St Mary de Crypt
Regular Events and Services
Encouragement in Christ – reflection for Trinity 16
Philippians 2: 1-13
‘If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.’
Announcing new restrictions in order to try to avoid a second lockdown, the Prime Minister asked us on Tuesday to summon up ‘a spirit of togetherness that will carry us through.’ Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon urged the Scottish public to ‘try to keep smiling, keep hoping and keep looking out for each other.’ As COVID infection numbers continue to rise, we are asked to pull together for the common good – whilst physically distancing, of course. The sense of being connected one to another has perhaps never been so graphically clear: as Boris Johnson warned, a ‘mild cough’ for one person could be a ‘death knell’ for another.
In these ongoing difficult and uncertain days, the Archbishops urge us as Christian people to be determined, resilient and hopeful. When the news is so bleak, it is all too easy to feel our spirits sinking. Intentionally looking for signs of hope is, I think, a spiritual discipline. Intentionally sharing those signs of hope should also be something that we do together every time we gather for worship and for prayer. The Archbishops write: ‘Most of all we need to draw close to Christ, and continue to offer the hope and stability of the gospel. It is this gospel joy, even in the darkest times, that alone can help us through this crisis, bringing hope and an eternal perspective to the very pressing trials of the moment.’
In our bible reading, we find St Paul writing to the church in Philippi, at that time a significant town in the Roman province of Macedonia. Dated probably sometime between AD 54-57, this passage is perhaps the oldest statement of Christian faith available to us. The Philippian Christians are up against it, under attack from their fellow citizens. Paul is concerned that their disunity makes it difficult to respond and so he urges them to find unity and encouragement in their faith in Christ. In hymn-like language, Paul goes on to explain most beautifully and profoundly who Christ is. Hearing that reading again today, Paul is urging us to find our unity and encouragement in our faith in Christ Jesus too.
Now faith in Jesus Christ is not simply a matter of belief, fundamental though that is. Faith in Jesus Christ also means deciding to live in a particular way, allowing ourselves to be fashioned, moulded if you like, by the example of Jesus: ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,’ Paul writes. That’s quite a tall order! It’s an order to live lives of love and service of one another, of the most vulnerable, of the poor and disadvantaged who are suffering disproportionally at this time. In a pastoral letter this week, Bishop Rachel and Bishop Robert remind us that: ‘As Christ’s body here on earth we are called to be and share Christ’s hope, love and light within our local communities.’ They go on to ask: ‘Who are the people who are hidden behind closed doors or who are struggling in ways we are failing to recognise, and are there people and organisations we can partner with as we seek to live God’s justice, mercy and love?’
The days, weeks and months ahead will continue to be challenging for us all. As Christian people here in this parish of Hempsted with St Mary de Lode and St Mary de Crypt, we need to keep checking out how best we can continue to support one another and the wider community that we serve. Concerns about hunger and homelessness, unemployment, domestic violence, illness and death are very real. Who are the people who are hidden behind closed doors in Hempsted and the city centre or who are struggling in ways we fail to recognise? Who could we partner with as we seek to live God’s justice, mercy and love?
Pastoral care, work with our schools, with Hempsted Virtual Kindness, with the Food Bank continues. Where else do we need to shed the light of Christ as we navigate these times?
These are not simply rhetorical questions! These are questions for us all to pray about, to ponder, to share and to act upon in simple yet significant ways. As we do, let us root ourselves afresh in our faith in Jesus Christ who through the storms of our current times encourages us each and every day.
Rev Canon Nikki Arthy, Rector
More information and enquiries to the Parish Administrator