Second Sunday after Trinity
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Another week has gone by, and somehow just knowing I can pop out and buy a pair of shoes hasn’t really made me feel very connected with the world again. My idea of shopping has always been about mingling with others, having lunch or coffee with friends, picking up and putting down possible purchases, or even impossible purchases, letting my imagination wander while I wandered, preferably with a friend to chat and laugh with. Given the necessary restrictions, I don’t really have any need or great desire to ‘go shopping’ beyond what is necessary. What I really want isn’t a new pair of shoes (I know my husband will never quite believe this!) Its being with people, its laughing with friends and family, its celebrating the Eucharist with all of you, its popping in and out of my colleagues offices, and talking about a book in a seminar group surrounded by my students. I want people, I want communion with live human beings! And that isn’t going to happen any time soon - teaching has moved on line, friendships have moved on line, worship has moved on line, meetings have moved on line and I feel bereft.
But of course, in times of stress and crisis, when the world challenges us, God’s great mercy is always to meet us where we are. And so in my ‘bereftness’ I ran into a reality this week that has comforted and inspired me, and perhaps most importantly, helped me to understand, that I am not isolated, that I am surrounded by a community, and long ago and well into the future this community has always and will always walk alongside me.
I am talking here about the Community of Saints. How many times have you said this phrase and not really thought about it? I have to admit I’d never really considered this blessed communion beyond a vague sense of an inheritance of good examples to inspire me. But this week, Bishop Nick in his weekly letter to us clergy talked about this communion in a way that made me think about it much more deeply, He wrote:
Do you believe in the Communion of Saints? If you do (and I hope you do as it is deeply biblical), you will realise that it is not just in the great eucharistic acclamation that we know ourselves to be surrounded (“Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.”), but in the decisions we make together as we feel ourselves stumbling into the uncertain future. We do not go alone. All those who have gone before us and will follow us in faithful worship and discipleship, grasped by the glory of the incarnate, crucified, risen and ascended Christ, surround us as we – together – try to be faithful today. +Nick
And just when I was really trying to think about Bishop Nick’s words, I (coincidentally? Or Divinely drawn?) ran into the Communion of Saints again in a book I’m reading right now, by J. Moorcroft on Elisabeth Leseur. Leseur writes of this communion: ‘Christians believe that a mysterious, spiritual solidarity exists among ourselves and all other children of God. We call this solidarity the communion of saints, the efforts, merits and suffering of each individual benefit the rest’ (56).
And so I was reminded yet again - We don’t ever go it alone. We may be isolated in our homes, but we are always surrounded by this spiritual solidarity with ‘all other children of God’. I read a bit more about the Communion of Saints this week, which really means the Communion of all God’s children. So - all the good, all the acts of kindness, small or great, continue to exist and reverberate throughout the centuries to us. All the prayers, all the suffering for a greater good, all the patience, and especially all the love that has gone before (and which will come in the future), already surrounds us.
I’m going to think a lot more about what this means. But in the meantime, I’m going to joy in the small ways I can love and be of service to others even when I can’t physically meet them. I’m going to joy in all the love and kindness that comes my way. We can have confidence that all the gifts God has given to us at this time are enough for the moment, enough for what God wishes us to do, and enough to contribute to the Communion of Saints. And I thank and pray to God each week for all of you - who are all saints, and part of the great communion.
Worship this week:
We will be having a Zoom Eucharist this week, 10.30 on Sunday, the link will be sent out to you shortly.
We are hoping to open All Hallows church for private prayer soon. This will be for an hour only at first so we can see how it goes. Watch the website for opening times which we hope to announce later this coming week. We are proceeding carefully in order to safeguard everyone’s health.
I have been celebrating the Eucharist each morning and inviting all of you to join spiritually. I am now going to reduce this to Wednesday and Sunday mornings. I will continue to pray each morning and evening for all of you.
Revd Professor Jessica Malay
Almondbury with Farnley Tyas