There was a man who lived a good, but fairly ordinary life. He was pretty successful, nice family and a nice home, and he had served his country and done his best. But no-one beyond his circle of influence had heard of him. Yet when the pandemic began, this man drew on his character and his life’s experience and his need to walk. Supported and encouraged by his family, his story was told, and for some reason, this man, aged 99, caught the imagination and the heart of a nation. Sadly, this week Captain Sir Tom Moore died, aged 100, in the fulness of years, having known love and given love and, in an extraordinary 10 months, leaving a legacy of inspiration.
I watched a few of the news bulletins that talked about him, and mostly I was moved by the children and the older people who saw him and thought that they could do something themselves. Captain Tom’s gentle good humour, his hope for tomorrow and his desire to do good was an example for people to follow. He inspired people to do more and live more fully that they ever knew they could, and in doing so, helped them turn outwards in service to the world.
What has all this got to do with our reading from Colossians? As we begin to get ready to journey closer to God in Lent, I have found myself wondering how my vision of Jesus might inspire me to do more and live more fully. These words of St. Paul to the church in Colossae grow from his passionate desire to see the followers of Jesus grow and bear fruit. The letter begins with Paul’s love and thanks for the community of believers and his prayer that they may bear fruit in every good work, grow in the knowledge of God and be strengthened so they can endure with patience all that is happening in their lives, and do it with thanks to the God who has rescued them and given them hope. It is from this desire that Paul moves towards the verses we have heard today. They sit alongside today’s Gospel reading, [which you might look up: John 1: 1-14] the prologue to John’s Gospel, those great words we hear read at Christmas that remind us that in Jesus light has come into the world, light which will never be overcome. It’s the vision that we have been exploring over the past month, which culminated in last week’s revelation through Simeon and Anna that in the infant Jesus was none other than salvation for the world.
Paul paints us a picture of Christ who reigns in majesty, who is beautiful beyond compare, creator of all things, the one in whom everything is held together, who has conquered death and shown us life. We should be reading this and finding our spirits soaring as we lift our eyes upwards from the things of this earth and look at the author and perfecter of our faith. If we are so inclined, we might even shout hosanna!
Right now, in this season of our lives, we need moments of beauty. Like the Colossians we too may be struggling to endure with patience all that is happening around us. In our short prayer for today we ask that we might mirror the likeness of Christ in our lives. If we are to mirror – or copy or imitate – something then we need to spend time looking. That’s why Teresa of Avila, and other mystic writers, encourage us to spend more and more time looking at Jesus.
Whether we find it in today’s words or in the Psalms, or in the glory of God in creation, looking at the beauty of God, is the inspiration that enables us to bear fruit, the fruit that reaches out with love, kindness and generosity to others, whether through our prayers or through small acts. The question I am challenged with is: if the life of a 99 year old man can inspire so much goodness in the world, then how much more could the wonder of Jesus Christ inspire us as we prepare ourselves for Lent?
Revd Canon Dr Sandra Millar