It was said of those in the early Church: “See how these Christians love one another.” But for all of us, there are moments when we are exasperated by how other people behave and what they say. This might include those on various sides of the Brexit debate. The Bible has the image of clay in the hands of a potter. God, the potter, hasn’t finished with us yet. We are lumps of clay being moulded by God. As we are moulded, those around us help with our formation. The more difficult the individual, the greater the impact. We are changed by each encounter. With those we find most difficult, these are the encounters where we are called to work the hardest. They can sometimes test our faith. It is in these moments of hard work where the real change takes place.
If these relationships are to succeed, the primary goal is to accept the truth of who we are, within ourselves, as we come before God. Only in accepting that truth, as broken individuals, can we accept and love other people. If we lack this self-awareness, any disappointment within us will be projected onto others. We will always be disappointed with others because we remain dissatisfied with ourselves. They will never match up with what we think they ought to be.
Abbot Stuart of Mucknell Abbey writes, “As long as we pretend to be a beautiful vase, the courteous potter can’t do much with us. But if we can accept the truth of who we are, God can work wonders.” It is in those moments when we are feeling driven to distraction by someone else’s behaviour, we need to remember that this may well be the Potter trying to do his work in us.
There are some important characteristics, essential for maintaining any relationship. As the Potter carefully moulds the clay, he imparts his mercy, forgiveness, toleration, compassion and reconciliation upon willing participants. To implement these qualities there must be those who need to be endured, tolerated, forgiven and reconciled. Without these qualities we have no hope of becoming more like Jesus.
Abbot Stuart quotes St Benedict when he says, “Listen. Listen carefully, with the ear of your heart. This person is here as God’s gift to me in the journey to wholeness. My prayer is, Lord, help me to calm down and love you in this sister or brother.”
Many people are angry about what is currently going on in our world. To be angry at the injustices that surround us is not unhealthy. Jesus got angry on numerous occasions. However, anger has its limits. Out of control anger can be a dastardly thing. It says in Proverbs, chapter 29 verse 11, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish priest and theologian who founded the Jesuit order in 1534. He listened carefully to what people said and how they spoke to one another. He listened to their swearing and blaspheming. He considered all they did and how they seemed lost in the violence and hatred of the world of his time.
St Ignatius allowed himself to be part of the reality of his world that Christians often resist; the violence and the ugliness. He didn’t find it comfortable but when he allowed it to touch his heart, he found new and deeper desires were born. He placed himself squarely in the presence of a broken world and continued to look, listen and feel.
All that he thought, felt, heard and observed, he brought into his time of prayer. As he became still, he asked God to listen to his joys and sorrows, the reality of his world and the movements of his heart. St Ignatius summarised his longings in the following prayer:
teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for reward
save that of knowing I am doing Your Will.
Benefice Service *
* Benefice Service
10:30am Service rotates around Ramsden (January), Finstock (February) and Leafield (March). The pattern then repeats throughout the year.
6:00pm St James' Church, Ramsden*
(This is an occasional service - see church notice board for details)
About These Services:
9:00am This is a shorter services (no hymns) using traditional language.
10:30am This is an All Age service using modern language and including hymns.
6:00pm This is a service of Evensong using traditional language and including hymns.