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Your daily bible quotation
Greetings again, and hello from Walsingham (well, not really!),
As you may remember, by the time this hits your inbox, I will be at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, with a group of pilgrims drawn from various parts of the Ouzel Team and parishes further afield in Bedfordshire. We will be enjoying ourselves and praying for you all, as I hope you will pray for us! I am writing this email early, but the details of the Cross and Crown shouldn't be affected. In particular, let me remind you that there will be NO 8 am Eucharist tomorrow, and that the 10 am Eucharist will be celebrated by Canon Grant Fellows. Please make him welcome!
I must also say a big 'thank you' to everyone who brought harvest gifts in last Sunday or during the week for distribution to the local foodbanks. We collected a large amount of food and toiletries, and they will be essential help for others. Thank you also to all those who helped to decorate the Church last Saturday, and to those who organised and came to the Harvest lunch. The Church looked lovely, and the lunch was great fun. Although it wasn't designed to be a fund-raiser, we also collected quite a sum in donations for the charities we supportl.
Reminders too about the musical events of this weekend. The Festival Singers 'Come and Sing' is today in St Barnabas, beginning at 10 am. The Leighton-Linslade Gala orchestra concert in aid of Citizens Advice is tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 pm. If you have volunteered to bake a cake for the tea after that concert, which is a fund-raising opportunity for the Church, please bring it to Church on Sunday morning, or before the start of the concert tomorrow afternoon. Thank you. As well as everything that's going on this weekend, I also need to remind you about next Saturday (the 30th). We hold our winter jumble sale at 2 pm, and as usual we need donations of jumble at the back of church, help getting everything sorted out on the morning of the 30th, help manning the stalls, and help tidying up from 4 pm. Please come along if you can!
I have put at the back of Church some blank sheets of paper for you to write down the names of those you wish to be remembered at the Eucharists on All Souls' Day on the 2nd of November. As usual, I beg you to write the names as clearly as you can manage! God may be omniscient, and He knows who we mean, but I am not (!!), and every year, there are a few names I am only guessing at! You may be able to read your writing, but it doesn't necessarily follow that I can! (I write this as someone with atrocious handwriting, who was always having marks deducted for poor writing in school exams! But in my defence: I was under time pressure; but you have over a month to write names for All Souls' Day!!). As well as our requiem Eucharists on the 2nd, we will also have a Bereavement Service in place of Evensong on Sunday November the 5th at 3 pm. If you want someone remembered at that service, you need to come along. It would be very helpful if we had volunteers to help give out candles at that service, and we will also need cakes for that, too: but that is a month away!
As we head into autumn, we think of the departed. But before then, we also remember those often associated with them: the angels. Michaelmass, the feast of St Michael and all the heavenly host, falls on the 29th. It is of course the patronal festival of two churches in our Team: St Michael's Eggington, and St Michael and All Angels Billington. We pray for both of those communities. And then on the 2nd of October we give thanks for those angels assigned to watch over us and pray for us: 'guardian angels'. I think that sometimes in the modern world we misunderstand what angels are. We either over-romanticise and over-dramatise them, or we ignore them completely. But when Christians talk about angels, what we usually mean are all those non-human, spiritual races that God created, who are also His faithful children and worshippers.
There might or might not be other life forms out in space - we just don't know at the moment. But there are definitely other life forms in creation: the Bible lists some of them, and there may be even more. But there are certainly cherubim, seraphim, thrones (ophanim), virtues, powers and dominions. Sometimes, we think of these as ranks in a heavenly court. But we could equally well think of them as 'races' or 'species' of heavenly or spiritual beings - it rather depends on which analogy is most helpful to your understanding. Tolkien imagined them as High Elves in his mythology. But either way, what is beyond doubt is that God's creativity was not limited to us. We are not His only children, nor His only worshippers. And just as it is our vocation to pray with and for each other, bringing those in need before God, so also Scripture tells us that it is the privilege of the angels to pray with and for us.
God doesn't need this to happen, of course. He doesn't need us to pray for others before He loves and cares for them. He doesn't need angels to pray for us, before He loves and cares for us. And He certainly doesn't need His creatures to remind Him, in prayer, of things that He's forgotten; or bring Him, in prayer, things that He's overlooked! God doesn't forget and He doesn't overlook, and He doesn't need our help - either that of us humans, or anyone else! But He does delight in it! Just as a parent loves cooking with their child, because they love encouraging their child and being with them, but they really don't need their help, so God loves it when we pray for each other, and He loves it when angels pray with us and for us. This is our way of 'helping Him in the kitchen' as a toddler helps their Mum or Dad.
Indeed, God has designed this world so that we can bring to Him those who cannot or will not bring themselves. He encourages us to do this, for our good, and for theirs. It is our vocation and our privilege to play a part in God's redeeming work of love. And this applies to angels, as well, who are also privileged to play their part in God's overall loving design. But it is not that God refuses to love, hear, and care for those with no-one to pray for them! It is just that they are more alone than those of us who are united in prayer and fellowship. They are not loved less by God, but they are not bathed in the love of those millions of others as are those who are part of God's family already. It's the difference between feeling that we are utterly alone in the world, and feeling that we are surrounded by "so great a cloud of witnesses", all of them cheering us on, and praying for us, and encouraging us with their love and prayers.
So this week, we give thanks for that great fellowship that surrounds us, human and non-human. Truly, we are not alone. There are so many who love us, and we must let them love us, and love them back, and learn, with them, to magnify God in our hearts and in our lives!
The Rev'd Dr B Minton
Team Vicar of Linslade
Ouzel Valley Team