We had a Grand Deanery Relicensing for Ixworth Deanery last Sunday, as the Reverends David Messer, Sam Long and Katherine Valentine received new charges following a re-organisation. Stanton is one of those old Anglo-Saxon places that had more than one church – each landowner could put up their own – and in this case both survived, though one (top pictures) is now roofless and in the care of the Churches’ Conservation Trust, bless them, which means it remains consecrated and can still be used for worship occasionally.
It was the Feast of the Four Davids – well St David’s Day of course, but with a bishop, archdeacon and rural dean all called David in attendance. The readings starred Abraham and Sarah though, getting their new names and a new future, which was as provided by the lectionary, but a gift from God for my sermon.
I “asked the audience” about when people get new names – there are more occasions than you might first recall – and apologised to the newly-named clergy that while sometimes it might mean new higher status, things worked the other way in the church. The Monastic Rule of David prescribed that monks had to pull the plough themselves without draught animals, must drink only water and eat only bread with salt and herbs, and spend the evenings in prayer, reading and writing. No personal possessions were allowed: even to say “my book” was considered an offence.
A new purpose and role was nearer the mark: but even that might not be obviously good news. How many parishes? And remember that Sarah laughed when she heard her news.
But the world keeps changing and God keep leading us into his future, and if we are to be a “Friend of God” like Abraham, and keep walking with him, we need to keep changing too. Even at 99. (And even if we just feel liek we’re 99.)
Can Abraham and Sarah gives us any clues as to how to do it? I suggested three…
- CONSTANCY in faith, ready for renewal (Covenant)
- COURTESY towards others (Visit of 3 angels)
- COURAGE in facing change (Setting off into unknown)
It’s a big calling – but we are also called to face it just one day at a time. Remember the advice of St David:
Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed, and do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.