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God alone sufficeth

Paula O'Shaughnessy, Sunday, 24th April, 2016

Yesterday was the feast day of St George.  What we know with some certainty about St George is that he was a Roman soldier who was born in Cappadocia (present day Turkey) in the 3rd century and was martyred at Lydda Palestine after physically tearing up the Roman Emperor's order against Christians.

The story of st George slaying the dragon is mythical, but is an image which has resonated throughout the centuries.
 t George became a popular saint in the middle ages when many legends grew about him, including the story of the dragon. He was adopted as patron saint of several countries - including Lithuania, Georgia, Portugal, Palestine and Germany, as well as patron of cities in many lands - Moscow, Genoa and Istanbul. In England in the 14th century, King Edward III founded the order of the garter - the premier order of knights. St George was established as their patron. The order of the garter still exists today of course,  and St George remains the recognised patron saint of England.

The inspiration of st George as a martyr, his commitment to Christ in the face of persecution, torture and death is what his patronage reminds us of.  In today's Gospel (John 15: 18-21), we are reminded that by following Christ we may find the world is against us – as the world is often against Christ.

The Queen’s birthday, which is so near to St George’s Day, gives us the opportunity to reflect and celebrate as a nation.  Our monarch has a special role, as Head of the Church - and we know that she has always given unerring duty and service throughout her reign to both roles.  In September 2015, Elizabeth became the longest reigning British monarch - surpassing Queen Victoria.  For Elizabeth, her Christian faith has been integral to her life.

On the occasion of her 21st birthday in 1947 she made a radio broadcast in her own words she said: ‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.  But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do.  I know that your support will be unfailingly given.  God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.’

In 2015, as part of the television broadcast she makes to the nation and the commonwealth, the queen said this:  

‘For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.  A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing.  Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.’

Sometimes, we can lose sight of this - the anchor of Jesus Christ, in our lives.  Events, emotions, things going right, things going wrong, other people’s actions, our responses to them - distract us.  We find ourselves forgetting sometimes, to stop what we our doing- in our busy-ness, to find the still point - to pray, to meditate on Christ’s teachings.  The busy-ness of life…

In Christ alone, we find true solace - true rejuvenation of spirit

In the words of Mother Teresa: We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.

Like drawing water from a well, we can use these moments to refresh ourselves for the journey ahead.

So that we can keep going - and keep to the path.  We pray that we don’t become too caught up in the moment, forgetting Christ.  So often - it is with regret, we recall moments of forgetfulness in this way.  Where we ‘get carried away’ - when we are judgemental, angry or just selfish.  The words of the ancient Chinese poem ‘Tao Teh Ching’ resonate:

Attain to utmost emptiness
Cling single-heartedly to interior peace
While all things are stirring together
I only contemplate the return

Or ‘to return before straying’  
What is missing here - is the purpose of the emptiness - to be with God - to allow the Holy Spirit within us. We cannot pretend to know the mind of God, but we have a duty to follow Christ’s teachings.  Though we stray, we are to seek closer union with God.  When are we closest to God?  There are times when we feel spiritually bereft, or in knots about life’s worries, injustices and cares.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean we are far from God - perhaps just that we are not aware of the nearness of God.

I will end with a prayer of St Teresa of Avila

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

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