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Bishop Andrew’s Sermon from Becky’s Induction – Plus Photos!

Article posted on 9 October 2017 Leave a Comment

Becky Bevan’s Induction. October 4th 2017.

‘And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.

For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.’ 2 Cor3: 18

Tonight, we stand on the threshold of something new. The temptation to crack on will be huge. As it is in most places on an evening like this. But I want to urge you not to do that.And to go at this slowly together – to take your time – to listen – to God and each other; And to notice who God is sending to you; and to reflect together on what it all means.

This is so important.

These are anxious times. And we all feel huge pressure to do something – anything to hold steady. Some of the things we take for granted as a society are buckling ….

Some say we don’t know who we are any more alone or together and the last and the least are particularly vulnerable.

 

As a Church, I think we’re being called – not to retreat into a churchy refuge to flee all of that – but to challenge the anxiety and to offer something radically different.

A broad, generous, powerful, beautiful vision of what it is to be human and what it is to BE together.

The more I listen and pay attention to the yearnings behind the words, I just wonder if God is calling us back to the real thing – the reason we all found our way here in the

first place and certainly not to keep on spinning the wheels because that’s what you do.

That would be a massive distraction from the real thing. But it is difficult, getting back to the real thing. Because we have to learn how to see things for what they are –

and how to see each other – face-to-face.

 

To notice the hand of God in things– to see the glory of God – especially in the dark and the dirt – and to see ourselves – and others – as He sees us.

Gosh, it is so easy to say all that.

But you know – as well as I do – that this is really hard.

To see ourselves as He sees us?

That takes discipline…

It takes – even more discipline to see Him in others – and to discern His hand in the events of our days and years. And it is – often – almost impossible to discern His hand in our structures – and in conflict.

But if we don’t do this, and if we don’t know who we are, and whose we are, then there’s very little point to the church – because without that, activity will be fruitless

and we will have nothing to say that the world would ever hear.

 

We live at a time when our culture thinks we know more about the world than we ever have -but do we? really?

Our knowledge is growing in leaps and bounds – but do we see it for what it is?

I find myself doubting that. And I’m intrigued when the neurologist Ian Mc Gilchrist says

‘What we do not expect to find, we just will not see: much elegant research   demonstrates that we are essentially blind to what we do not think is there’.

Maybe God’s call is not just for us to see again, but to help the world see again?

As you begin your ministry here with the people of St George’s and St John’s, Becky,

I think patient listening – and noticing – the fruit of real spiritual discipline -are going to be key.

Because – they will open you up to possibilities as they emerge – and stop you from closing things down because they don’t fit with what we are used to.

 

This isn’t new. At all. The early Christians – forged in the desert’s heat and the fire of God’s love – spoke – often – about what they called nepsis, watchfulness – really seeing, freely and deeply, with no preconceptions.

Interestingly, the art isn’t dead.

This time last year, I came across this – ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ by the American writer Annie Dillard – Eugene Peterson quotes her often in his book on ministry, ‘The contemplative pastor.’

Both are worth a close and careful read.

What I really like about ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ is that it requires you to sit quietly

and to read it slowly, to savour its richness. It’s not a book for skimming through on the hoof.  It is ripe with glorious observations of the very small world she sees all around her in Tinker Creek – as she takes the time to look and to watch and to name what she sees.

From the first page, you feel like her guest in Tinker Creek – as she takes you to see and enjoy the things she’s noticed – But first, she knows she has to open our eyes.

And so she tells us about a book written by a doctor describing the first ever experiments in cataract surgery. “But it is the patients’ concepts of space and

time that are most revealing” she says. “One patient, according to the doctor, ‘practised his vision in a strange fashion; thus he takes off one of his boots, throws it some way off in front of him, and then attempts to gauge the distance atwhich it lies; he takes a few steps towards the boot and tries to grasp it; on failing to reach it,

he moves on a step or two and gropes for the boot until he finally gets hold of it.’ ‘But even at this stage, after three weeks’ experience of seeing’ Von Sinden goes on, ‘space as he conceives it, ends with visual space, i.e., with colour patches that happen to bound his view. He does not yet have the notion that a larger object (a chair) can mask a smaller one (a dog), or that the latter can still be present even though it is not directly seen.’” page 29.

And “Of a patient just after her bandages were removed, her doctor writes, ‘The first things to attract her attention were her own hands; she looked at them very closely, moved them repeatedly to and fro, bent and stretched the fingers, and seemed greatly astonished at the sight.’ One girl was eager to tell her blind friend that “men do not really look like trees at all” and astounded to discover that every visitor had an utterly different face. Finally, a twenty-two year old girl was dazzled by the world’s brightness and kept her eyes shut for two weeks. When at the end of that time she opened her eyes again, she did not recognise any objects, but, “the more she now directed her gaze upon everything about her, the more it could be seen how an expression of gratification and astonishment overspread her features; she repeatedly exclaimed: ‘O God! How beautiful!!’”

It’s the recognition and the delight we are aiming for. And I think – St Francis’ Day –

the day of your induction is a good day to remember that – God fills all things and holds everything in being That the whole of creation is like a burning bush.

And that the Church – His Church – not ours!

The Church we’re called to BE and to love and to serve is also on fire – with God’s love;

Because we, with unveiled faces, have been let in – into a deep and eternal relationship with God as He relates to each one of us face-to-face.

So when our beloved Church of England picks up – and amplifies the fear and anxiety all around us –and frets anxiously about the future what we really need – is to stop worrying about numbers – and growth and to do what we know how to do – really well.

Worship, witness, community and service.

We need to look and to watch patiently to see -God’s activity – out there – in the world – – in here – amongst His people – and in here – deep in the very core of our being.

‘And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another’

This is core stuff.

Loving the potential in the people and places we’re called to serve.

Sometimes, let’s be honest, that can lead to disappointment –but if we can’t start there then we’re no different to the world.

There is nothing static – or backward-facing in what Paul’s urging here.

It is dynamic, forward- facing and deeply attractive.

We are invited to be the be the change we want to see and when we stop focussing our attention on ourselves – and really start to look outwards, then we are truly missional.

I don’t normally say this – but approach this precious time together slowly, please –

to be contemplative, compassionate and courageous with us, as we follow Bishop Stephen’s lead to be a more Christlike Church.

And be joyful!

For tonight – and this new ministry you’ll share – comes from the Lord, who is Spirit.

Amen.

 

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