This morning, imagine yourselves back in time 300 years. You are in the Hebrides on a fresh and windy morning amidst the fishermen who about to set sail. Whole families are gathered to wish the men well and to pray before the journey. The jokes and laughter cover a sense of peril. The group falls silent and then all pray:
Round our skiff be God’s aboutness
Ere she try the deeps of the sea,
Sea-shell frail for all her stoutness
Unless Thou her Helmsman be.
Today, we join the fishmen and their families in celebrating God’s aboutness. We join them in the sense of life being sea-shell frail? Today I pray that you experience the great Helmsman’s tender care and protection.
We are more than we think we are – that is the great message of hope of the Christian faith. It sounds simple, and it is, but it takes a lifetime to really understand it in the depths of our being. We are more than our upbringing, our education, our life-chances. We are more than our qualifications, our triumphs and disasters. We are more than our despair and darkness and loss and grief.
This morning, if that comforting thought seems a long way away, then I stand beside you. Truth matters. It matters very much, and the truth that amidst the mess and pain of life there is a God kinder, gentler and more beautiful than we could imagine is something that the Celtic Christians clung to.
The marrow of the Christ’s news, is that you may overcome any heritage; that resources, divine and infinite, are yours for the asking and that, once you don the unindentable breastplate of faith, there is no battle against self and evil or spectre which you may not win.
I stand in the warm sunshine of this perfect day, my heart a song of praise for this jewel dropped from Thy hand. O Wondrous One, how beautiful must be Thy mind!…May all this loveliness pass into my spirit, then flow forth again from me into the beauty of right-doing and of love which gives itself.
The Celtic Christians have a way of taking us out of ourselves and reminding us what is important in life. In a way, that is what faith itself should do. It helps us to see things more clearly and to get ourselves into perspectives. We are not the centre of the universe – thank God.
I have, in recent years, had the strong suspicion that life is much less complication than i thought. Complexity is overrated. As Morrissey sang : don’t tantalise complexity... How very true. This terrible time has focussed us on what is really important and on what we miss. Who would have thought that a pint of English ale in a local pub would be so lamented?
Many of us have that nagging voice in our heads telling us that we are unworthy of being loved. It comes in all shapes and sizes. Normally it is prefixed by, ‘You always…’ Add you own end to the sentence. I know that in my own case it comes from misplaced perfectionism. I am overly hard on myself, demanding standards that are unreachable.
My life, though, took a much more positive step when I began to realise that God is not in the business of blame at all. Life becomes possible when we allow ourselves to be persuaded that God is love and everything about him is love. It is then that we can live a life that has at its centre the glorious truth that we are infinitely loveable, even though we are not perfect. The Celtic Christians knew this and this remarkably contemporary-sounding piece is wonderful.
Persuade me. Thou who lovest me best, that I gain all things when I believe in Thee…Such a mind in me releases Thy power for my needs today; makes me safe against the unknown tomorrow, and sure that the best is yet to come.
I am so sad at the moment. On Saturday our magnificent old cat, Lance, had to be put down. There we all were, in the rain, standing in the car park of the vets and saying goodbye to our dear animal friend. We couldn’t go in to be with him because of Coronavirus. Lance was his usual gentle self, enjoying being stroked by us.
Lance was a magnificent creature. For 18 years he ministered to us and looked after us. When we were ill, he refused to leave our side. He followed us around everywhere – including when we lived in Ealing, to the pub. He would wait outside on the pub’s garden wall and then lead us home when we had finished. He was a blessing from God and much more than just a pet. Goodbye my friend.
This is a text one of my best friends sent me yesterday. It is my prayer for all of you have lost an animal friend and mourn them.
I am so sorry to hear about Lance. Jesus has a new cat in his family now. He will look after him.
The Celtic Christians couldn’t have put it any better.
When I was at theological college in Oxford it was joked that this Sunday is always the one you should invite the bishop to preach at. Why? It is Trinity Sunday and perhaps faces the preacher with the most challenging message of the year.
To say the least, the trinity, must be one of the most difficult things in the faith to really understand. Perhaps it the way is to realise that there is a deep mystery to life and to faith and that we cannot hope to understand everything 100%. For me, the trinity, is about community. God is not lonely.
The Celts had a refreshingly simple view of matters trinitarian. They saw the trinity as the great protectors drawing a circle of love and care and safety around them.
The guarding of the God of life be on you,
The guarding of the loving Christ be on you,
The guarding of the Holy Spirit be on you,
Every night of your lives,
To aid you and enfold you,
Each day and night of your lives.
The New Yorker carries an interview this week with Alan Weisman. Weisman wrote a best-selling book which speculated on what the world would be like if every human vanished from it. Weisman is a wise fellow, he is 73 which helps, and he paints a picture of our man-made structures soon collapsing and nature taking hold again.
On a more down-to-earth level he speaks about how he has been touched by people reporting hearing more birds as the noise of traffic and people has diminished in recent months. Someone in New Orleans shared a recording of a barred owl. And here is the telling point; Weisman says that the owls have always been there, we were just not able to hear them on the past.
The great theologian of the Celtic Christian era, Pelagius, understood the joy and wonder of nature – and I imagine the calls of barred owls.
There is no creature on earth in whom God is absent…Climb up the highest mountain and you will find God’s Spirit among the creatures who live at the summit…Look too at the great tress of the forest; look at the wild flowers.
By series 5, US sitcom Happy Days was running out of ideas. The producers and writers decided to liven things up a bit and in one episode, the programme’s star character, Fonzie, gets to go water-skiing and in the process gets to jump over a shark. It was not just far-fetched, it also signalled that the original ethos and culture of the show had gone.
The Celtic Christians knew that their faith wasn’t a jumping the shark moment. They kept it grounded in everyday life. Their faith was homespun, yes, but it also had the ring of truth. They understood the God who made the universe in the context of the rhythms of everyday life. I think they got it right. This prayer is an example of their glorious down-to-earth faith. It is a house-blessing (slightly adapted by me) – why not say it over your home today?
Be Christ’s cross on our dwelling place
Be Christ’s cross on our hearth
Be Christ cross on our home
Upon the fire blazing…