Evensong 5th May 2013
Some of you may just have say and listened to this evening’s reading from Matthew and thought – why are we back to this again?. Whilst I hesitate to discern the minds of those who concoct the lectionary I would hazard a guess that we are being reminded of all the the Easter season is, of the story so far before we head towards our next major feast, the Ascension on Thursday.
Some folk cannot understand the repetition with which Anglicans surround ourselves, week on week we have similar words, year on year we have seasons and festivals, repetitions of colour, movement and sound. Some would see this as an excuse for not really engaging at all, of simply going through endless motions.
This is nowhere more true than in the BCP. Common worship gives us options but Cranmer was careful in his liturgy to remove the complexities of the Roman rite – its changes and turns through the year – and give the English people a straight forward set of liturgy which could be used week in and week out – a few seasonal variations and, of course, the collects, added accent but all in all week on week congregations would say the same words, day by day clergy would return to the same offices.
But, in fact, this repetition is not boring or facile, return never is. We come back to apparently the same place but always changed, day by day, week by week and year by year. Whether it is in the Bible readings in the Lectionary or in the words and actions of the liturgy we have grown and changed, we have walked further with Christ with each reenactment, with each response to invitation.
I rather like those films where you have the villain running down a cavernous spiral of stairs and the hero chasing, leaning over the edge to spy his prey and plan his heroic plunge down several flights as they near the bottom. Not that Chrisitan life is a chase, although sometimes we fall for heroism of competativeness – but rather that we return often and at each time are in a different place on the journey. The view has change a little. For some the image of climbing these stairs is helpful, for others going down, down, down deep into the depths of God – both have merit.
If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.
So whilst it might seem that we have been here before, whilst we feel as if these words of scripture are repetition there is a sense in which all that we do, all that we are given by God, all that we become in this place and continue to be are quite outside time.
Children are often taught now by repetition on a cycle – learning starts on a a topic in early years and then in each re-introduction they are taken deeper and wider into the subject. That is how we seem to learn, basics first and then slowly, time after time, we become used to the idea and can take in more and more.
Why should God be different when God knows us so well. Structure and order, seasons and times simply open a door to that which is beyond, to God himself. Not hoping to hold but beginning to frame.
Let me end with a bit from the last stanza from the poem;
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;