Tuesday, 6 May 2008

The End of Easter.

The Easter eggs are all gone.

And the Paschal candle is getting low.

Easter seems a year away already. I was rooting round in the back passages of the Church looking for more plastic candle stocks so that we can have twelve tall candles on the altar for Pentecost symbolising the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles heads (which, happily we will have) when I realised as I paused for breath, what a busy time we have had of it. That Trinity Sunday and the May Devotions is the week after and that there are plenty of baptisms and a wedding in the next couple of weeks and that it is Corpus Christi the Sunday after that, with the fuss, canopies and Benediction which that entails, and the hoping for good weather for an outdoor procession for Our Lady it never seems to end. And, furthermore, even though Ordinary time seems a long way away, in reality it begins next Monday, although it will be some time before that is reflected liturgically on a Sunday. We had twelve declared absentees this last Sunday, with the seaside being a greater pull than the Real Presence, but, wonder of wonders, we had a good showing of new faces, including a few new children in the Sunday School. With word getting round about our Sunday School, numbers have more than trebled and the Choir averages at about seven voices, going up to twelve on the odd occasion. We ended up having one of our busiest Sundays for some time last Sunday, defying expectations and with the increase in the Electoral Roll this year we have reason to rejoice and to be confident in another year of God's Grace which has fallen upon us so abundantly over this past year.

In a further Good News shock, Simon Sayer has been selected to train for the Sacred Ministry and we anticipate him leaving us for a College in September. We are sad to lose him, naturally, but happy that he is to do what he wants, and that to which god is calling him. Two ordinands from one parish training at the same time is good for morale as well. We will have to see how much we are to shut ourselves into a third province, however and immediately cancel our mission to the wider Church. Craig, an Anglican Wanderings reader and (slightly sarcastic) commentator also has 'got through', so well done to him. Our third friend, though, carries our love and our prayers (and an injunction to keep trying) in his continuing journey.
This week is put here by the Church, with no feast days to celebrate, to remind us of the saving power of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. We have a stillness to reflect on the time between the Ascension of Christ and His return in the Holy Ghost as fire to anoint the Apostles for service in His Church. Simon and I pray that our training will help make us ready for being anointed by that same fire that burns and leaves it's mark in our lives and we pray that we may bear it and show it to the people we interact with. Our Churches are founded and still guided by that eternal fire which leads us through the night of this world into the eternal light of Christ. Our Blessed Lady, whose month we keep in May, bore that light in her womb and then watched as it returned to send the Apostles to give the good news to the poor, to free those in prison, to clothe the naked and feed the starving, to convert the nations and proclaim the year of the Lords favour. Whatever happens to us in the future, whatever we are offered by the Church in which we serve, we must be able to do those things or we shall become a museum of antiquities. May Our Blessed Lady, who has seen us through worse times, see us through this.
O purest of creatures! Sweet mother, sweet maid
the one spotless womb wherein Jesus was laid.
Dark night hath come down on us, Mother, and we
look out for thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.
Deep night hath come down on this rough-spoken world,
and the banners of darkness are boldly unfurled;
and the tempest-tossed Church - all her eyes are on thee;
they look to thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.
He gazed on thy soul; it was spotless and fair;
for the empire of sin - it had never been there;
none ever had owned thee, dear Mother, but he,
and he blessed thy clear shining, sweet Star of the Sea.
Earth gave him one lodging; 'twas deep in thy breast,
and God found a home where the sinner finds rest;
his home and his hiding-place both were in thee;
he was won by thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.
Oh, blissful and calm was the wonderful rest
that thou gavest thy God in thy virginal breast;
for the heaven he left he found heaven in thee
and he shone in thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.
I would like to leave you with the tail end of a sermon I gave on Ascension Day last year in a Parish in the poorest ward of this great city where I intend living out my life tending to the vineyard of Christ. It is an area which has known riots and which knows great racial tension. However the Parish Church pulls people from all over the ward and beyond and from all racial backgrounds and walks of life. I love the area and I love the Church there. You will have to imagine me thundering somewhat and waving my arms in the air to get the full effect. If that proves too much for you, have a sit down.
Today’s gospel is the final instruction in our faith, the promise of immortality, the surety that this bread and this wine will be truly the body and blood of He who died, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven on this day for us, to forgive sins and to give us the guarantee of immortality. I am with you for all time, even as I go to my father in heaven, blessing them and showing, unto the last, His love. Unto the last second of His life my friends, He blessed them. He loved them. The spirit of the Lord then, of course, came upon them and they went out to all nations, bringing the Good News- of salvation, of love, of forgiveness, that, in the end, all shall be well, and all people shall, when the father holds them in his hand, be well.

Jesus is SENDING his disciples to say this. “Go!” he says to them. I am going with you. Now it’s your turn, and you must go for both of us. I will be in you and you in me. There is no call here for smugness, there is a call to go out to all the world, making it clear that you know me and I know you. In a church which is increasingly insular, it is for us who labour at the coal seam to dig ever deeper, with prayer, word, action and love. No body, I’m afraid, is exempt, at any time. We have the love of God to live up to.

Even though Jesus has gone away, he is now living inside us, leading us, teaching us, stretching us, opening our eyes to see, sending us out to do his work.

And so Jesus is saying to us, Go! Be my hands and heart and feet. Walk in my way, teach what I teach you. Go, with me in thee. Do not be afraid.

Go to your work tomorrow and I will be with you as you serve me there.

Go into the park, the streets and stand with me for a just and fair life for everyone, for housing in a city where the poor are having to move out to make way for the wealthy in a direct inversion of the word of God. For schools that can give their students hope of a good life. In the continual fight for justice and peace in the world, that all people and peoples may be equal, that the law of God be heard, there he is with you. Here He is with you and here we stand with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

And go, you mothers and fathers, you whose vocation has been the Christ-like work of giving selflessly for the sake of your child. Go home in the gratitude of those whom you have loved. Go in the knowledge of the sacred work you do of nurturing the young, and I will go with you.

For those of you who have had enough of life in the flat land, Jesus says, come with me. Yes, I have gone to the heart of God, and have taken you with me here, in these wounds on my hands, feet and side. But here and now I am with you too. Here and now, on this altar. The me in thee. Trust in me, and we will do amazing things. Trust in me, and your soul shall live!

“He ascended into heaven and lifting up his sacred hands he blessed them”.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.