Homily 11th February 2024

This homily is based on the music to be sung at that service including the hymns Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies, The Race that Once in Darkness Pined and God is Working His Purpose Out and Psalm 46

Originally, I was not scheduled to take this service but on Monday at our weekly meeting knowing just how much Kia has on her plate just now I offered to take it for her, and I was glad that she was happy to accept. So, I came home and made a start on my preparations by looking up the chosen music and was immediately struck by the theme they all seemed to point to namely that of having complete trust in God and hope that however dark life can sometimes appear He is always there for us. The words of that glorious anthem sung by the choir in a sense say it all; ‘Frantic and futile anxieties invade our minds; they often fill our hearts with madness, depriving them of hope. What is the use, O mortal man of striving after earthly things, if you neglect heaven? All things turn out well for you, if God is on your side.’  Compare that with the first verse of the second hymn: ‘The race that once in darkness pined have seen a glorious light; the people dwell in day, who dwelt in death’s surrounding night.’ And if further confirmation is needed that when the world seems frantic and futile, we have the opening words of this evening’s psalm: ‘God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we shall not fear, thought the earth should change, thought the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though the waters roar and foam, thought the mountains tremble with its tumult.

I think all of you would agree that right now we live in a very uncertain and dangerous world and even if the earth is not physically changed or the mountains actually shake it is all too easy to feel that on this small and vulnerable planet things are changing beyond our control and the edifice of safety which we thought was ours is now very shaky indeed. Ukraine, the Middle East, China and North Korea, the threatening power of global warming, the eruption of AI are all a part of that trembling edifice that could all too easily destroy our peace as well as the peace of all those places in God’s world already changed by the destructive and heartless power of war and global warming.

But any student of history would tell you that it has always been so. War and its aftermath together with illnesses and plagues not to mention natural disasters have continually through the ages made us humans feel both frantic and fragile.  I think the only real difference now is that because of modern communication methods we are more aware of the global scourges that afflict the human race rather than just knowing about those in our own neck of the wood.    Those of you familiar with the Old Testament will know that the Israelites were continually waging war or having war waged against them with the other tribes around them. Those avenging tribes such as the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites and the Jebusites to name just a few and of course included among them must be the Israelites themselves who felt it was their God given purpose to do a bit of their own avenging.  And you will also know that defeat of the entire nation of Israel also came at the hands of the Babylonians, then a major world power and the majority of its inhabitants were carried off into slavery, So yes, we are certainly far from alone if we are feeling frantic and fragile right now and it would be all too easy to allow  ourselves to be deprived of hope.

But this is surely something we simply must not allow ourselves to do; we cannot give up on hope however bleak at times the future seems. And I believe one of the ways in which we can hold onto that hope is in seeing how God is indeed working his purposes out through the countless good self- sacrificing deeds of millions of people. Self-sacrificing deeds of loving kindness to those in need which emulate the supreme sacrifice of Christ himself as he gave his life for us. Gave his life for us needy sinners that we might live not in frantic fear and futile dread but in hope that, come what may, God is with us and that however dark the times may seem we will always have the light of the glorious gospel truth shining undimmed throughout the world. Shining in the church of St James and indeed all our churches ; shining I pray in the love-lit  peace  and contentment of our own homes; shining through each of our tiny deeds of love towards others in response to that commandment to love our neighbour. And here the words of St John of the Cross are so relevant:’ And where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love.’  Love of God, love of our fellow human beings is surely the glory that forever lies at the heart of the gospel. Love that transcends earthly frantic and futile anxieties and reminds us of the glories of the heavenly realms.

I can do no better than end these words with the words of the last two verses of the first hymn: Dark and cheerless is the morn unaccompanied by thee; joyless is the day’s return till thy mercy’s beams I see; till they inward light impart, glad my eyes and warm my heart. Visit then this soul of mine; pierce the gloom of sin and grief; fill me radiancy divine, scatter all my unbelief; more and more thyself display shining to the perfect day.

May God grant that when we risk being overwhelmed with frantic and futile anxieties we reach out to find the hand of God  waiting to hold ours and know that nothing but nothing will separate us from the glory that is His loving protection.

The light in the dark. The presence in our loneliness. The strength in our weakness. The guide in our lostness. He is ready to carry not only our burdens but us if needs be. He is the mission that we take to others. "Christ Beside me" by David Adam

Rev’d Virginia Smith / 11th February 2024

Login/Logout St James' website

If you would like to apply for a Login account to help update this site, please email the web team here.