to the darkness

William Merrel Voires wrote his hymn Let there be light, Lord God of hosts in 1908 which for me sums up not only that great mission and character of St Aidan but the inspiration we should take from him in our own times of darkness both personally and as a church in this nation and world of ours.

Let there be light, Lord God of hosts,
Let there be wisdom on the earth!
Let broad humanity have birth;
Let there be deeds instead of boasts.

Within our passioned hearts instill
The calm that endeth strain and strife;
Make us Thy ministers of life;
Purge us from lusts that curse and kill.

Give us the peace of vision clear
To see our brothers’ good our own,
To joy and suffer not alone –
The love that casteth out all fear!

Let woe and waste of warfare cease,
That useful labor yet may build
Its homes with love and laughter filled;
God, give Thy wayward children peace

I finish with the Collect (Prayer) for St Aidan:

Everlasting God, you sent the gentle bishop, Aidan to proclaim the gospel to the people of Northumbria: grant us to live as he taught in simplicity, humility and love for the poor; though Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen

Your friend and Vicar

David

 

The View from the Vicarage: Light in the Darkness

We have today started a new nationwide lockdown as we try once more to get the Coronavirus under control, staying at home, saving lives and protecting the NHS. The days are now shorter than they were in the last lockdown, the nights are darker and the worry and concern is just as real as it was in the spring.

In Psalm 34:4-10 we read:

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing”

So how do we seek the Lord, how do we keep that light burning in the darkness how do we trust in those words of hope as the world looks so very bleak, we must remember that we are not alone in this challenge, many have gone before us in times of trial, disease and war.

The church throughout its history has looked to some of its brightest lights, its saints, in time of darkness in order to be encouraged and guided by their example. On Sunday we celebrated All Saints Day and prayed that God would “grant us grace so to follow his blessed saints.”

As we walk through these days of darkness and lockdown together yet apart I want to share with you some of the brightest lights of the history of our own region, our Northern Saints and the way they coped with the darkness and looked to the light that is Jesus Christ.

Here in the North East our Christian Heritage is deep, there are many saints and many accounts of God giving the people of this region that light in the darkness. Starting from St Aidan as he established a Christian Community on Lindisfarne at the invitation of King Oswald we have a rich and inspirational history., so do join with be over the next few days and weeks as we explore together the heritage of our church in this place and the inspiration that can give us as we pray, serve Christ and bring light to the darkness.

I leave you with the words of our All saints Hymn, note the words of verse two “thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might ….. thou in the darkness still their one true light”. We are in this together and we can have hope in that very same God, the God of Aidan and all those saints who followed him to bring light to this part of the world.

For all the saints who from their labours rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesu, be for ever blest: Alleluia, alleluia!

Thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might;
thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
thou in the darkness still their one true light: Alleluia, alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine.
we feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine: Alleluia, alleluia!

But lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day:
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of Glory passes on his way! Alleluia, alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost: Alleluia, alleluia!

William W How (1823-1897)

Next we will explore the founder of the monastery of Lindisfarne and the bringer of the Good News of Jesus Christ to a dark place, St Aidan.

Your friend and Vicar

David

The View from the Vicarage: To Bodly Go …

I have spent some weeks in the Acts of the Apostles with the early church, particularly looking for those encounters which were transformative, not just for individuals but the early church as a whole. I have then been reflecting on what that might mean for the church today, the church that was going into lockdown and the church that is emerging. I have been reflecting on what this means for our mission in the name of Jesus Christ and what it means for our communities.

This blog is the last from the Acts of the Apostles as we take on board the learnt experience of St Paul and what he did next. We left him in Chaper 23 in Prison The View from the Vicarage: Take Courage where he was visited by God and told to take courage, since then in Chapters 24-27 he has been varouisly tried, left in prison to rot and even shipwrecked.

It is Luke’s (the Author of the Acts) closing words of this entire book which I hold close to me today, St Paul has been through the mill, anything and everything that could have happened, has happened – this is time to hide surely, he is now under house arrest – yet he is visted daily by crowds and we read in the very last words of the Acts of the Apostles “Boldy and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ”

What an amazing faith, what an amazing example. We have all been battered and scarred by COVID19 some more than others. There are many who have lost loved ones, some who have not been able to say that final goodbye, businesses who have lost incomes, business people who have lost livelihoods, people who have lost hope …..

This is the moment as lockdown continues to be loosened, as the church with the new ministries it has begun, alongside those old ones it may soon be able to begin again can bring hope. The hope of Jesus Christ himself, that hope that kept St Paul faithful.

It is time for us to do this ‘boldly and without hindrance’ it is not a new thing, it is what we have always been called to do. So as we boldy without hindrance take the new things and begin to pick up some of the old let us put them together and let them take us and that hope we proclaim some where new. In the words of the great James T Kirk (well nearly) let us boldy go where we have never been before.

As usual I leave you with an old hymn that sums up that need to bring hope and to do it boldy and without hindrance. Ernest Nycol wrote these words in 1896

We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.

[Refrain]For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
and the dawning to noonday bright,
and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
the kingdom of love and light

We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,
that shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
a song that shall conquer evil,
and shatter the spear and sword,
and shatter the spear and sword. [Refrain]

We’ve a message to give to the nations,
that the Lord who reigneth above
has sent us His Son to save us,
and show us that God is love,
and show us that God is love. [Refrain]

We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,
who the path of sorrow has trod,
that all of the world’s great peoples
may come to the truth of God,
may come to the truth of God! [Refrain]

Your friend and Vicar

David

The View from the Vicarage: Take Courage

Welcome to my blog, the View from the Vicarage where I have been loosely following the Acts of the Apostles and of course digressing on other matters.

The idea of looking through this wonderful account of the early church was to see what widom it might have for the church as it went into lockdwon – as we see those restrictions lessen we are taken to Chapter 23.

My last blog on Acts The View from the Vicarage: All Gods Children saw St Paul under arrest and on trial and this is the theme of the next few chapters. St Paul is on trial for teaching about Christ, he has offended the Jews and is being questioned, threatened and abused, he is locked up becuase the commander fears for Paul’s life  – given this experience of St Paul he must surely have wondered if it was all worth it.

In a wonderful moement in Chapter 23:11 we readThe following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome

In the dark of night, in danger and despair Jesus comes to Paul and stands near him – the re-assurance of God’s presence is what he needs, to have Jesus at his side in the toughest moment. We can be assured that God is with us too, not necessarily to make it all better, but to travel with us in our time of need and in our time of pain. That may be many things for many people, the coronavirus and its effects  on your life, the reality of the racism that has been brought out into the open recently – it could be a very personal struggle of your own. In these moments the Lord stands near us.

As we saw with St Paul though he did not just stand their for re-assurance but bids Paul to take courage, reminding him that his mission is worthwhile, his calling great and he must use that courage to continue.

Courage is something we all need right now, perhaps in re-engaging with life after lockdown, perhaps with our own mental health and the way all of this has affected it. The author Mark Twain reminded us courage is not the absence of fear, it is resistence to it and mastery of it – what better way to master fear than with out Lord and Master by our side.

For the church we are reminded that God stands with us always, and at the height of our difficulty – as we try to move on to the next step of what it means to be church we too are told by Jesus – Take Courage!

In his hymn of 1882 George Matheson understtod what it meant to go through hard times – for anyone going through tough times this hymn is for you:

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller be.

O Light that follow’st all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
may brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow thro’ the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain
that morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red,
life that shall endless be.

Your friend and Vicar

David

The View from the Vicarage : Corpus Christi

Today is the day the church celebrates Corpus Christi –  the institution of Holy Communion. While it is not my usual church traddition to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi I am very struck by it today.

We last celebrated Holy Communion together on Sunday March 15th, I too as parish priest made a decsion in March to take a Eucharistic fast rather than preside in an empty building, or my home. It has been strange for us all, not sharing in weekly communion, not joining Jesus in the upper room on Maundy Thursday, not breaking bread on resurrection morning.

As a priest it has been an odd time, in March one of the key things that sustains me and my faith had to go on hold, and yet it was a decsion I do not regret and I look forward longingly for the day when we as God’s family will break bread again.

However, please do not mistake not ‘doing this in remembrance of me’ for thinking the significance of Holy Communion is not still with us. The sacrament of the Eucharist is with me and you in every day life, a friend of mine says “Eucharist is the reason I get out of bed in the morning” and I still agree with those words today, in lockdown as a priest who has not presided at Holy Communion since March.

There are two key moments in the sacrament of Eucharist or Holy Communion that warm my heart, and in new and different ways they still do in this time of lockdown and fast.

Firstly when I preside at communion, I take ordianry bread (well nearly ordinary) and ordinary wine, within that service of Holy Communion it takes on a new life, as we consume that bread and wine together it becomes something holy, something wondrous.

That is the reason to get out of bed in the morning even without access to that holy meal, the beauty of the sacrament is that this is Gods will for you and for me, us ordinary people – he wants to take us and make us into something truly wondrous – the people he created us to be.

God wants to transform our word in the name of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit for it to be something wondrous – that is what we pray for at the Communion table but also when we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”

Secondly when I distibute Holy Communion it is the great equaliser, whether it is a communion rail, whether people stand before me or I take it to them it reminds us all that we are equal in God’s sight whatever our colour, nationality, sex, sexuality or age.

When those hands reach out for the bread and wine, they are always the hands of someone God loves dearly, someone he would not just fight for, but went to the cross and died for. Even without access to the meal itself this truth rings out this day.

So as I leave you with a hymn for Corpus Christi, dont lament our lack of participation in the meal but trust in its truths and promises and look forward to the day when we can break bread together.

1 Sweet Sacrament divine,
hid in thine earthly home,
lo, round thy lowly shrine,
with suppliant hearts we come;
Jesus, to thee our voice we raise
in songs of love and heartfelt praise:
sweet Sacrament divine.

2 Sweet Sacrament of peace,
dear home for every heart,
where restless yearnings cease
and sorrows all depart;
there in thine ear all trustfully
we tell our tale of misery:
sweet Sacrament of peace.

3 Sweet Sacrament of rest,
ark from the ocean’s roar,
within thy shelter blest
soon may we reach the shore;
save us, for still the tempest raves,
save, lest we sink beneath the waves:
sweet Sacrament ofrest.

4 Sweet Sacrament divine,
earth’s light and jubilee,
in thy far depths doth shine
thy Godhead’s majesty;
sweet light, so shine on us, we pray,
that earthly joys may fade away:
sweet Sacrament divine.*

Your friend and Vicar,

David

* Francis Stanfield. Public Domain

The View from the Vicarage: Trinity Sunday

On Trinity Sunday, every year I realise the impossibility of ever doing God justice by talking about him.  Today I have not focused on the Trinity as much as the mystery, the question and the poetry of it all.

Todays Old Testament Reading from Isaiah 40:12-17 & 27-31 holds for me that great mystery of God – it is there I want to spend some time this morning.

The prophet says:

Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counsellor?
Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?

The prophet starts by pointing to mystery, to big questions that cannot be answered –  I too am tempted to hold on to the questions rather than try out a neat explanation.

Yet the world cannot cope with mystery. We have as humanity always tried to apply reason and logic, everything must be explained away. The theory behind this approach to life is to  give us with wealth, security and with control.

Yet here we are in the powerful United Kingdom with deaths of over 40,000 from COVID19 – here we are seeing racism and protest still exploding onto the streets of the world – today is not a day to neatly explain things away. It is not just COVID19 and the murder of George Floyd, just look at the map of history, unfurl it and you will find that our instance on logic, on reason and that desire to explain everything away has brought two thirds of the world famine and strife, this way of life has brought war and prejudice, this way of life has given us debt and stress.

Even before our current crisis we could walk the streets of our cities where homeless people sleep, by going to any major city where people are trafficked from poorer countries into the sex trade, where people live in fear of the next bill, in fear of their parents, in fear of theory husbands, in fear of their lives.

I wonder if we are missing something, maybe it is time to live with the big questions as the prophets did of old. Time to hold these questions in tension we turn to scripture, the Bible the inspired word of God – not as  a set of answers, but poetry, beauty, and mystery. A mystery that points to a God beyond our imagining, beyond our questions, our logic and our reasons.

The answer to the questions of mystery asked by the prophet in our reading this morning is this:

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

The answer is poetry itself, a poetry that highlights the majesty and the mystery of our creator, our redeemer and our sustainer of this Trinity Sunday.

It joins the poetry that starts with creation in Genesis that moves the songs of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Psalms and the prophets.   We hear the poetry when Mary finds she is to bear the world it’s saviour and when Simeon, meets him – and now Lord you let your servant go in peace.

This is wonder, it is mystery and part of the very nature of serving God.

This Trinity Sunday I wonder if we might stop trying to find all the answers and hold on to the questions, love the mystery – take the words of scripture and let their poetry sing and then transform you.

We live in and in a world of heartbreak, disease, poverty inequality and injustice remember the poetry of the prophet  his words  are for you this morning:

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

A Trinity Sunday hymn for you as we hold the mystery

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
Which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
Only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
Perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity. *

Your friend and vicar

 

David

*Words by Reginald Heber (1783-1826). Music by John B. Dykes (1861). Public Domain
CCLI 285604

The View from the Vicarage: All Gods Children

Welcome to my blog, we have been walking through the Acts of the Apostles and today we arrive at Jerusalem with St Paul, he has said tearful goodbyes and has been told to expect hardship and imprisonment as he does Gods will.

In Acts Chapter 22 we have the details of Paul’s defence as he has been arrested and taken in chains to the barracks by Roman Soldiers. The defence is eloquent and speaks of Pauls upbringing, his training his zealousness as a Jew, his conversion and his ministry. Yet the moment for me that really stuck home today is when the Roman Commander finds out that Paul is a Roman Citizen, he is alarmed that he and his soldiers have treated a citizen of Rome in such a terrible way.

The Acts of the Apostles is full of such moments where equality is challenged,  encounters that begin to point towards unity and we have looked at some of those over the last few weeks.

Today we stand in a hard and difficult world, on one hand we have COVID19 bringing our communities together in new and exciting ways despite its tragedy and cost in lives, on the other we see the evil of racism in our world.

The murder of George Floyd and its aftermath leave us deeply troubled, we as a world have not learnt the most basic of lessons – we are all God’s children, we are all citizens of the same humanity, created in the image of God himself. White supremacy is nothing short of evil, black lives matter.

As Christians we must shout from the roof tops that we can do nothing less than treat every human being of every colour race and creed as made in beautiful image of God. We are all God’s children and anything less unacceptable.

We must also begin with ourselves, we often have buried in ourselves forms of discrimination that are shaped by the society we have been brought up in, this is known as unconscious bias. We must repent of our own short comings but also we must stand up in the name of Jesus Christ, in the name of justice and let the world know this is not how it should be.

Let us start with ourselves as we pray for unity, start with our own hearts as we yearn for the healing of evil that is racial discrimination and let us offer our prayers for all Gods children everywhere. Dr Martin Luther King Jr said, “In a real sense, we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Therefore, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

In the words of Bishop Michael Curry we must all make “a daily decision to live in the way of love … when we all do that, we win.”

I leave you with a hymn some people of around my age may remember from school, written by Sydney Carter in 1965 its speaks of what a global family, being all God’s children might dare to look like. WE need to be global neighbours right now – all God’s Children.

When I needed a neighbour, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour, were you there?

And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

I was hungry and thirsty, were you there, were you there?
I was hungry and thirsty, were you there?

And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

I was cold, I was naked, were you there, were you there?
I was cold, I was naked, were you there?

And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

When I needed a shelter, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a shelter, were you there?

When I needed a healer, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a healer, were you there?

And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

Wherever you travel I’ll be there, I’ll be there,
wherever you travel I’ll be there. 

And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there? *

Your friend and Vicar

David

196 Sydney Carter Reproduced by kind permission CCLI 285604