The disciples were admiring the beauty of the temple; the beautiful stonework, the rich gifts adorning the temple, how it had stood for so many years. All the things that we love about our cathedrals and churches.
Jesus launches into a discussion about ‘a time that will come’. He tells the disciples:
"As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down … When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away."
And He calls them to stand firm in their faith.
There rarely has been a time in our history when there weren’t wars or rumours of wars, or earthquakes, famines and pesti-lences. So the call to Jesus’ disciples throughout the last 2,000 years has been to stand firm in our faith.
The disciples, and indeed the Jews of the time, had become peculiarly attached to the temple. Their faith was put, invested, in symbols and rituals, rather than in the object of faith, God.
Symbols, rituals, buildings all can help us in our journey of faith but they can become, if we let them, restrictions and even barriers to our growth.
There was a church in north London, where their sung worship was attracting hundreds of people. But the minister realised that, although the sung worship was passionate and lively, it had become a hindrance to people growing in their faith. And so they stopped singing for six months in order to refocus on God. After the six months, they found that their faith had deepened and was more real.
Are there things that have become restrictions to our growth in faith, things that are no longer symbols of faith but are faith itself?
Out of the experience of the north London church, they learned a new song which expresses the heart of our worship, the focus of our faith:
I’m coming back to the heart of worship,
And it’s all about You, all about You, Jesus.
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it,
When it’s all about You, all about You, Jesus.
November it seems, is the month of remembering with the dictionary definition of ‘remember’ being ‘to have in or be able to bring to one's mind an awareness of (someone or something from the past)’.
So, what do we remember? To cheat a little, we start on 31st October with Halloween, which in recent years has been highjacked by the commercialised American import of ‘Trick or Treat’.
Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve, however, in the Western Christian church, is the eve of the feast of All Hallows Day, better known as All Saints’ Day and followed on 2nd November with All Souls’ Day; these three days being known collectively as All Hallowtide and it is at this time all who have gone before us are remembered. In many countries, All Saints’ Day is a public holiday allowing families visit the graves of their loved ones and ancestors to lay flowers and light candles.
Different Christian denominations mark this period in different ways, but it is an ancient feast. In our country it is known that churches were already celebrating All Saints on 1st November by the beginning of the 8th Century with Pope Gregory IV officially designating the date in 835. All Hallowtide also coincides with the Celtic festival of Samhain, the Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year and it is widely believed that many Hallowe'en traditions have evolved from Samhain though this is a source of debate.
Continuing on, we also ‘remember’ the failed plot to blow up King James I and Parliament on 5th November 1605 (now known as Bonfire Night) by Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby and their fellow conspirators; should we remember this, I leave that to you to debate.
Then, on to Armistice Day on 11th November and Remembrance Sunday, the nearest Sunday, when we call to mind and honour all who have made the ultimate sacrifice serving their country in our armed services, a subject I wrote on last year when we commemorated the centenary of the cessation of fighting in World War One. This year it is 80 years since the start of the World War Two and for many it is still a part of their life and memory; veterans who experienced the war at its most brutal are still alive. And that applies to all service personnel since; the experiences and memories never go, and, as I wrote last year, we must never forget what they did for us in order that we can live our lives in freedom. We, therefore, must continue support to them and their families.
Another occasion of remembrance, which we mark here in the Hundred River and Wainford Benefice, is The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, held on the third Sunday of the month. Dating back to 1995 and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, it remembers the many millions killed and injured on the world’s roads, together with their families, friends and the many others who are also affected; it also give thanks for the work of the emergency services.
All these days I have mentioned, seem to remember sadness and loss, and it is right that we continue to remember, and hopefully learn. Sadness and grief are a human response to such loss; we all experience it. But we should not be pulled down by the sadness because the greatest thing to remember is Jesus said, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28: 20) and that knowledge certainly gives me comfort, a strength to face the world when I am sad and an understanding that God loves and cares for me and each and every one of us, always.
Are you a good listener?
One hundred and fifty years ago Frederick Faber wrote “there is a grace of kind listening as well as a grace of kind speaking. But some people listen with an abstracted air which shows that their thoughts are elsewhere, or they seem to listen but by wide answers and irrelevant questions show they have been occupied with their own thoughts as being more interesting, at least in their own estimation, than what you have been saying. Some listen with a kind of importunate ferocity which makes you feel that you are being put upon your trial and that your auditor expects beforehand that you are going to tell him a lie, or to be inaccurate or to say something he will disapprove and that you must mind your expressions. Some interrupt and will not hear you to the end and forthwith begin to talk about a similar experience which has befallen themselves, making your experience only an illustration of their own. Some meaning to be kind, listen with such determined violent attention that you are at once made uncomfortable and the charm of conversation is at an end. Many persons whose manners will stand the test of speaking will breakdown under the trial of listening.” Frederick W. Faber 1814-63 He also wrote several hymns, including “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy” and “My God, how wonderful thou art!”