Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday reflection - of races and witnesses

It was my turn to read the new testament lesson this morning, which in the Anglican lexicon for the twelfth Sunday after Trinity is taken from the Epistle to the Hebrew, beginning at Chapter 11 Versed 29 and closing at Chapter 123 verse two.

About five minutes before I was due to read it, the Vicar of Whitehaven, the Revd Robert Jackson, asked the congregation if anyone had stayed up late or got up early to watch live as Mo Farrah competed. (Nobody had but they were all very pleased by the result - see previous post.)

He then suggested to those present that there was something in today's New Testament lesson which was very relevant to Mo Farrah's performance.

As I had previously realised, some vicars are not above the most nefarious tricks to get people to listen to the sermon and readings!

As you may imagine, I was a little perturbed by this, for two reasons - first, when I read the passage concerned five minutes later, I had to make sure I read correctly the passage concerned so that nobody would miss through my error the section to which their attention had just been directed (not that I don't always try to get it right but this was a bit of extra pressure.)

And secondly, I knew from having checked it beforehand that the majority of that reading - the end of chapter eleven - is about how faith enabled various people in the bible to cope with the most terrible afflictions - it is replete with references of battles, cities being wrecked, people being tortured, beaten, or quite literally sawn in half.

I should have known, because it follows on from one of my favourite lines in the bible, that the reference Robert was making was to the final words of verse one of chapter 12:

"And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (New International Version)

As I say, I should have known at once what he meant, because those are the last words of a verse of which the first words are one of my favourite lines in the bible because of the following story.

This is not the first or even the second time this story has appeared on this blow and probably won't be the last either, but I will try not to use it again without some further excuse e.g. it will probably appear each summer on the 12th Sunday after Trinity when I get reminded of it)

"I can resist anything except temptation" (Oscar Wilde)

A group of clergy were discussing which biblical quotations were the greatest help to them in avoiding sin. A fiery young deacon, just out of his theological college, quoted Romans 6, Verse 23:

"For sin pays a wage, and that wage is Death, but God gives freely, and his gift is eternal life, in union with Jesus Christ our Lord."

A recently ordained lady curate, while accepting that the passage from Romans reminds us of something very important, preferred passages which concentrated more on the infinite love and compassion of God, and cited John, Chapter 14, verse 15:

"If you love me, you will obey my commands, and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforter, who will be with you for ever - the spirit of truth."

An elderly canon, who had been listening in silence, congratulated the previous speakers on being able to quote such beautiful and high-minded passages as a way to avoid sin.

"But for me," he said, "The passage which is of most use in resisting temptation consists of the opening words from Chapter 12 Verse 1 of the letter of Paul to the Hebrews:

"Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses ...."

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