Sheila Julian's 25th Profession Anniversary

18 February 2007

Exodus 34: 29 – end; 2 Cor.3:12 – 4:2; Luke 9:28-36

Moses was so alone from the word go – a baby in the bulrushes taken into an alien culture.  Nearly killed for trying to stand up for his own people and God expecting him to do all things until poor old Moses pleaded for help and was allowed to have Aaron for support.  How must he have felt “too-ing and fro-ing” between his God on the mountain and the people below, only being asked to tell his people hard things written in stone.

Paul wasn’t much better off.  He too found himself alone as he struggled to get God’s message of freedom and love across to the Churches just as we do today.  We are still trying to cut ourselves free from the structures of the past but as Diana read, “We do not lose heart”.

What enabled Moses, Paul and the disciples to hang in there? – to keep going in the face of disbelief, ridicule and worse – what enabled them “not to lose heart”?  What helps us?

They had all glimpsed the Glory of God.  They had experienced the transcendent presence of the Holy – on the mountaintop – on the Damascus Road in the darkness of blindness, and in the nothingness of the enveloping clouds.  They all experienced the presence of God.  The experience was so real to them that they could never deny that reality in later life.

Isn’t it the same for us – Haven’t we all known, or should I say experienced the presence of God in the past?  We need to remind ourselves of those times and hang on to them.  How many of us as children knew God spoke to us or that he was with us.  Perhaps we felt God enjoying with us the sight of our first butterfly – or when we woke in the night to discover the moon shining directly through our bedroom window just for us!  I’II pause while we think back and wonder at God’s love for us in the past – the times that God gave us a glimpse of himself ………………………………..

Maybe some of us do not have such memories and yet God has brought us here to St Richard’s this morning and we can see or know God’s Glory is with us and around us now.  At every Eucharist we say or sing the words:

“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts,

Heaven and earth are full of your Glory”

Not just heaven – but earth.  We need to allow God to show us his Glory.  Give God the space and the time – give our attention to the One who is always with us.

Just look around – really look!  What do we see?  A bunch of sleepy, comfortable people?  No!  We can see a very dynamic group of people filled with God’s spirit and reflecting his Glory.  It’s true!  “The Glory of God is man and woman fully alive.”  (Irenaeus).  We are a very dynamic group of people brought here this morning by God.  It is God’s spirit that has led us to this day and this place.

I have known both St Richard’s and CSC for a long while now and I have been amazed at the resilience of both.  Here at St Richard’s and in CSC, we’ve had some hard knocks to take.  We’ve had to cope with unexpected as well as expected loss of members – sometimes through death, but sometimes through people becoming disenchanted and leaving us and moving away which is harder to take I think, or just a change of circumstances forcing them to do so.  We have all battled on through those times, that’s what it’s felt like battling on, and have actually become stronger as a result.  Both St Richard’s and CSC are now very united in ourselves and resolved to go from strength to strength.  Not for ourselves – not just to keep what we have intact, but to reach out to others, to share and welcome, and if necessary, to change for the sake of sharing the love of our Lord.  We want to enable others to come in as we go out.

Sometimes when people feel they can no longer be in the front line as it were, they think they don’t count anymore, or that they can’t contribute anymore.  Don’t you believe it!  When I joined CSC, there was one of our Senior Sisters, in her nineties I think, who was to be found every morning wedged into a corner on the bench in our Chapel, no cushions then, sometimes asleep, sometimes dozy, but her heart was there carrying the needs of our world to our God.  That still goes on today.  Such Sisters often say they can’t do anything to help anymore but they are the very foundation of CSC.  Without their prayerful support, CSC would have disappeared long ago, and I know the same is true of St Richard’s people.  So many of you have been and continue to be such faithful pray-ers.

So many of you serve the people of Ham and beyond so faithfully and have done for years.  You go on caring for and visiting others at great cost to yourselves – and how I admire those of you who live alone and yet answer your doorbell whenever it rings and try to help those who come to you in need.  If I answer our door to a “difficult customer” I can get help.  You cannot.  You do your best and continue to do so in so many difficult situations.

As we talk and think about being active in reaching out to others, we can feel very daunted.  When we watch television or read the newspapers and see for ourselves the immense suffering throughout the world – and in our own country, we feel helpless.  

How can I possibly make any difference?  I’m only one, my vote won’t make any difference to the result of the election – my little efforts at recycling won’t make any difference to the ecology – my prayers for peace won’t make any difference.  I’ve been praying for peace for years……..  How often have we caught ourselves thinking along those lines?

Each one of us does count and each one of us does make a difference so like Moses, Paul and the early disciples we won’t lose heart.  I’m going to finish by asking Cynthia to tell us story of a Snowflake.  

“Tell me the weight of a snow-flake”, a sparrow asked a dove.  Nothing more than nothing”, was the answer.  “In that case, I must tell you a marvellous story”, said the sparrow.  “I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk when it began to snow – not heavily, not in a raging blizzard, no just like in a dream, without a sound, and without any violence.  Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch.  Their number was exactly 3,741,952.  When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, “nothing more than nothing” as you say, the branch broke off”.  Having said this, the sparrow flew away.  The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for a while, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come in the world”.

And so you see each one of us is important.  Each one of us matters to God – we all belong to each other and to God.

And now before we have our intercessions we’ll each receive a snowflake to remind us that we matter – that we are loved - and that together we can do great things for our God.

Let us bless the Lord.  Thanks be to God.