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From the Vicar
I got back safely from the cricket yesterday, though there was a bit of an adventure attached, as there so often seems to be, involving cancelled trains and unexpected travelling companions, as well as the kindness of strangers. But it was a great day, even if New Zealand are definitely bossing the game! And it was lovely to see my sister-in-law again, and reminisce about some of the cricket we have seen at Edgbaston before! I am sure St Barnabas, that son of consolation, will approve, though because I forgot my sun cream, I fear I am going to match the red vestments tomorrow!
This morning at Morning Prayer, as I read from 'Celebrating the Seasons', we had a very apposite reading from the early Christian philosopher and scholar Origen. He points out that if heaven is the place where virtues are perfected, the most important of those is love; and if that is the case, then we can be sure that those who prayed for us on earth, are praying for us with redoubled love and devotion in heaven. And that is the point of 'patron Saints' of course, and of 'guardian angels': the idea that we have 'heavenly sponsors'; people (or spirits) praying with us and for us, just as we pray for each other on earth. And although views of the afterlife vary, and it is in the end impossible for us to fully understand how heaven relates to the time-bound life we know now, I have always found helpful the sense that in our prayer we are never alone.
We pray, of course, in the Spirit, who prays for us "with sighs too deep for words", as St Paul says, and we pray as members of Jesus' body, praying in and through our Head, so we are always, inevitably, praying as part of a company. But that company includes all the members of "the mystical body"; all those who love us, and are cheering us on from the stands, as we in Edgbaston were cheering England yesterday. Though I hope that those in heaven are less easily distracted by "beer snakes" and beachballs! But just as the crowd at a sporting event cheer on those on the pitch, and encourage them with their support, so I imagine those in heaven cheering us on, with 'oohs' and 'aaahs' as we drop the ball when we sin, and gasps at our many near-misses! (Perhaps this is the fault of Max Boyce, who sang a song about a dream he had of heaven, in which "all Wales' past Rugy heroes, are sitting in the stands; and underneath their haloes, their Rugby Caps look grand". I think St John the Baptist was referee, as I recall!)
So tomorrow we remember our patron saint, Joseph Barnabas, and we use his example to inspire us and teach us. But also we remember that he is cheering us on, praying with us and for us, and bringing us to God, as well do for one another here on earth. We are all together enfolded in love, brothers and sisters in God's family. To mis-quote a football anthem: "we never walk alone"! We are always enfolded, not merely in God's arms, but also in the love and prayers of those who have gone before us and now urge us to keep going as we follow Jesus on The Way. And we can be sure that they will never 'boo' us: they are always on our side, encouraging us to pick ourselves up when we fall and try again, consoling us and loving us every moment!
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