Has summer arrived at last? The sun is shining, the air is warm – and the seemingly endless rainy season may be behind us. Meanwhile, the tweety-birds have been tweeting mightily and seem to be around in their droves. There is a wren-in-residence in the vicarage front wilderness. What a din! I sit at my (vicar’s) window with the air rifle but to no avail. Clearly this is a sign that there is no such thing as global-warming etc. etc. Thank God that we have President Trump to keep us on the true path. Will he find a matching counterpart leading over the Pond. We wait and see.
Enough serious reflection. We are back in the glorious green season in the life of the Church. A sprinkling of feast days to keep us on our toes, including the wonderful and glorious Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady on August 15th. (We will be celebrating it on the Eve as it is a major feast day with two Evening Prayers.) There is a sermon about Our Lady Mary elsewhere in this magazine and a wonderfully esoteric article about the Marian Antiphons sung at the end of Evening Prayer. If you are in Sneyd Church and getting bored, look them up at the end of Evening Prayer in our black service book. (Not as sinister as it sounds.)
We also have the Feast Day of S. James the Apostle on the 25th July. James was the first of the apostles to be martyred – killed for witnessing to the Lord Jesus. His body was discovered in a tomb in what is now Santiago de Compostella (S. James of the Field of Stars) in north west Spain. One of his titles is “Santiago Matamoros” (“S. James the Moor Slayer”) because he appeared at the head of the Christian army at the Battle of Clavijo and routed the invaders. Spain then declared James to be their principal patron saint and the protector of Christianity in the face of Islam. Make of that what you will. In our own time, Christianity has tried to marry itself to a different threat, to western godless ways, and is in danger of disappearing in some places. Curiously, it is those countries which were the hotspots for emergent Protestantism (Holland, Switzerland, for examples) which are now the centres of the most godless activities, not least the permission of euthanasia.
Which brings me on to The General Synod of the Church of England…
Seriously though, the problem for the Church is the way it responds to the increasing cultural norms of our society. Here are a few – same-sex marriage, abortion, divorce, euthanasia, self-harm (which could include tattooing), Sunday activities which promote anything but the worship of the Lord, paganism, veganism, sexual interchangeability, gender confusion. None of these activities have grown out of Christian theology and practice. Does the Church then have to embrace one or all of them? For many Christians (western and white and middle-class, largely) there is a desire to respond positively to these developments. For the majority of Christians there is much disquiet about the ways of the world. Are we called to “put on Christ” (S. Paul) and stand against much that modern society accepts and proclaims – or are we quietly to accept what everyone else accepts? Is the secular world right in some instances?
Many years ago I had a number of friends staying at the vicarage. One of the unmarried men and women were “in a relationship”. “Which bedroom are we in?” they asked. “That one’s yours and that one’s yours – and Gregor will be sleeping on the landing with the talcum powder.” was my reply. The talcum powder is self-explanatory, the dog was my (in)famous collie of the bared teeth and the subterranean growl. I enjoyed the counter-cultural moment. Would I have stood my ground after years of being ground-down, not least by the stream of baptisms issuing from unmarried parents?
Oh dear! This has turned into a bit of a rant. The problem is all to do with what do Christians do in the face of such a wholesale rejection of Christianity. From the way people talk today, it would seem that the only sin, the only evil, is the abuse of children. Nothing else matters. Yet it does. If we believe in God and in the avoidance of sin, repentence and salvation, then we have to take all these things seriously. “If you deny me then I will deny you.” is a paraphrase of Our Lord’s teaching in the Gospels. “Stand up, stand up, for Jesus, ye soldiers of the Cross.” This is not an excuse for a jolly hymn. Do we? I suspect that, these days, I keep silent.
Meanwhile, the wren continues his happy song of joy – or of threat to rival males – or of sexual prowess.
I continue to enjoy the experience whatever the motivation.