September is the month when schools go back, harvest services are being planned, and the College of Bishops takes place. Yippee! Actually I’m not being sarcastic. Of course there’s always a sense of this is a month when many of us feel ‘back at work’. It can seem a busy month with lots to challenge us. However we do have some agency in how we approach the tasks of daily living, don’t we?
So, for instance, at the College of Bishops this month, we shall do more work on ‘Living in Love and Faith’, the theology, social anthropology, biblical scholarship and scientific knowledge being considered as the Church reflects on issues of human identity, sexuality and marriage. I’m looking forward to it. And that’s not being sarcastic either. You see it is not that this will be an easy topic, something which we can just all agree to but rather it will be an opportunity to meet together with one another in the presence of God. We will no doubt have some difficult conversations, grapple over imponderables, find ourselves feeling vulnerable but this is the stuff of life, and seeking to find God’s way in a world which has little time for religious faith anymore. The College meets in an Oxford college over a few days and it can sometimes seem rather distant from the everyday world in which we live. However we always celebrate Holy Cross day while we are there. The Collect for that day reminds us that “the passion of thy blessed Son hast made an instrument of painful death to be for us the means of life and peace”. That surely means that life and peace can be found even through the experience of pain and death. In fact sometimes it’s the only way to find them. Dealing with complex issues, tackling challenging tasks is not about finding the easiest and quickest route to an answer. Sometimes it requires much more from us and we need the grace and patience of the Christ who made Himself a sacrifice for us.
The following is the prayer we use on Holy Cross Day after we receive bread and wine together, perhaps we need to use it more as we face the challenge of seeking to live as men and women of God in His world today.
“O faithful God, whose Son bore our sins in his body on the tree and gave us this sacrament to show forth his death until he come: give us grace to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is our salvation, our life and our hope.”
The Right Revd Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton