Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
‘That’s not a threat, it’s a promise!’ as one of my old teachers used to say, not necessarily to great effect. I wonder whether some of us are looking at our pre-lockdown lives and realising that a sense of self-importance has crept into our hearts our and veins. It’s encouraged by so many aspects of our life: the cult of celebrity and of riches — with the conspicuous spending that can go with it; competition and the riches that accompany elite sports players; the vastly higher pay given to people with clean hands.
At Pentecost time, let’s pray for wisdom as we come out of lockdown, and for a love of our planet that will provide a sustainable future for all creatures of our God and King.
Another extract from Rev Jo Richards’ daily updates. The Good Shepherd statue is in St Mildred’s Church, within her benefice.
Good morning to you all, and hope this finds you well, as we are here. With respect to the possibility of opening our church buildings for private prayer: thank you to those who have offered to help with cleaning, which we will need to do, and continue to do as and when we do open.
Our reading this morning for morning prayer was that of Mary and Martha, and the phrase that leapt out at me when reading it was “Marta, Martha, you are worried and distracted by so many things; there is need for only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” Luke 10:41-2. This has certainly been a time for some, and by no means all, to sit quietly at the feet of Jesus, and listen, to be, rather than constantly doing. We can (and I for one) can so easily be distracted by so many things. We are after all, ‘human beings and not human doings’ (one of my favourite sayings of Richard Rhor). Today in our liturgy we have been asked to remember Saint Columba, of the Iona community, who founded monasteries both in Ireland, and on Iona, which to this day remains a place for pilgrimages and retreats. Please find attached some information regarding retreats from St Augustine’s College of theology, for retreats from home. Morning Prayer:https://youtu.be/t8RPstCVxqE Scams: Please be aware that there are scams around re track and trace (see attached, from Jeanie Armstrong), but please do be careful God Bless you all, and keep connected, keep praying and keep safe Jo🙏🙏🙏
“The dove descending breaks the air With flame of incandescent terror Of which the tongues declare The one discharge from sin and error. The only hope, or else despair Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre- To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Who then devised the torment? Love. Love is the unfamiliar Name Behind the hands that wove The intolerable shirt of flame Which human power cannot remove. We only live, only suspire Consumed by either fire or fire.
T.S. Eliot famously could connect nothing with nothing, sitting where we are now, looking across Margate sands. But he also had an insight into Something breaking through the shell of nothingness.
No easy comfort here, but a person can choose to be consumed by the fire – of love.
Pentecost today, the Spirit descends as dove and fire in this window from St Aloysius’ Somers Town, London.
I wonder what does the Ascension of Christ mean to you? For some we have that picture, often depicted in art, with Jesus’ feet disappearing up into the clouds; of the post-resurrection Jesus no longer being physically present with the disciples, as he returns to his Father in heaven. But the disciples were not left alone, they were told to wait in the city, to then be “clothed from with power from in high”; I am sure they must have wondered what Jesus meant, but as ever they were obedient to his words. That must have been such a rollercoaster 40 days for them, since Easter Day; as it is for many of us today, but as we journey together through this we too anticipate Pentecost … in the meantime we have the novena, 9 days of prayer to look forward to.
God Bless and keep safe, keep connected and keep praying.
Rev Jo Richards, rector, Saint Mildred’s, Canterbury.
Upper Photo by CD, from the Chapel of the Franciscan Minoresses, Derbyshire; Lower Photo, MMB, priest’s vesting table, Church of Jesus in the Attic, Amsterdam. A reminder to pray for the Spirit before preaching.
This window explicitly links the Ascension to Pentecost, ten days later. And there seems to be a female presence in the shape of Mary and another woman in each scene, which is as it should be, despite the Lectionary airbrushing the women out of the Pentecost day reading from Acts.
But today is Ascension Day – Why are you looking up into the sky? What do you expect to see?
Or we could put the Angel’s question another way: if you are looking for Jesus where do you expect to find him? Among the clouds; really? Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it for me. It began with mutual support as the disciples continued to come to grips with all that had happened.
Here and now we can pray for the Spirit to fill our hearts with love, and give us eyes to see Jesus in our neighbours, family, friends.
I thought I would start today’s reflection from a picture.
Usually the last Supper seems to be shown as an all-male affair, though I find it hard to imagine Jesus excluding such strong supporters as Joanna, Mary Magdalene, Mrs Zebedee or his own Mother. So here we have the Pentecost window at Saint Aloysius, near Euston Station in London. No apologies for the street scene visible behind it: the message of this window is not just for us, bu for the world outside the church building, where we spend most of our time.
The next picture shows another momentous moment, one from our own days. Here is Pope Benedict sitting down to eat a festive meal with poor people from his diocese of Rome: an unprecedented and prophetic event. It was not so long ago that Gormenghast style protocol decreed that nobody should see the pope eating. It was, perhaps, a useful excuse to avoid dining with political leaders who might capitalise on the photo opportunity, and claim papal approval of their policies rather than their cuisine.
The poor of Rome could not gain influence or anything other than a good meal in good company to celebrate Christmas; Benedict saw to it that they were not left out in the desert of their poverty.
The rules for the Passover that Jesus celebrated with his disciples make clear that all Israelites are invited to the feast, and that their neighbours should make sure none are excluded.
The people of Israel could trace their birthday back to the Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea into the desert of Sinai: as Christians we can look to the events of Holy Week and also to Pentecost as our foundation days, or birthdays. So it is appropriate to show Pentecost today, a gathering where Mary is prominent and one or two more female faces can be seen. The Spirit was poured out n them too; as it has been on all baptised men and women. Let us be as missionary as they were, accepting the paradox of passion and pain, of desert and defeat as essential to our story; and being at one with the people on the far side (which is merely centimetres away) of the church’s stained glass windows.
I give you a new commandment: that you love one another.
Pope Francis invites us to pray this month that Christians, followers of other religions, and all people of goodwill may promote peace and justice in the world.
The prophet Zechariah wrote about the peace the Lord can give (8: 4-5):
Thus saith the Lord of hosts: There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem: and every man with his staff in his hand through multitude of days. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls, playing in the streets thereof.
The people of Warsaw can hardly have expected a scene like this when their city was devastated during World War II. Old men and women, girls and boys, and a very un-Biblical ice cream stall! But Zechariah does go on to say (v12):
There shall be the seed of peace: the vine shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew: and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.
It is God that gives all the blessings of the earth to his people. But it is for us to share and promote his peace (vv 16-17):
These then are the things which you shall do: Speak ye truth every one to his neighbour: judge ye truth and judgment of peace in your gates. And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his friend: and love not a false oath: for all these are the things that I hate, saith the Lord.
There is no magic ‘peace fairy’; judging truth and peace needs hard thinking and openness to the Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you will renew the face of the earth.
After a night of high winds and rain, this was the view greeting me when I came through to the bathroom with its big Velux roof window: golden birch leaves, a great sprinkling of little, three cornered birch seeds, and at the top a lime (tillia) seed wing with two hanging seeds.
Seeds of both trees rely on the wind to take root elsewhere, away from their parent that would otherwise deprive them of light; both trees have their own method to prepare and form the next generation. An oak is growing from a small, abandoned patch of land nearby. A magpie or a squirrel must have buried the acorn.
If every birch seed grew to maturity we would soon be well afforested. Not entirely practical here and now, but maybe a little guerrilla gardening will help the oak grow to a good height before I’m too old to appreciate it. Who’s watching?
The golden birch leaves are enjoying their last moment of glory, and so am I – not my own last moment of glory, I need to grow a bit more and die a bit more first; but I am enjoying the gold of the birch.
So let’s get out and really enjoy the autumn – or even enjoy watching it happening through the windows.
A poor life this if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
And the good Lord did tell us to consider the grasses of the field; (Luke 12:27-31) we should get to know our local area and have a care for its plants, even up to oak trees, or future oaks. Laudato Si!
Perhaps, too, we should be readier to take wing on the wind of the Spirit, blowing where She will.
Following yesterday’s reflection on Pope Francis’s prayer for the Holy Spirit to bring about a new dawn of Mission, we have ‘An Extraordinary Month of Mission’ during October, as a response to Pope Benedict XV’s call to Mission ‘Maximum Illud’, a hundred years ago.
This prayer for the month is at the Missio Website.
God our Father, when your Son Jesus Christ rose from the dead, he commissioned his followers to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’.
Through our Baptism you send us out to continue this mission among all peoples.
Empower us by the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be courageous and enthusiastic in bearing witness to the Gospel, so that the mission entrusted to us, which is still far from completion, may bring life and light to the world.
May all peoples experience the saving love and generous mercy of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Not much to add to that! Except that we will need courage and enthusiasm to bring love and mercy to the people around us, and perhaps courage most especially when the enthusiasm is slow to get into gear. It happens.