A tale of two prayers. The Pharisee prays standing by himself, some write, he prayed about himself or, to himself. Let’s sum it up: “I thank you, God, that there’s nothing wrong with me.” The tax collector stood at a distance. His prayer is seven short words. Let’s sum it up, “God, there’s everything wrong with me. Help me.” Jesus tells us the tax collector went home justified before God, not the Pharisee. The lesson? Like so many in the Bible: God treats us backwards from how the world does.
In the world, those who humble themselves are too often passed over for thanks, promotions or praise, ignored, forgotten, discarded, those who exalt themselves are noticed, praised, remembered, elected to office. But God’s ways are different. God exalts the humble and humbles the proud.
And that is how it ought to be among us, his people, too.
With my love and prayers: Mo. Andi
Happy Centenary to our glorious Brangwyn Mosaics – what a treasure we have here, which has been entrusted to us: the four scenes depicting aspects of the life of St Aidan the gentle, our patron saint, spread over 1000 sqft at the East end of our beautiful church.
Aidan’s arrival, a time of new beginnings, following God’s call on his life, meeting the desire of King Oswald of Northumbria who invited the mission to bring Christianity to his kingdom. A new community forming on Lindisfarne, a holy place, a prayed-in place, a ‘thin’ place in which pilgrims and visitors through the centuries have been drawn into the life of the living God, a place where we can still experience heaven meeting earth.
Aidan preaching the Gospel of God, making disciples, bringing hope, sharing love, modelling a way to live. Aidan walked among the communities and villages, castles and farmsteads, on the highways and byways, listening, telling good news, praying, sharing of himself. Of course, the first thing he had to do, was learn the language, in the early stages of his mission relying on translators, even the king himself, to reach the locals with the message of hope and joy and love and life in Jesus Christ – our calling and vocation today, too, friends, sharing of ourselves, sharing the news of God’s love in our society, in today’s world, in the community we are set and which we are called to serve.
Aidan feeding the hungry, making people welcome, freeing the captives, giving what he could to those who had less, who had nothing, again, sharing out of himself, challenging the status quo, practicing the life of the kingdom of God, bringing hope. And a lot of admirable life-changing activities find their home at our church, too, as we aim to live as a serving community, following in the
footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray, Lord, that you may continue to strengthen our hands in your service.
Aidan’s death, his passing to greater glory, his journey home to his Father, and our Father, the one from whom he, we, all creation have our being – an ending, yes, but one which has not finished his influence, his witness, his example to reach through to us today.
As we give thanks for this beautiful house of God, as we give particular thanks for Frank Brangwyn and our glorious mosaic of the life of Aidan, we pray for the treasure of living stones, our congregation, our church family, our community, even ourselves, through which God continues to build his Church, continues to build his Kingdom – challenged, at times, yes, broken, at times, yes, hurting, at times, yes, but called to be ever thankful, called to be ever hopeful, called to be ever striving to respond in our living and loving to the Lord who was lifted up on high to draw all people to himself.
For, God’s love that burns inside us impels us on the road to seek for Christ in the stranger’s face or feel the absence of his touch.
So, Lord, help us to carry forward Aidan’s torch of flame – Christ, the light of the world – in the gentle touch, in the listening ear, in the patient toil, in the concern for the poor, in challenging of wrong, in the next step of the journey of life. Amen.
With my love and prayers: Mo. Andi
In our Gospel today, Jesus encounters ten lepers.
Ten human beings living with pain and estrangement, living without hope and care, tired, friendless, rejected, feared, cast out. They have grouped together for ‘company’, mutually miserable, counting that strength in numbers would give them some semblance of safety from the taunts and tricks of the cruel. And part of their group is a Samaritan.
Double-trouble, doubly burdened, this man is not only a leper. As a Samaritan he is an outsider anyway: a stranger, a foreigner, he is different, a non-Jew, he is impure, he worships in the wrong way, in the wrong places, he does not belong, he is not acceptable into normal society, hated, looked down upon, pushed around, pushed away.
‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,’ the ten lepers cried. And when he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
And as they turned and walked away, they saw that they were made clean. Healed. Nothing to keep them from taking up their old lives again. All they had to do was to go back and present themselves to the priests.
Except for one. One leper who was healed on the road, could not turn to the accepted religious institution to present himself. Because whoever he was, and wherever he was on his journey, he was not welcome, he was a Samaritan, he was a foreigner.
He was on his own, healed from leprosy but not from the effects of prejudice.
Where would he go? And without the other nine, to whom could he turn?
We read on, ‘Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.’
Something, some instinct caused this man to turn back, because he knew that there at the feet of this man, this Jesus, he was in the presence of Light and Life and Love.
Here he returned, and gave thanks.
And Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was there no-one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’
Well, the others were on their way back home, just as Jesus told them to be. They were on the way re-joining their communities, their families, their friends and the centre of society – their faith tradition.
The Samaritan though, this foreigner, who turned back, who gave thanks, found himself renewed, made whole, transformed, acknowledged and recognised as Jesus said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you whole.’
‘Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’
The experience of the ‘foreigner’ is not an enviable one. Familiarity is often hard won, even for the most adaptable, the most integrated.
And many ‘foreigners’ will dream of returning to the land of their birth one day. Though their new home is their true home, it may never quite feel that way.
We need to mark this well, my friends, the ‘foreigner’ understands the sting of prejudice and oppression. The ‘foreigner’ understands the rootlessness that characterises the stranger’s life. And these are all experiences that shaped the story of Israel and its Messiah. Without them and their stories, the narratives of God’s intercessions in this world are incomplete, even nonsensical.
And ‘foreigners’ are not just over there. They are our neighbours, we are your neighbours, we are colleagues, we are family, we are friends, we are part of this church congregation and the people with whom we share life.
But…but in Christ there is no ‘foreigner.’ In Christ, all of us are kin. And yet we know too well our human tendency—even sinfulness—to isolate one group, to exclude those people, to make an other of our sisters and brothers.
Not so, sisters and brothers, amongst us it is to be ‘not so’. The ‘foreigner’ is a reminder that God’s promises know no boundaries or borders, that God’s grace will not abide by the lines we draw between one another, that God consistently uses the most unlikely proclaimers of the good news to be the best choice of all to announce God’s will.
Like the Samaritan in our story. He it was, the stranger, the ‘foreigner’, he it was, who gave thanks, who returned, who praised God, who showed gratitude.
Living faithfully is to live thankful lives, living with a thankful heart is an expression of our faith. Of the faith in the one who is Light so we would never have to walk in darkness, who is the Way which will lead us into all truth, who is the living Bread in whom all our hungers are satisfied, who is Love incarnate, Life in a its fullness.
With my love and prayers: Mo. Andi
In my reading this week. I found this ‘Prayer of the four elements’:
Aidan’s prayer turned round the winds: may we, Lord, be borne along by your winds.
Aidan’s blessed oil calmed troubled waters: may our souls, Lord, be lapped by your gentle waters.
Aidan soaked a place in prayer for forty days: may the earth remind us, Lord, to live on it with prayer.
Aidan’s name means ‘fire’: kindle in us, Lord, the fire of your love.
With love and prayers: Mo. Andi