Thursday, 25 June 2020

Let Nothing Disturb You

Let Nothing Disturb You...,
Let nothing make you afraid,
All things are passing,
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Nothing is lacking to the one who has God--
God alone is enough.  

I am sure we are all thanking the Rev. John for the calming reassurance of these words on which he based his Reflection/Sermon on Sunday 21st June.   

So far 2020 has been a very difficult and tedious year for us all and our patience has been strained and our hearts broken by the grief and the worry of trying to care for ourselves and those that we love as we witness the misery and the death that confronts millions of people around the world.  

St. Teresa - known as "Terasa of Avila - Painted by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
(Wikipedia - photo of painting in Kunsthistorisches Museum)

The Rev. John said; “These words, from a meditation titled "St. Teresa's bookmark," are a fine summary of today's Scripture Readings.  They all speak to us, strangely enough, about the gift of patience. We are taught that patience is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but it often feels like a heavy burden. People in today's society mistake patience for submission in the same way they mistake kindness for weakness -- and they walk all over you. But as usual, we must look beyond the surface. God has a greater message in store.  Some truly great people in the history of Christianity have been "walked on" in this way, you see. Just as one example, St. Teresa, known as Teresa of Avila, is world famous as a theologian, reformer of the Carmelite Order, and spiritual advisor to the great medieval Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross. But Teresa's ministry was not well received in the community that she loved.  Her sisters had grown lax in faith and practice, she called for reform, and their response was to throw her out of convents that she herself had established.

On one occasion, she was turned out at night in the middle of a rainstorm. Dressed from head to toe in her coarse wool habit, she got back into her donkey cart and was riding along when the wheel of the cart hit a ditch and the cart turned over, dumping Teresa into the mud. She sat there, in mud-soaked wool, looked up to heaven, and said, "Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, it's no wonder that you don't have many."

On sitting down to reflect on the Rev. John’s thoughts on Wednesday I found I could really relate to St Teresa’s reactions when, as the last straw of a really bad day, she had a little rant at God and a bit of a Spiritual meltdown.  There was one year about 53 years ago when, like Queen Elizabeth said in 1992, my husband and I could have said it was an “annus horribilis”.  So many difficulties in one year made us decide to dress up and go to a restaurant near Sydney Harbour for dinner on New Year’s eve and begin the new year with optimism and a “bang”.  As the midnight countdown began I smiled in anticipation of a much better and healthier year – then right on the stroke of midnight a passing waiter spilled a glass of red wine all over me as he rushed by to deliver it to another table!   I looked at my lovely white faux fur jacket and my pretty dress and burst into tears as the cheering and the fireworks and the kissing and hugging erupted all around us.  “Well next year will have to be better I said as I mopped up the mess – this one certainly stayed difficult right to the end!”

“But frustrated as she was, Teresa clung to God. Her writings also lead us to suspect that she got a response from God while sitting in that muddy ditch. One of her meditations on the Disciplines of the Holy Spirit talks about how we must not be deceived by the appearance that evil triumphs over good, for sometimes, as she wrote, "God uses the Devil as a sharpening-stone for Christians.”  Teresa not only taught this lesson, she lived by it. She did not give up on God, even when her sisters fought her every step of the way, going to priests and bishops to make trouble for her.”

As a child I thought it was really good the way my Roman Catholic friends could call up a saint to help in a wide variety of inconvenient or difficult circumstances.  However, at the same time I soon discovered that although some of my friends always appealed to St Anthony to find something they had lost, it was my experience that it was much more fruitful to sit down and go back in my mind and work out where, when, why or how, I may have mislaid the item which was missing, before systematically searching thoroughly in all the possible places. 

I found it refreshingly different to focus on a traditionally Roman Catholic Saint in our service this week, specially as a person with an Anglican background. It is not that I have a problem with the recognition of many of the saints whose biographies show amazing kindness and selfless lives as they worked for the poor and lonely or the sick and homeless – it is just that I think that like knighthoods, the Order of Australia, Victoria Crosses and medals or other awards to recognize outstanding human beings, there are only a chosen few who gain wide recognition as saints or heroes in many walks of life.

While it is of course good for those people who are noticed or chosen and for those who admire or love them; we all know that like the unnoticed sparrows, there are countless “saints” and “heroes” as well as quiet and lonely people who will never be noticed, except perhaps by God.

King George VI (Photo from Wikipedia)
This work has been released into the public domain by its author Begoon.

On a night in February 1952 there was a news flash to report that King George V1 had died in his sleep.  On that same night in Sydney during a very fierce thunderstorm my grandfather’s sister Alice also died in her sleep.  Grand Auntie Alice was 78 years old and lived with my grandparents for several years before her death.  She had lived most of her life in the country, had never married and was quiet and reserved and walked with a distinct limp because one leg was several inches shorter than the other.  I never knew anything about Auntie Alice’s life except that she once told my brothers she had ridden a penny-farthing bicycle as a young woman.  This had seemed most incredible to us because as well as being lame, she was a very tiny woman.  When she lived with my grandmother and grandfather she cooked and cleaned for them and never complained.  I hardly ever remember her speaking, but she was a gentle soul and was grateful to be “taken in” by her brother and his wife.

The death of the King of England was front-page news all over the world with blurry radio photos showing the new Queen arriving home in London from Africa, and pages of pictures of the old King’s life.  There were family photos and Pedigree charts and pictures of the life of Queen Elizabeth 11 from the moment of her birth.  Everyone had a story to tell about the Royal Family.  

Auntie Alice died as quietly as she had lived without the world noticing that she had even been here. Yet strangely, I have always remembered that she died the same night as King George V1, and I think that at that time I realised for the first time, that each life is different, yet every life is important. 

I have often thought of Auntie Alice as being one of the fallen sparrows noticed only by God and I wish I could say that I had noticed her more.

So I believe, that as Christians it is only right that each of us must do our part to encourage and thank everyone who we notice being kind, thoughtful and caring and that we look for something special to notice and appreciate in absolutely everyone we meet.  Life is very tough for many people and it is a struggle just to keep going, but often others do not notice their struggles and appreciate their amazing strength of character.  Hence I love this final quote from the Rev. John’s sermon;

“Holy Scripture gives us lots of examples to follow. The Bible tells the story of a God who recognizes the righteous human, striving to do right in the midst of people who would do harm. Jesus spoke of "sheep among wolves" and warned of the harm that comes from people of ill will. But his warning is intended to teach us to handle our problems with the patience of God and to trust in God's righteous outcome, for "A disciple is not above the teacher." When we try to be like God, giving people the chance to do what is right, God steps in at decisive moments -- and miracles happen.”

So we must all be patient for as long as it takes and keep praying and working towards a special miracle to overcome the threat of this 2020 pandemic and for the individual miracles of recovery and healing being brought about by God’s hard-working and selfless “saints” throughout the world.

No comments:

Post a comment