FOR ST MICHAEL & ALL ANGELS BRAMHALL
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began …
IN NOVEMBER we’ll be remembering all the saints and souls who have lived and died before us – some of whom, whether by the hand of religious intolerance or other reason for war on a wider scale, “laid down their lives for their friends”.
IN DECEMBER we’ll turn hearts and minds to an advent, a coming – that of the infant Jesus who, born into obscurity in the smallest nation upon earth, grew up with the fire of God’s Word at the centre of his life – so much so that he came to be seen by countless millions as the Word of God Himself. Very God of very God. A Christos – someone anointed, someone history has recognised as Son of God (a familiar title since it was used of the Roman Emperor) – though Jesus of Nazareth himself was at pains to say that he was human – Son of Man – one of us. Just as his mother Mary suggested God had done in calling her to be Theotokos or God-bearer, Jesus turned his world upside down. Executed for that, his Spirit nonetheless lives today in billions – some of whom will die for his cause.
SO WE’VE A LOT TO THINK ON in the last two months of 2013, or indeed in any month in any year. Plenty to remember and to look forward to. There’s an advent on the horizon. An unusual, vulnerable bundle of energy in a ￼manger. And it’s this Jesus of Nazareth – in, and with, and through, and for, and all around us, who’s going to be calling us to be changed “from glory into glory” for ever and ever. “Turn around and think again” – he cries throughout history. “Be open and vulnerable in your manger. Enter into your chamber. Listen. Be still … until you know what to do – and begin”.
THE LITTLE FELLOW in the cattle stall is going to be making some pretty persuasive demands of us all. Change. Change. Change. The world you’re living in today is not what God intended it to be at all. From the “garden of creation” until now God calls upon YOU for assistance. You’re made to be Christos, anointed, co-creators with God of all that a person might dream of as heaven …
… justice, righteousness, fair distribution of the world’s resources; co-responsibility; revulsion wheresoever a culture of ignorance, oppression and death is encountered; a thinking again about right order, whilst not being too self-righteous or self-indulgent; neither pain nor tears anymore.
Love God (primary task); Love your neighbour as you love yourself (second, or consequent, task). Put God and others first. But don’t shout! Notice that the message is a subtle one. The Word of God comes quietly – and initially only to a few – from a cattle stall, not from a marble hall – out of weakness, not out of bounty – or the church bank balance.
THIS IS THE REASON for the season. Re-member. Be thankful. Look for something extraordinary coming. Wise women and men have wondered before us at what they ￼saw. Get down from your camel – or your high horse – and offer worship to the God who made us all. This is the “call” of a bundle of vulnerability in swaddling clothes – a “kingdom-building” manifesto quite unlike anything heard before. “Don’t be too proud to kneel down in straw.” Change, change, change.
SLEEPERS WAKE! Look! Look! Look! here’s a coming easily missed – some thing, some one, coming to us by way of a still small voice somewhere in the depths of us. Not a noisy coming. Not a religious coming. Not a triumphalist coming. Not a tyrannical or a democratic coming but a little Jewish coming, quietly, to everyone, born in Beit Lehem – “the House of Bread”, a little beating heart of a town named after a staple food – that also means “understanding”. This is a coming, this is a call for a change, this is a call to all, for all.
SO OF COURSE St Michael & All Angels is changing – as Charles Wesley has it – Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise. We’re being brought to our knees. And our 103 year old heritage as Bramhall Parish Church means that we’re being brought to our knees within a recognisably Anglican framework – and that recognition will continue to hold us together, as it has held those who have mothered us in the faith, even whilst we open our arms wide to embrace God’s beloved in all the world’s other faith traditions as well.
THIS CHANGING, this growing, is the life work of all human persons, the work of disciples or learners – like you and me. Often we feel we’d rather look on from the safety of our camels, or our high horses. But the cry of the demanding little fellow in the cave of us, in the quiet depths of us, won’t be silenced. And “our hearts are restless” as St Augustine prayed, “until they find their rest in thee” – until we’re quiet enough, still enough, often enough, to actually hear the still, small voice and – worshipping, privately AND corporately, just BE.
Sometimes the changes required of us are a return to former times and experience, (our choir’s just returned to the choir vestry of 40 years ago), sometimes change will involve the entirely new. Many things come and go in our lifetimes (this is the last issue of this Parish News in its present format and as I write this letter I am trusting that its passing will lead to some new “resurrection”) – but “Don’t be afraid for I am with you” is the word of the Lord who walks with us, and the call of the vulnerable Jesus will never pass away.
WILL YOU COME WITH ME? Will you “follow the star” with me to Bethlehem? There’s food for weary pilgrims to be found there. A sight for sore eyes. And understanding, too. This little vulnerable one (creator of heaven and earth) listens a great deal. He wouldn’t fare well in a Church Council meeting because he hasn’t learned to talk. And yet he / she will speak to us, does breathe “ruach” – vivifying spirit into us, right into the centre, right into the heart of us. And the little Word of God’s still, small voice will show us how to change.
Will you re-prioritise this November and December? Will you not so much SHOP for presents as BE present? Will you come? Will you BE St Michael & All Angels? – that the kingdom may come on earth – and in Bramhall – as it is in Heaven.