Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We are well and truly into autumn right now. I took a walk yesterday into the moors and the colors of the changing leaves and the browning of the bracken, and the freshness of the air was really a delight. And as I walked I continued to think on the passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 1.4-9 that was read last Sunday. Just to remind you:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved,[e] whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about[f] these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
And it occurred to me that Paul has given us great wisdom, and a clear way forward in what promises to be the challenging months ahead.
I was telling my sister about this passage in our weekly phone call last Sunday, and we both agreed that rather than reading the news when we first get up in the morning, we would do what Paul instructed, to think on ‘those things’ that are true and honorable and just and pure and pleasing and commendable. I figured this would be a very pleasant way to start the day. And what did I find…it wasn’t that easy. Not because there are no things around me that are true and honorable etc. but because I’ve gotten into such a habit of thinking about all the troubles in the world. So rather than finding it easy to start the day thinking of these good things, I really struggled for the first few days. Now it is getting a little easier, but I find I have to put some effort into it. I have to work to find the ‘good news’ stories in the daily news round, I have to spend a bit more time listening to beautiful music, reading a poem, looking at the sky, enjoying the changing of the leaves, thinking about those I love. I was sort of shocked to realize how much time and energy I was putting into the dark things of this world…pandemic, political conflicts, environmental crisis, injustice, exploitation. Now of course, we should not pretend these things don’t exist, they certainly do - but they are not all the world is and while we are each called to help better this world in some way, we need to have the emotional and spiritual energy to do it. As I’ve said before, Despair serves the works of evil so very effectively because it weakens people who would fight against it. How then do we overcome the despair which drags us down and make us unable to do the work the Lord has set before us?
Well, Paul tells us in Philippians. And the people he was encouraging had way more reasons for despair than we do. We have Covid - they had plagues, as well as the usual illnesses without the benefit of modern medicine. We have politicians that say hateful things, they had politicians that regularly rounded up people and murdered them in the most horrendous of ways. We belong to a church that is often ignored, they belonged to a church that was actively persecuted. And if they, with all their troubles, could think on those good things that reveal God’s love in this world then we can do the same. Indeed, so many people, whether they know it or not, count on us to overcome despair and to Rejoice. So let us pray, let us rejoice, let us think on those good things that are a foretaste of God’s Kingdom on this earth, as we go through the challenges of this time. Let us love one another with constancy, and when it all gets a bit hard, be ready to ask for help. Now more than ever we need to truly fulfill our calling as the Body of Christ. And so, in the world of St Paul, I leave you with this prayer: The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
A few notices: We will be celebrating Harvest at both All Hallows and St Michael and St Helen’s on October 25th. Collection of food and money will be donated to the Welcome Centre which serves those in our area that are in need. You might also think of donating directly to them via their website. It is clear that the need is going to be great this winter as more lose their jobs or parts of their income. Please check out their website for more information: https://www.thewelcomecentre.org/
It would be great to see more of our St Lucius family at our services, we do miss all of you and you can count on as warm a welcome as social distancing guidelines allow!
Finally, each Sunday that we spend together is such a gift, made even more precious because we never know if we will have to go back into isolation again. But if we do, we will resume our Zoom services and of course our prayers for each other, our community, our nation and our world continue to rise up a continual chorus of love - and this is one of those true and commendable things I’m going to remember each morning as I continue to try and follow St Paul’s advice.
With all blessings in this autumn time.
Revd Professor Jessica Malay
Almondbury with Farnley Tyas