Would you put someone who had been sectioned in the Church’s Calendar? No? Actually, the Roman Catholic Church did as long ago as 1690 when they canonised St John of God, a Portuguese ex-shepherd, retired mercenary, sometime religious bookseller and flogger of religious tat to the pious. He had spent time in what was then the equivalent of the Psychiatric ward of the Royal Hospital in Granada and had received the treatment of the day – segregation, restraint, flogging and starving. Today he’d have got some very effective mood stabilsers and probably wouldn’t founded a religious order caring for the sick.
Today’s stigma may not matter to God. Doesn’t mean you can’t be used by God if the World or even the Church say otherwise.
“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
“What sort of person were you 20 years ago?” Good question. Personally, I was younger (obviously!), I had fewer grey hairs, more hair and less waist for a start. I was not (yet) ordained – 3 months to go and a darned sight more opinionated. In some ways that was good e.g I was far more passionately political and ken to change the world. And in other ways it was bad. I was terribly opposed to Women’s ordination and vocal about it.
But was I happier? Not really. I was still seeking the burning ecstasy of God, the transforming fire in both my emotional and religious life that would conform the World to vision god and I shared. Compromise wasn’t on the agenda. I’d read Jeremiah and grown up in Thatcher’s Britain. “There is No Alternative” Victory was to be total or not worth having.
Now my skin fits me better. God is a place where I can relax and be rather than a standard against which I measure myself and fall short. God is a person who loves even me rather than judges. God is a journey with rather than a journey to.
Still, thinking back isn’t always comfortable – like the song said:
“Memories, may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
So it’s the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember…
The way we were…”
This was, once upon a time, a significant day in my Annual Calendar. Founder’s Day. The birthday of Lord Baden-Powell and his wife – the founders of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. You see, once upon a time, I was a Cub Scout. I learn a lot, some of which I have long since forgotten (not being in the habit of tying up my horse outside saloons these days, my Highwayman’s Hitch has long since ceased to be operational). But good principles on loyalty, team work and service of others (remember Bob-a-Job Week?) were inculcated.
Of course, I got a bit older, into my teens and after a while in the Scouts, moved on to something else (Ambulance Cadets) but the good bits of Baden-Powell’s ideas in the movements he and his wife started continue to influence me.
The same thing has happened in my religious journey. There have been a variety of influences – Ignatian, Carmelite, Franciscan, Benedictine. At different times, they have influenced me more or less. The good remains. The rich mixture makes me who I am today.
Thank you God.
St Julian’s Church Norwich, where Julian lived her hidden life with God.
The Gospel for this morning was all about Judas. Mostly. But one phrase jumped out at me from the Roman Missal version of the reading:
“Now, on the 1st day of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said; “Where do you want us to make the preparation for you to eat the Passover?” “Go to so-and-so in the city and say: ‘The Master says: my time is near. It is at your house I am keeping Passover with my disciples.'” (Matt 26:18)
Who was “So-and-So”? Nameless, faceless, forgotten. It may have been Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus. Or another, anonymous well-wisher and follower. We don’t know. And never will. It was their fate to be forgotten.
But was also their calling to enable. To enable the Christ to reveal himself fully to his followers. To enable the Supper that we share in to this day. Not to be known or remembered or famed but to help make heaven on earth. To offer a space that is made Holy by the Holy.
“for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” Colossians 3:3-4
That’s what most of us are called to. Not fame but being hidden in Christ. And then revealed as the glories of his love.
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky…
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth
Is spread with the same.
Every cubic inch of space a miracle? Jesus, God Incarnate, made the whole world that sort of Sacred Space. Holy Week reveals to us again that even the dark and bloody places of the world are sanctified by his life, death and resurrection. The journey we make with him in retelling and experiencing his Passion through symbolic worship in Holy Week draws us into that sanctifying mystery. We enter the darkness that we me see the light more clearly.