Friday, February 25, 2011
Monday Reflection - Avril Ravenscroft
This homily was given by Avril Ravenscroft, a final year ordinand, at Evening Prayer on Monday 21st February 2011;
An ancient man, whose life has been a journey of obedience to God, sends his servant on the last crucial journey, to secure the proper line of his son, Isaac, the heirs that God has promised. He puts no burden of fulfilment upon the servant, “if she will not come, you are released”. But it’s deadly serious, the oath is sealed by the touching of his genitals, where in circumcision Abraham confirmed his acceptance of God’s covenant. And he is symbolically handing over to his son his own sexual potency, via the promise of the servant.
So I wonder just how eager the servant is to shoulder this huge responsibility. Abraham’s trust in God is firm, but the servant seems uneasy, constructing tests for Rebekah that suggest at the least his anxiety to get things right. Yet his is also a journey that will involve trust, for he very clearly holds this mission before God at all times in prayer.
As the story unfolds we see that all indeed will be well, and another difficult journey begins as Rebekah takes her decisive step into an unknown destiny. We’re now nearing the end of Hilary. All the parishes that will receive us as deacons are decided, and it’s feeling close. I’d like to think of it as though the bottles of champagne are about to break over our bows, but I fear it feels more akin to the moment the ship hits the water, wavering and heaving into its new element.
I’m very aware that I’m returning to the church I left, and that though it will be different, and undoubtedly challenging, I do go back to Keith in a parish that I know. Yet for everyone the journey holds some kind of unexpectedness, probably both joyful and apprehensive. We’ll go into places that think the only good news they need is an upturn in the economy, to places where worship and faith is unexamined and sealed into Sundays, to places where community is limited to the people who are probably not going to beat you up, or to places where church is considered simply irrelevant.
We’ll go with a vision that may not be welcomed, to people who may not be anxious to hear.
In its way, the task ahead may feel as daunting as the one Abraham’s servant faced. I have a friend, vicar of a hugely complex parish who says that every morning she wakes up and thinks “I can’t do this”, and every day whatever ‘this’ entails gets done – entirely, she says, through the grace of God.
Whether we are approaching our last weeks here, or nearer the start of our formation, each of us will have gained richly from our time at this House, but of most crucial importance is that when we leave we’ll take with us the experience that we don’t attempt this ministry alone. All the exploration and study, learning and growth, has been rooted in daily, sometimes demanding, worship, each day framed in conversation with God. We are woven through with prayer.
So it is through God’s strength that we dare to start out on these journeys, and on his guidance that we shall rely; on the one who revealed in his incarnation in Christ what is possible, and what is the only life worth striving for.
Let us pray:
Father, we thank you for the challenge
of calling us to your service.
Grant us sensitivity to discern your will for us,
and wisdom to fulfill it;
compassion to walk alongside those in our care,
and patience to stick by them;
courage to meet the challenges that lie ahead,
humility and endurance in the face of opposition;
Grant that we may we grow in faith, hope and love.
May we always trust in your strength,
and never in our own adequacy.
We ask these things in the name of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.