The God of the Bible is one who calls us into a relationship with himself and with each other.
I’m reminded of a prayer by St Cuthbert of Durham (635 – 687)
“Lord we have heard your voice calling at a distance; Guide our steps to you Lord. Lord we have heard your voice calling at a distance; Guard our way to you Lord; Lord we have heard your voice calling at a distance; Keep our hearts for you. “
It is the call of God that evokes faith in us working upon our imagination. St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in the 4th century, stressed the importance of the imagination in the Christian life. The Celebration of the Church’s Year and all her festivals is a powerful stimulus for our collective imaginations.
We are not in this on our own. The Church, for all her ups and downs, is our support group. Maybe the Church has changed in a variety of ways. But our Lord hasn’t changed. Jesus is still the same, yesterday, to-day and forever. we must hold on to that truth. (Hebrews 13:8)
“You have made us for yourself,” St Augustine writes in his Confessions, “and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
That’s an eternal truth and we forget it at our peril. We ought constantly to recall these brief but mot significant sayings. They keep us on the straight and narrow; very vital in these uncertain times.
One of the outstanding characteristics of faith in the New Testament is endurance. Real endurance is a shared and co-operative experience. It’s a shared act of faith. We carry and encourage each other in our earthly pilgrimage towards the Kingdom.
One of the reasons I love “All Along the Watchtower” is the support we give each other. Long may it thrive.
Between 1975 and 1990 I led several pilgrimage groups to Israel, sometimes twice a year. The average number of a group was around thirty or forty souls. Many were elderly, handicapped and infirm. There’s much walking. You can only move as fast as your weakest member. This applies especially in the Old City of Jerusalem. I found myself running up and down the line making sure everyone was present.
I recall one pilgrim in particular. Peter Stanton was one of the head servers at the Cathedral and St George’s Church Truro. His wife, Mary, telephoned me asking if they could join my group in 1981. However there was a problem. Peter, her husband, had a brain tumour and not expected to live much longer. You must come was my reply. It was very much an act of faith on their part because he was a very sick man. He died shortly after returning home. However during that pilgrimage he was a tower of strength. No one knew how ill he was except me.
Peter had a magnificent and deeply resonant voice. I often asked him to read passages from the New Testament relevant to the sites connected with Jesus that we were visiting.
One such reading especially impressed itself on me. We were celebrating the Eucharist on the Gabbatha.
The Gospel of John states that the governor Pilate: “brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat, in the place that is called Lithostrotos, and in Hebrew Gabbatha.” (The Pavement in English) John 19:13.
I asked Peter, privately, if he was strong enough to read John 19 verse 1 – 30. It was profoundly moving hearing him reading the account of the Crucifixion in John’s Gospel, knowing that he was a dying man. His faith in Christ shone forth as a light that remains with me to this day.
Caravaggio’s “Ecce Homo”