Tag Archives: Apostles

24 September: Take Nothing for the Journey.

We found this plaque on the wall of our holiday house, so the Christian roots sink deeper there than at Minster Abbey in Kent, two modern or five ancient realms apart. Ty Gwyn – the White House – is walking distance from Saint David’s Cathedral; a short walk further is his birthplace. We were on holiday rather than pilgrimage, but that was part of the holiday too, even if we took plenty for the journey including changes of clothes, and a meal for the first evening. We did use the local shops after that.

Sister Johanna of Minster Abbey wrote this reflection for us, about the preaching pilgrimage Jesus set up for his disciples. This was David’s way of life as a missionary bishop. As well as preaching, he was known as a healer.

He called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and do not have a spare tunic…. . So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere. Luke 9: 1-4,6.

I’m ashamed to admit that I usually go blank when I read this passage from the Gospel of Luke. But, today I lingered over the words, repeating them over and over gently in my mind, in order to give the Holy Spirit all the time necessary to help me find my way through this text. And before long, things began to happen.

I first noticed the words, ‘He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.’ To proclaim and to heal. Jesus is not a man of words only, but of words and deeds: and here, the deeds are deeds of healing. Deeds of life, therefore. Jesus wanted his disciples not merely to tell, but show that he, Jesus, was a man who could bring about change – change of the most important kind. This, for ordinary people, is vital. And ordinary people, hard workers, carrying a burden of responsibility and of sorrow – these are the ones Jesus was trying to reach.

The Twelve were also given ‘power and authority over all devils’ – well and good, surely. Good for the Twelve. Jesus was commissioning them here, and he knew that Satan would try to undermine their efforts, their confidence, everything. But Jesus doesn’t suggest to the Twelve that they walk up to the ordinary man on the street and announce, ‘I have been given power and authority over all devils’. Imagine it. I rather think that then, as now, the reaction of the man on the street to such an approach would have been one of hasty withdrawal from that apostle, a withdrawal of eye contact, a striding in the opposite direction, and throwing only the quickest of backward glances to make sure that apostle wasn’t following. But the authority to cure diseases was something else. This was something the Twelve could use, and ordinary people would respond to. The Twelve were the primary ones who needed to know that Jesus’ power was greater than Satan’s – but the ordinary people were the ones who needed to see real results. And Jesus is happy to respond to this need.

Jesus isn’t finished with the Twelve yet. He has more instructions – and they are strange ones. First, ‘Take nothing with you for the journey.’ Imagine what it would have been like for the Twelve to hear that. It was probably not possible for them to exchange puzzled glances with each other right then, but they must have wondered incredulously, “Whoever heard of someone being so crazy as to set out on an important journey without packing?” But the subtext here is in words Jesus uses elsewhere, ‘Your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask him.’ Rely on him. You are going out to do his work. He will provide. The labourer deserves his wages. Jesus, anticipating their questions, perhaps, goes on to make the nature of God’s providence perfectly clear by detailing the things they were not supposed to take:

  • ‘No staff’ to lean on as you walk. Lean on me, he suggests.
  • ‘No haversack.’ Right. He already said ‘take nothing with you.’ No, not even an empty bag to put things in once the gifts start coming. You are not to stockpile.
  • ‘No bread.’ I am the bread of life. You will have food of a different sort to sustain you. Your fathers had manna in the wilderness. You will be fed.
  • ‘No money.’ Why? Because I am your wealth. People long for me more than for money. Offer me to them free of charge. They – or enough, anyway – will fall all over themselves to help you whenever you have a need.
  • ‘No spare tunic.’ No, not even a change of clothes. Some people will welcome you so fully into their lives that they will seem to adopt you. You will be like their son. You will want for nothing.

And now, I place myself for a moment in the sandals of one of the Twelve, imagining myself going on this missionary journey. With nothing. I feel exposed, vulnerable. Very. But only for a moment. Then I remember that this is always a very good thing in the spiritual life. Self-assurance is worth very little in my relationship with Jesus. I think of how it’s been when I have gone off on my own to pursue projects that did not originate in Jesus. Self-assurance, therefore, is not what Jesus wants to inculcate in the Twelve on this, their first missionary endeavour – or in me, ever. He wants us to rely on him utterly – and on ourselves, never.

And off they go. The program was successful beyond their wildest dreams. ‘They went from village to village proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere.’ Everywhere.

SJC.

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21 September, Relics XXVI: Saint David’s altar stone.

Continuing our armchair pilgrimage to Wales: this altar stone is a treasure of Saint David’s Cathedral. Traditionally, Catholics have had, at the centre of altars, a stone containing relics of martyrs. This one, we are told by tradition, was a portable altar stone that could be used to celebrate the Eucharist outdoors or in a private dwelling.

The stone was given to David in Jerusalem. He brought it home to Wales and carried it on his travels around his diocese of Menevia. It is generally known as the Sapphire Stone.

This is a relic on many levels! It is a relic of Saint David himself, a reminder of his devotion to bringing the Eucharist to his flock: the source and summit of the Church’s life. It links the cathedral and visitors to David, founder of the cathedral, patron of Wales. And it links us, through David, to the pre-Islamic Holy Land, to the Apostles and to their Lord and ours.

Whatever your thoughts or feelings about altars or altar stones – and this one must have been well hidden in Reformation times to have survived – the emotional and spiritual resonances of this rather non-descript stone cannot be denied.

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7 April, Desert XXXVII: Fear 6, the watches of the night.

Church and graveyard of St Mary, Nonnington, Kent.

My brother has a small business with just a few employees. One of them, a smoker with compromised lungs, phoned him in the early hours of the morning. This man had developed a cough which he was worried might be the Corona Virus and he was self-isolating at home.

What struck my brother most was the palpable fear in the man’s voice and his words: at 2.00 a.m. What thoughts went through his head? There are times when Faith is challenged in the face of death. Here is Sir John Betjeman among the mourners at Aldershot Crematorium.

But no-one seems to know quite what to say

   (Friends are so altered by the passing years):

“Well, anyhow, it’s not so cold today”—

   And thus we try to dissipate our fears.

‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’:

Strong, deep and painful, doubt inserts the knife.

Betjeman knew doubt and fear: so did Jesus in the Garden:

And they came to a farm called Gethsemane. And he saith to his disciples: Sit you here, while I pray. And he taketh Peter and James and John with him; and he began to fear and to be heavy. And he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death; stay you here, and watch. Mark 14:32-34.

Let us pray that all facing an unlooked-for death may face their end with due courage and may the Angels welcome them into Paradise.

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November 30: Saint Andrew; and those in peril on the sea.

misericord.boat.st.davids

These mariners are all at sea, one of them in great distress, seasick, transfixed by the waves. It puts me in mind of two things: when the apostles were in peril on the Sea of Galilee and Jesus came to them over the water: this is almost a ‘Jesus’ eye view of them as he approaches!

And in the fourth watch of the night, he came to them walking upon the sea.  And they seeing him walk upon the sea, were troubled, saying: It is an apparition. And they cried out for fear.  And immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying: Be of good heart: it is I, fear ye not.

(Matthew 14:23-34)

4canal (10) (640x362)

The second thought that springs to mind is the unfortunate group of people who died in the back of a lorry on their way to what they hoped would be a new life in Britain. These were not hundreds of miles away on the Mediterranean Sea, but in a car park a few miles from London, dying from cold and suffocation, while those who drove by them on the Continent or in England were completely unaware they were there.

Nor we dare forget the thousands in peril on that Mediterranean Sea, crammed into small, unseaworthy boats, hoping to reach Europe and a new life. And the many awaiting their chance to embark on this perilous voyage in North Africa or Turkey or on their way through Africa or Asia, after paying vast sums to people smugglers, human traffickers.

Over the years many migrants have brought great gifts to their host countries; they and their children have settled and become good neighbours. Perhaps you can number immigrants among your ancestors?

Let’s pray that we might have a “Jesus’ eye view” of today’s migrants, as Pope Francis urges us.

And let us pray that the distressed may have an Andrew’s eye view of the Saviour approaching, either to be welcomed to a dignified life in a new land, or opening his arms to lead them eternal life with him, after all their trials here below.

 

 

 

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by | November 30, 2019 · 01:00

November 29: the Apostle Andrew and Dover.

2. fish

With November slipping into December, it’s time to remember Saint Andrew, Apostle and mariner, missionary and martyr, whose feastday is tomorrow.

We passed through his parish in Dover on our L’Arche Kent Pilgrimage in May. All walkers received a sticker with a fish, designed by Ines, one of the community.

The Parish website tells us:

The ancient Buckland Yew Tree suggests that Christian worship has taken place on the site for many centuries, possibly as long as the Christian message came to these shores.

Yew trees are evergreen, and so have been seen as a symbol of eternal life. Ancient yews are to be found at many of the churches we visited on our pilgrimage, including Coldred, Barfrestone, Patrixbourne, and Saint Mildred’s in Canterbury, which is hollow enough for Abel to hide in! Some yews are reckoned to be older than the church beside them: not the first nor the last pagan sites to be Christened.

The present church dates back to 1180, but the Doomsday Book records the fact that there was already a church on the site by 1086. The church is dedicated to St Andrew, Apostle and Martyr (feast day 30th November).  The East window depicts St Andrew kneeling at the side of Our Lord Jesus Christ clutching the church of Buckland in his hands.

The Saint holding the Church: we saw that also at Barfrestone and at Saint Mildred’s in Canterbury: an image of the Communion of Saints we profess in the Creed. ‘Our’ saint, our patron, will pray for us and bring our prayers to God.

So we thank God for the welcome we received at Saint Andrew’s – we did fill a couple of pages in the visitors’ book to say thank you at the time, and left a sticker! And we pray for the parish, especially as they ar given a mission to new families on the old paper mill site.

Saint Andrew, pray for us.

Saint Andrew, pray for Dover.

Saint Andrew, pray for those in peril on the sea.

 

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17 November: The King, 1.

 

At the end of the Church’s year we celebrate Christ’s Kingship, and the Gospel reading is either of the last Judgement or the Passion: Luke’s account of the crucifixion or John’s report of the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate, which Sister Johanna will be talking about this week. A challenging reading, as she states from the start.

Introduction

Toward the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus undergoes a question and answer session with Pontius Pilate that ends with Pilate sentencing Jesus to death (see John 18:1 – 19:30). I must confess that I tend to read this dialogue too quickly because it is always painful. But, I recently read John’s account of the Pilate-Jesus dialogue again, this time more slowly and more prayerfully. I found that the text opened up and some new realisations occurred to me.

I would like to share my findings with you in this week’s posts.

  1. Power

In the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate in John’s gospel, an impasse is quickly reached around the central theme of power. Problems around the theme of power were nothing new to Jesus; they had been rumbling along beside nearly every experience of Jesus’ life and they were addressed in many of his teachings. Yet few – if any – of Jesus’ followers were able to grasp Jesus’ teaching on power and powerlessness. Perhaps we cannot blame them; Jesus asks us to absorb a profound paradox here. He would have us lose our life to find it, be great by being truly small, be powerful by being the most powerless servant of all. This seems to go against our instincts, which lead us to seek self-preservation through control and dominance, even if over only a few people. The apostles themselves were forever getting this wrong, arguing often about who was the greatest. To detail the way the theme of power is present in Jesus’ whole life and in his teachings goes far beyond the scope of these posts, but in looking closely at how the two personalities of Jesus and Pontius Pilate are revealed in their dialogue in John’s gospel, I found that one thread in this complex weave-structure can be examined. As we approach the Solemnity of Christ the King next Sunday, I hope these reflections will shed light on the true power of Jesus, our King.

Pontius Pilate is a well-known name to readers of the New Testament, but as a historical figure little is known about him. What is known is very telling, however. He was the Roman Procurator in Judea from about the year 26 to 36. The Procurator’s job combined several offices: governor, judge, tax collector, and commander of a band of soldiers that functioned a bit like a police force. A lot of power was concentrated in the Procurator. Yet, for this reason, the job was an awkward one.

The Procurator was caught in the middle. He needed to garner support from the Jews in order to please his own authorities in the Roman government. At the same time, he needed to be seen to stand for the official line in order to further his own career – a factor that made it more difficult to please the Jewish community in the area he governed. There is historical evidence that he clashed with both sides and pleased no one. Finally, around the year 36, he was deposed as Procurator of Judea and recalled to Rome.

It is tempting to feel a bit sorry for Pilate in the situation that developed with Jesus and the Jews, and to see him as the harassed middle-man caught in a strange and violent drama that he neither caused nor fully understood. There is certainly an element of that in the story. And perhaps Jesus, too, gave him the benefit of that doubt. But we are looking at something much more profound here. We will begin our exploration tomorrow.

SJC.

Not the sort of King that Pilate expected: Shrine of St Thomas, Canterbury.

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August 8: Another man with dirty hands and clean heart.

handwash

I’ve just been scrubbing my hands after a spot of bicycle maintenance; that and the story of the classic car enthusiast removing every speck of grime from his hands to attend an ordination reminded me of another tale that I heard on the radio a few years ago, before the days of ubiquitous thin rubber gloves.

An Anglican priest, non-stipendiary, meaning he earned his living at another job, as Saint Paul did, was the speaker. I don’t know what his other job was, but it involved getting his hands dirty, the sort of dirt that lodges in the fingerprint whorls and cracks and resists the scrubbing brush. Printer’s ink maybe?

Every Saturday evening this good man would hold his hands in a strong solution of bleach until the residual grime disappeared, ready for Sunday Eucharist. However the result was not good news for his skin.

As I recall the story, his wife intervened, concerned for his health. His hands, she told him, were clean enough to eat with, despite the last ingrained stains, and he was preparing to celebrate the Lord’s Last Supper, a meal with God’s people in his parish; people who knew about his work. They would not be put off by unwashoffable dirt, nor would they expect their priest to contract dermatitis in order to lead them in worship.

He stopped using the bleach. The congregation did not stop coming to Sunday Eucharist. Surely Jesus chose fishermen and a tentmaker as his ministers, but he also chose a man with very dirty hands, the extortionate tax-collector, the future Saint Matthew.

 

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27 July. Little Flowers of Saint Francis LV: Saint Anthony preaches in tongues

anthony and Francis.png

Of the marvellous sermon that the Brother Minor Saint Antony of Padua preached in the consistory (the consistory is an official meeting of the pope with his cardinals.)

That marvellous vessel of the Holy Spirit, Saint Antony of Padua, one of the chosen disciples and the companion of Saint Francis, whom Saint Francis called his vicar, preached on a time in the consistory before the pope and the cardinals, in the which consistory were men of diverse nations, to wit, Greeks, Latins, French, Germans and Slavs, and English, and of other diverse languages of the world; and being kindled by the Holy Spirit, he set forth to them the word of God so forcibly, so devoutly, so subtly, so sweetly, so clearly, and so learnedly, that all they that were in the consistory, albeit they were of diverse languages, full clearly understood his every word, as distinctly as if he had spoken in the language of each one of them.

They were all amazed, and it seemed as though that ancient miracle of the Apostles at the time of Pentecost had been renewed, the which through the virtue of the Holy Spirit spake in every tongue; and they spake together one with the other marvelling; “Is he not of Spain, this preacher? and how then do we all hear in his speech the language of our countries?” The pope in like manner pondering and marvelling at the deep meaning of his words, said: “Of a truth, this man is the ark of the Testament and the armoury of Holy Writ.”

St Anthony of Padua and St Francis of Assisi by Friedrich Pacher

 

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25 April: Sing Alleluia!

 

dec 23 pic birds in flightAs she was going out to choir practice one evening in February, Mrs T said, ‘While I’m out you can play any music you like.’ Temptation: I can’t usually get away with Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, for example. Mrs T says that’s fine for the Cathedral, but not for the kitchen or living room. But I was baking and did not want to be changing discs with floury hands, so opted for Through the Night on BBC Sounds.

Brahms was giving me music while I worked when I stopped and listened and paused the music. ‘Our’ blackbird – the one we had last year, with the white chevron on his head – was singing in a neighbour’s fir tree. I left the door open and enjoyed his repertoire until another blackbird’s alarm call silenced him.

I was reminded of my distracted thought at Mass. The image of starlings murmurating, flying in ever changing formation, merged into ‘O filii et filiae’ of Eastertime.  Here are the words. As for musical fireworks, I found the recordings below  – no need to choose between the blackbird and the choir, enjoy them both! And Happy Easter: Christ is risen, Alleluia!

1. O filii et filiae,
Rex caelestis, Rex gloriae,                     morte surrexit hodie, alleluia.

2. Et mane prima sabbati,
ad ostium monumenti
accesserunt discipuli, alleluia.

3. Et Maria Magdalene,
et Jacobi, et Salome,
venerunt corpus ungere, alleluia.

4. In albis sedens Angelus,
praedixit mulieribus:
in Galilaea est Dominus, alleluia.

5. Et Joannes Apostolus
cucurrit Petro citius,
monumento venit prius, alleluia.

6. Discipu lis adstantibus,
in medio stetit Christus,
dicens: Pax vobis omnibus, alleluia.

7. Ut intellexit Didymus,
quia surrexerat Jesus,
remansit fere dubius, alleluia.

8. Vide, Thoma, vide latus,
vide pedes, vide manus,
noli esse incredulus, alleluia.

9. Quando Thomas Christi latus,
pedes vidit atque manus,
Dixit: Tu es Deus meus, alleluia.

10. Beati qui non viderunt,
Et firmiter crediderunt,
vitam aeternam habebunt, alleluia.

11. In hoc festo sanctissimo
sit laus et jubilatio,
benedicamus Domino, alleluia.

12. De quibus nos humillimas
devotas atque debitas

1. O sons and daughters of the King, Whom heavenly hosts in glory sing,  Today the grave has lost its sting! Alleluia!

2. That Easter morn, at break of day,
The faithful women went their way
To seek the tomb where Jesus lay. Alleluia!

3. And Mary Magdalene,
And James, and Salome,
Came to anoint the body, Alleluia!

4. An angel clad in white they see,
Who sits and speaks unto the three,
“Your Lord will go to Galilee.” Alleluia!

5. And the Apostle John
Quickly outran Peter,
And arrived first at the tomb, alleluia.

6. That night the apostles met in fear;
Among them came their master dear
And said, “My peace be with you here.” Alleluia!

7. When Thomas first the tidings heard
That they had seen the risen Lord,
He doubted the disciples’ word. Alleluia!

8. “My pierced side, O Thomas, see,
And look upon my hands, my feet;
Not faithless but believing be.” Alleluia!

9. No longer Thomas then denied;
He saw the feet, the hands, the side;
“You are my Lord and God!” he cried. Alleluia!

10. How blest are they who have not seen
And yet whose faith has constant been,
For they eternal life shall win. Alleluia!

11. On this most holy day of days
Be laud and jubilee and praise:
To God your hearts and voice raise. Alleluia!

12. For which we humbly
dedicated and duly
Give thanks, Alleluia.
Tr. Edward Caswall, apart from vv. 5 & 12.

RSPB recording of   blackbird’s song

Choir of Notre Dame de Paris O filii et filiae

 

Picture from SJC

 

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17 April: Stations for Peter XI: Jesus speaks to his Mother.

beholdthymother.small,rye

Jesus spoke to his mother, but Peter was not beside him and Mary. Jesus asked John to care for his mother.

Scripture references: Peter a long way off: Luke 22:54-55; 23:49; Mary and John at the Cross: John 19: 25-27; Peter’s mother-in-law: Matthew 3:14-15.

I was not there, not really there. Back in the crowd I was.

I don’t think he could even see me, and no way could I hear his gasping words, but young John was there, John was listening closely.

Jesus knew John was there, and his mother, Mary. He told John to care for her.

I would have done it.

Didn’t he care for my mother-in-law?

I let him down again.

Let us pray for everyone caring for other people’s parents, and their own; for adoptive and foster children and parents, and for all who work with children.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom!

Window, St Mary, Rye, Sussex, MMB.

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