The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle
Reflections from Catherine Wilson
Sunday - 7 November 2021
Gathering into the presence of God.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8
Dear friends in Crail and St Ayle,
The first day of last week was All Saints Day and so it can be said that today is All Saints Sunday.
All Saints Day brings back a particular childhood memory for me, of one of the teachers at the primary school I attended who played the piano for morning assembly. She would not have claimed to be a very religious person, but she seemed determined that we should sing our morning praises to God with great gusto. So much so that when the hymn was For all the Saints she played with a force that made one fear for the future of the piano keys and strings!
Among the many Bible passages to be found by searching on-line for readings suitable for All Saints Day are several from the Book of Revelation. And at this stage, I have to admit that I do not find the Book of Revelation easy reading, and so to an extent, I have chickened out and chosen a different passage, also said to be suitable for this particular day. However, I have resolved that in my personal Bible reading time, I will read the book all the way through, with Professor Tom Wright’s ‘Revelation for Everyone’ as my guide and with The Message, with its everyday language, close to hand for the times when, almost certainly, I will struggle. So far, so good, in these early days. Perhaps on a future occasion when writing a Reflection, I might summon up the courage to share some insights into the final book of the Bible, which in the words of Professor Wright “offers one of the clearest and sharpest visions of God’s ultimate purpose for the whole creation.”
The Word of God: Matthew 5: 1 - 12
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
In this well-known passage in the New Testament, Jesus proclaimed in what was his first great sermon, preached on the shore of the sea of Galilee, the blessings (‘Wonderful news’ in some translations) which the Beatitudes represent. In his sermon, which is as relevant today as in Bible times, Jesus shows us the way to true life, a life of love and compassion, the way that he himself took. Throughout his life, from his birth in the stable in Bethlehem until his death on the cross and his resurrection, Jesus embodied the Beatitudes. All the promises of God’s Kingdom were fulfilled in him. In Jesus’s life, the living God was doing something very new – announcing a new covenant.
In the Beatitudes, in effect, Jesus invites us today, as he invited his earliest disciples, to follow him and to travel with him along the path of love. This is not an easy journey, yet God promises us his grace and he never abandons us.
Given the problems that afflict our world: poverty, disease, distress, humiliation, persecution, the struggle for justice, and more, we, as Christians, face many challenges in following the way of Jesus and doing the best we can to love our neighbours, by addressing these issues and fighting against injustice. We also face the daily challenge of professing our faith and remaining true to our call to serve God. However, when we follow Jesus’s calling and allow him to be part of our lives, he helps us to face up to these challenges and we can hope to experience the peace and joy that only God can give us.
The Beatitudes of Jesus present a model of happiness contrary to what is so often communicated by the media and by the prevailing ‘wisdom’ of our times. According to the logic of this world, those whom Jesus proclaimed as being blessed are regarded as useless, “losers”. What is promoted in society today appears too often to be success at any cost, affluence, the arrogance of power and self-affirmation at the expense of others. Indeed, the world in which we live today is no less complex and dangerous than the world of the first century when the Book of Revelation was written. The challenge I am facing in reading it, is the need to get my head and heart round St John’s colourful vision, his amazing and sometimes bizarre imagery, his use of metaphor, etc. However, the commentaries I have been reading point to the fact that it is, ultimately, a message of hope, that it gives guidance when faith is wavering and that it provides reassurance that good will triumph. So, I must continue!
Thank you, God, for the lives and examples of those Christian people who have gone before us and moulded our lives. Father God, bless their memories. May we learn from them and from the saints of our own times, and in our own communities, how to walk wisely, following their examples of faith, dedication, worship, and love.
May the stories of those saints from the past, and of the present, enable and encourage us, and may we be able to shine the light of your love, so that future generations may look back on our example and feel the same trust and conviction that we do. Inspire us with the same spirit so that we may know You, love You, and dedicate all we do, say, and think to You. This we ask in Jesus’ name.
When faith grows cold, rekindle it. When commitment grows weak, strengthen it
When love fades, restore it. When vision fades, revive it
Break through afresh into our lives and breathe your spirit upon us
So that we may know you and respond to you in all we have, and live each day to your glory
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.