The past two weeks have been quite stressful for me, as I have spent lots of time visiting my parents. Mum, (Aileen) has been in hospital, due to a severe ear infection, which became bronchitis. This is a very serious matter, at the age of 89, as you will know. Dad, (Rex) has had a large skin cancer removed from his scalp, requiring a skin graft. He is recovering well, at home. Mum is now in rehab at the geriatric unit at the Kingston Centre, where they are reviewing the possibility of her return home. She is quite frail.
Part of my reflections this week have led me to consider the faithfulness of God, and how it might impact us, in our own relationships, and in our responses.
Last time I wrote, I described myself as stubborn – I do not give up easily. However, I might also call this faithfulness. By the time you read this, I will have celebrated with as many of you as are free, the tenth anniversary of my Induction as your Parish Priest, on the 16th of February, 2007. Faithfulness and perseverance, one might say, seem to run in my family. My parents will celebrate 69 years of marriage later this year. John and I have been married 43 years this April. To remain faithful and persevere in a position, in a marriage, in any type of partnership, requires tenacity. It may also require patience, forbearance and the ability to see the blessings inherent in relationships.
Relationships do not always turn out to be positive. I am always willing to admit that. Relationships ought to be mutually agreeable. If one participant is not committed to the hard work, then it can become unstable; and eventually uncomfortable, even unhealthy and inappropriate. Unless both parties work at it, a relationship can die of neglect. This can apply just as well to working relationships as it does to personal ones. It is worth celebrating and feeling proud of a successful relationship, because it indicates a good effort on both sides.
How do you think this applies to our working relationship as Vicar and people? How does it apply to our relationship with God? If God is really as we imagine, God is eternally faithful. Yet, it is not uncommon for individuals to feel, occasionally, that God has abandoned them! We only have to read the Psalms, to see that this has always been the case – even amongst the most faithful of believers.
This portion of our reading from 1 Corinthians 3, set for today, speaks powerfully to me of what we are attempting to do.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.
Perhaps it is worth considering, as we enter our eleventh year together, that our successes and failures depend on our foundations. In parish life, our whole purpose and reason for existing is Jesus Christ. Why else would we persevere? For me, the essence of the readings today is this: the love shown and taught in the life and work of Jesus the Christ is the meaning of my existence. It is not easy to love in this way. It means loving enemies, those that hate us and revile us. It means forgiving – over and over again. But it also means rejoicing in the fellowship we have with one another, and praying for one another in the difficulties of illness, fear, trouble, disaster, and even death. It is this sort of love which lays the foundation for our life together.
God has blessed me richly in my ten years with you. I pray that you feel the same.
May you feel blessed this week.