. I shall know why, when time is over, And I have ceased to wonder why; Christ will explain each separate anguish In the fair schoolroom of the sky.
He will tell me what Peter promised, And I, for wonder at his woe, I shall forget the drop of anguish That scalds me now, that scalds me now.
XXXIX from Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete, via KIndle
Peter, whose feast we celebrate today, famously went out and wept bitterly. His woe was put behind him by Christ’s forgiveness (John 21) which gave him the grace to preach the good news far from the Sea of Galilee, the grace to be Saint Peter. But that was after the Ascension, when the Good News was totally entrusted to Jesus’ followers.
Tomorrow and the next day we welcome back Sister Johanna from Minster Abbey, who opens up the disciples’ first taste of ministry and what they learned from Jesus’ reaction to their experience. Let us remember all those who will be ordained priest or deacon this Petertide.
Tomorrow we remember Saints Peter and Paul, apostles. Peter famously tried to persuade Jesus not to go to Jerusalem and his cruel death; he eventually followed Jesus to his own violent death in Rome. Here Emily Dickinson remembers a natural death which yet ‘made nature different.’
May the Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end. Amen.
The last night that she lived,
It was a common night,
Except the dying; this to us
Made nature different.
We noticed smallest things, —
Things overlooked before,
By this great light upon our minds
Italicized, as 't were.
That others could exist
While she must finish quite,
A jealousy for her arose
So nearly infinite.
We waited while she passed;
It was a narrow time,
Too jostled were our souls to speak,
At length the notice came.
She mentioned, and forgot;
Then lightly as a reed
Bent to the water, shivered scarce,
Consented, and was dead.
And we, we placed the hair,
And drew the head erect;
And then an awful leisure was,
Our faith to regulate.
from Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete.
The church had imposing monuments, emphasising the worldly wealth that was Venice’s, but what struck me was this carving of Christ on Easter Morning, watched over by a Guardian Angel, a serenely happy angel indeed. But Jesus maybe does need an eye kept on him, He looks as though he is not at all used to his risen body, see how he’s feeling the wound in his side; it’s bleeding as though he were alive.
The English Easter gardens, from a village in Northumberland, Canterbury Cathedral, and Saint Mildred’s Church nearby, are unpopulated so far as we can see, but just as with Doctor Johnson the other day, we can feel God’s presence.
When I helped at Children’s Masses, some of them enacted Mary, John and Peter going to the tomb, and finding no-one. We then unrolled a poster saying ‘Jesus is nowhere’, because they did not find him. The priest had to take a pair of scissors to it, so that it read, ‘Jesus is now here’. Our daily challenge for mission is to live as though that’s true. Which it is!
Well, what was Judas thinking when he went to the authorities for his pieces of silver? He will not have told himself that betraying Jesus was the worst thing he could do, so that’s just what he would do; no, he must have convinced himself that it was the best possible course of action in the circumstances.
Was he trying to force his Master’s hand, engineering a scene such as had happened in Nazareth at the start of his ministry, when Jesus passed through the crowd that was trying to stone him? (Luke 4:16-30) That seems unlikely as Luke says he was looking for a time when the crowd was not present in order to hand Jesus over. (22.6) Was he hoping that Jesus would then and there abandon his peaceful mission, instead establishing the Kingdom of Israel in a brilliant coup d’etat? Or did he see himself as clear-sighted, holding out no hope for Project Jesus, so he would cut his losses and take the money and run.
His suicide suggests that he was not that clear-sighted and cynical. I do not think he expected events to work out as they did; his self image may have been of a Mr Fix-it, forcing change on Jesus. Perhaps he expected the 11 and other disciples to rally round, overpowering or recruiting the posse sent to arrest Jesus and rampaging triumphant into the city. If he thought Jesus would enter into his Kingdom by military or mob force he was profoundly mistaken about him; but so were the other disciples, every one in their own way. But they clung together and did not hang themselves.
And then what? Clearly Jesus meant more to him than the money, the blood money that could not go into the treasury. (Matthew 27:3-8) His suicide speaks of hope abandoned – as we read yesterday, those who have something to hope for survive. Judas surely felt unable to return to the community of the disciples after what he’d done. Peter wept bitterly, but still stuck around. The reality of his prophetic words – you have the message of eternal life – did not sink in until Sunday morning. Too late to save Judas.
But never too late for his Lord and Friend to save Judas. That’s clearly what the artist of Strasbourg Cathedral felt, when he carved the Lamb of God rescuing Judas from his noose at the very gate of Hell.
On the eve of his death, Jesus knelt to wash the feet of his disciples. He knew the difficulty of living together and the importance of forgiveness and mutual service. “Unless I wash you,” he said to Peter, “you have no share with me.” Peter received Jesus at his feet; he was washed and was touched by the humility and gentleness of Christ. Later he would follow Jesus’ example and serve the fellowship of the faithful in the early church. Jesus wishes that life and love circulate through us as the sap through the vine, so that Christian communities be one body. But today as in the past, it is not easy to live together. We are often faced with our own limitations. At times we fail to love those who are close to us in a community, parish or family. There are times when our relationships break down completely. In Christ we are invited to be clothed in compassion, through countless new beginnings. The recognition that we are loved by God moves us to welcome each other with our strengths and weaknesses. It is then that Christ is in our midst.
“With almost nothing, are you a creator of reconciliation in that communion of love, which is the Body of Christ, his Church? Sustained by a shared momentum, rejoice! You are no longer alone, in all things you are advancing together with your brothers and sisters. With them, you are called to live the parable of community.” [The Sources of Taizé (2000) pp. 48-49]
Good morning to you all, and another beautiful morning – even some frost out there. We will be open again for Worship, from Sunday 6th December:
Corporate Worship in our church buildings: Tier three guidance – please read. We will let you know of any further updates, as we receive them.
We are in tier 3, and have to adhere to all covid-secure precautions that we had in place before this current lockdown and the following:
Please observe 2metre social distancing at all times, and we are not permitted to mix with anyone outside our household bubble either inside or outside our church buildings. However tempting it is to go and chat to someone we haven’t seen for ages, please refrain from doing so as it is a tier 3 condition that we are not to mix.
We will resume our recent pattern of services from 6th December 2020:
1st and 3rd Sundays, 9.30 at St Peter’s & 11.00 at St Mildred’s
2nd & 4th Sundays 10.00 at St Dunstan’s
Every Sunday: 8.00 at St Dunstan’s Said Eucharist
Every Wednesday 10.00 at St Mildred’s Said Eucharist
10.00 Matins on-line 1st & 3rd Sundays with John Morrison
Advent & Christmas services
Please note that all non-eucharistic services (Contemplating Advent, Nine Lessons & Carols, Epiphany Carol Service) during this difficult time are online only and will be broadcast from our church buildings.
If you are in touch with our off-liners, please can you let them know these details
Contemplating Advent: Sunday 13 December – 6.30pm online only,
Benefice Nine Lessons & Carols: Sunday 20 December – 4.30pm online only
Christmas Vigil at 6.30pm St Peter’s also recorded/live streamed
Benefice Midnight Mass – 11.30pm at St Mildred’s – booking required , with guest preacher – also recorded/live streamed
8.00am at St Dunstan’s, Benefice Christmas Said Eucharist – live streamed
10.00am at St Dunstan’s – Benefice Christmas Day Eucharist booking required – live streamed Epiphany Carol Service: Sunday 3rd January 4.30pm – online only Coffee and cake today at 2.00 NOT at 3.00
It is difficult to keep on top of all these changes as they come about, but thank you for your patience and support, and we will keep you updated as we receive information.
Jo’s leave: a couple of weeks ago I had planned to go on retreat, needless to say that was cancelled, so instead am taking two days out walking, and will be spending much of that time in prayer. God Bless you all at this time, and keep well. From today’s reading in Morning Prayer: Revelation 21: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Rev Jo Richards
Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury
A couple of sentences at the end of the article* struck me.
‘Why has the Catholic priesthood wanted to present itself over the centuries as perfect, as impregnable? Since the child abuse scandal… this facade has crumbled and our priests are now humbler as a result and fewer in number.’
Read any of the Gospels and we see men who were far from impregnable. Look at the last chapter (21, 14-17) of John:
This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to his disciples, after he was risen from the dead. When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep.
We all know about Peter’s betrayal: this scene of forgiveness and mission came after that; it came in the early days of the New World Order. No-one tried to cover up Peter’s terrible lapse, to pretend it had not happened. No-one made him out to be perfect.
I’m grateful to our own Fr Daniel Weatherley who likened St Peter’s Chair to those held by professors, who bring to the post all their wisdom and experience. Peter was a man of experience, and of hard-won wisdom.
Let’s pray with him: ‘Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.’
And listen out for the call. Who will I be asked to feed today or tomorrow. What can I offer them?
*Stephen Hough, Struggles of the calling, the Tablet, 17.2.2018, p13.
The New Year waits, breathes, waits, whispers in darkness.
While the labourer kicks off a muddy boot and stretches his hand to the fire,
The New Year waits, destiny waits for the coming.
Who has stretched out his hand to the fire and remembered the Saints at All Hallows,
Remembered the martyrs and saints who wait? and who shall
Stretch out his hand to the fire, and deny his master:
who shall be warm
By the fire, and deny his master?
This is from the opening of T S Eliot’s ‘Murder in the Cathedral’,* written for the Canterbury Festival, 1935. A chorus of Canterbury women are setting the scene for the events that followed Saint Thomas’s return from exile in 1170. We will celebrate his 850th anniversary next year.
Will we be ready to leave our comfort zone this coming year?
Pope Pius XII ordered archaeological investigations under Saint Peter’s basilica in Rome. The diggers found evidence that bones there were indeed those of the Apostle himself. Now Pope Francis has given some of these bones to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. To read the Patriarch’s reflection on this gift, follow the
Before any planning for our walk, I read a book about pilgrimage. Anne Hayward’s A Pilgrimage Around Wales is subtitled in search of a significant conversation.1Mrs Hayward set herself to have a significant conversation each day of her walk. In his foreword the Archbishop of Wales points out that the significant conversation can be a silent exchange with the people who made the place holy. He recalls a visit to Saint Peter’s in Rome, and being taken down to the niche holding the relics – beyond reasonable doubt those of the fisherman himself. ‘The presence of the Apostle, the witness of the Apostle, the courage of the Apostle, the love of the Apostle for the Lord, and much, much more were all around in an unspoken conversation.’(p7)
Measuring the significance of a conversation is surely impossible. Significant to me, or to the Other? At the end of her three months’ tramp, Mrs Hayward counted up more than 150 names of people she had such conversations with. That is not counting the conversations Archbishop Davies points us to, in the stones and windows of the churches she visited. (I wish she had identified some of the places, to let others find them.) She travelled alone, camping most nights; we will be in a group, with maybe 60 or 70 people walking anything from 100 metres to the full distance. A few people may camp out once or twice.
Tyndale the terrier will walk rather more than the rest of us. He may hold significant conversations with other dogs who leave messages for him, or who pick up his trail marks. We will hold conversations with each other, in words, in linked arms, or held hands, or a shared mint.
Mrs Hayward had conversations with bereaved people, worried mothers, campsite wardens, young hikers and churchwardens, among many others. We can expect significant conversations with the Lord that Peter loved, in song, in silence, in weariness, in landscape and seascape, in sky, tree, river and road. Even a ‘thank you’ to a bus driver may feel very significant at the end of a long walk!
She had but herself to consider when planning her walks, her rests, her meals, we must bear in mind the needs of all our walkers and riders in wheelchairs, buses, cars or trains. Different pilgrimages. Whether you want to walk around Wales or make for Rome or Canterbury, God speed! And any day’s journey can be a pilgrimage, if you remember to pray, ‘Stay with us, Lord.’ Anne Hayward’s book could help a would-be pilgrim to be clearer about the journey. A very human book, and a book for the armchair pilgrim as well as the footsore one. More about ours soon.
1Anne Hayward, A Pilgrimage Around Wales: in search of a significant conversation, Y Lolfa, Talybont, 2018.