Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This last week I have noticed the days getting shorter, and a nip in the air. My pumpkins (New England Sweets – perfect for Thanksgiving pumpkin pie!) are beginning to turn orange. And for me, a teacher my 36th year of teaching is soon to begin. These are all the signs of Autumn and winter to come. Some years I slip comfortably into the colder and darker months, and other times I struggle and resist. I’m not really quite sure where I am this year as everything continues to have a sort of timeless quality to it because life has certainly not gotten ‘back to normal’ yet.
Not that this feeling of timelessness is all bad. My husband and I had a very good holiday in Anglesey. We had a look at some castles and gardens. But mainly we spent time on the beach. We found a particularly lovely place, Ynys Llanddwy – a little island off Newborough beach which has sandy and protected coves. The weather was fine enough to spend whole days there and it was perfect for reading a book, doing a bit of paddling, talking, resting – just what I needed. I was particularly thrilled with the island because it had long been the home of a small religious community of women established by the daughter of an Irish king, in the 400s AD. St Dwynwen’s community was known for their healing skills, and the island is reputed to have holy wells on it which you can still visit, though the one I saw was pretty much filled up with vegetation. There is the ruin of the community’s church and I really enjoyed saying my morning prayers there one morning. The surrounding landscape is magnificent and the whole place gives one not only the sense of being out of time, but also out of the world.
Coming home was a bit of a shock, with final preparation for online and a small amount of ‘face to face’ teaching at the University underway, along with all the other duties that crowd in at the beginning of the academic year. But I have still managed to keep a bit of the Ynys Llanddwy peace in my mind in the midst of the chaos that is even more pronounced this year. And I see this as the gift of the spirit. I’ve mentioned ‘thin places’ before, as I know have many others. And the island was definitely a thin place for me…a place where I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit strongly. And I know that the peacefulness and restfulness of that place was a gift from God.
I hope that throughout the summer many of you have experienced a time of peace and rest – a time when you were able to reenergize after the stress and the challenges of the past six months. We will need that strength and energy as it seems these last months were the first lap, or wave as many like to call it. I’m sure that many of you, like me, felt my heart sink with news of new lockdowns, second waves, political turmoil, and all those things in our personal life that never make the news but for us create challenges and demands we are not always sure we are up for.
So we take the gift of rest and peace that God gives us, and we then turn our face again to the jobs God has in store for us. The early church knew that God was reenergizing them through the presence of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit. And the way in which this new energy was infused into the new beginnings, the new covenant of God with humanity, was through individuals. God came to us in human form as an individual, Jesus Christ, to draw all of us to new life through him. The gift of the Holy Spirit equips us to be what God always intended us to be: God’s eyes, God’s ears, Gods hands, God’s feet to do what each of us in individually equipped to do in this world. Jesus tells us in John 20.21: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you”. As Tom Wright reminds us, “God does send thunderbolts – human ones, the meek, the mourners, the peacemakers, the hungry for justice people.” We are one of the ways God acts in the world, each of us – strengthened by God’s love, God’s Spirit, through the salvation of Jesus Christ who made us not just subjects, but partners in the New Kingdom of God.
The winter is coming, but we are not winter people. Let us use these last few weeks of summer to build up our strength, let us encourage one another, and then lets go for our second lap caring for others, praying for the world, looking to God and reaching out to others for help when we need it. Let us invest our thoughts and our hearts in Joy no matter how much the world tries to tell us otherwise. And let us rest in God when we need rest, and accept God’s strength when we need strength.
Luckily, we can continue to worship together for the time being. Each celebration of the Eucharist among you brings me such joy, no longer is it a time I take for granted as coming every week. Now that I know in a moment it can all be stopped again it has taken a preciousness that I hadn’t expected. I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday.
Revd Professor Jessica Malay
Almondbury with Farnley Tyas