All Saints, Winwick in the Leightonstone hundred of Huntingdonshire, sits right on the county and diocesan border (part of it actually used to be in Northants). They have had yet more lead thefts which makes me very cross indeed (see Bishop Hitting Out) so I wanted to go and worship with them and booked in for this Sunday. Ah… a 9am service, yes that’s wonderful (and a full hour’s drive, across the foggy fens, so a 7.30 start it is ).
But it’s worth it and they’re worth it, and I was very heartened to find these words from Isaiah 43 set for the day:
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my sight,
and honoured, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.’
Thus says the Lord: there’s a lot of humanity going on when villainy strikes, in the thieves and in our own reactions too. It can swamp us. So what has God got to say? Who would dare put words in his mouth? Well – a prophet would, and does, and what God says is, in a nutshell, “Don’t be afraid. I made you, and I will redeem you.” “You’ll never walk alone.” “All will be well.”
How can the prophet be so bold? How can we believe him? Because this goes to the heart of the character of God. This is what makes God God. If he’s not like that, he’s not God, not the one we call by that name anyway. The Bible is full of the evidence: and of him getting his hands well dirty in showing it.
So the other set reading for the day nails it. In Luke 3 the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus and God speaks direct this time: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And when the words are said to Jesus they are said to us too. because in him as the Christmas reading from St John’s Gospel said, we also are given the right to become children of God. We too are beloved. We too are worth it.
The place name Winwick could mean “place of battle and strife” in Anglo Saxon. But it can also means “place of victory”; and it even sounds very like “place of joy”. When God’s Spirit descends on us our battles are won in him and our sadness is turned to laughter. Come Holy Spirit! For Winwick and for us.
The North Leightonstone benefice (group of churches) has a well-presented website at http://www.northleightonstone.org.uk/ that is worth a look and has full service times and other useful information.
The image was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph’s page on the Geograph website for the photographer’s contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by Jonathan Billinger and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.