Heavenly Harmony - St Bride's: Reflection

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Heavenly Harmony

Hosea 1: 2-10

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The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea. And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord.

So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son.

And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.

And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel, in the valley of Jezreel.

And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.

But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.

Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.

Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.

10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.

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I expect that many of you, like me, will have found some of coverage of the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing last weekend both surprising and moving.  It was striking, I thought, that whilst the space race was stimulated by global tensions, there was a strong sense in the light of the successful landing of an achievement in which the whole of humanity shared.  The trailer of the Apollo 11 film that was released to coincide with the anniversary invites viewers to experience 'the last time we were one'. 

Some of the astronaut's recollections and archive recordings were fascinating.  In a documentary about the Apollo programme I was reminded of the first sighting of earth rising above the lunar surface by Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve 1968 and the reading of the creation story from the first chapter of Genesis concluding with the words "and God saw that it was good".  The picture the astronauts took is regarded as the most influential environmental picture ever taken.  It was a sight that filled the astronauts with awe as they realised the beauty of our planet and its vulnerability.  James Lovell said, "we saw the Earth as it really is: a small planet, insignificant in size compared to the galaxy, still less the universe".  His words reminded me of one of the visions of Julian of Norwich - he showed me a little thing, she said, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand ... I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, 'What may this be?' And it was answered thus, 'It is all that is made.' I marvelled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God. 

Whilst I was familiar with the earth rise story I was surprised by some of the spiritual references from the Apollo 11 flight itself.  Michael Collins remained aboard Columbia whilst Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface.  Whilst he has often been called "the loneliest man" he reflected that Columbia was actually a happy home for him. He spoke of his experiences as an altar boy and his appreciation of the spiritual space of the cathedral where he served.  He has said that the spaceship "reminded me, in a way, of ... a church ... It had the apse, the three couches, and then you went down into where the altar was.  That was the guidance and navigation system.  And it was laid out almost like a cathedral".

Then there was the story of Buzz Aldrin, who was a lay minister, and on touch down on to the lunar surface requested a few moments of silence inviting each person listening to contemplate for a moment the events of the last few hours, and to give thanks in his own individual way.  The faithfulness of that act, turning to God in the midst of such achievement was both impressive and moving. 

In contrast to that example of individual faithfulness, our Old Testament reading from Hosea this morning reflects on the nation's unfaithfulness to God.  We heard of the three children of whoredom whose names speak of punishment, of forgiveness withheld, of the rejection of the people.  It ended though pointing towards restoration and in our epistle, we heard the assurance that we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, that we are rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as we have been taught. 

Our Gospel reading provided us with Jesus' teaching on prayer.  It's very easy and indeed common to overlook the significance of this passage.  Most of us learnt the Lord's prayer as very young children and we hear it so frequently that we can treat it as no more than a childlike expression of faith.  We do well to remember, though, that Christ called us to become like children.  Whilst the Lord's prayer is simple it is far from simplistic, indeed it is radical because it challenges our assumptions about who we are, who God is and what the world is like.

The Lord's prayer provides us with a template for all prayer.  In it we pray for the hungry to be fed, for forgiveness to be the first imperative and for all our relationships to be transparent to God.  It's a useful spiritual exercise to take each phrase of the Lord's prayer and to think and pray about it.  I'd offer a few points of reflection this morning about the corporate and universal dimensions of the Lord's prayer. 

Let's begin at the beginning - Our.  The first word is significant - Our Father; not - My father. The Lord's prayer in one sense is always a prayer that we say with other Christians.  We prayer in recognition that we are members of a Christian family.  In prayer we are always one.

Rowan Williams says, "to know that God is our father is to know that nothing can take away our dignity and our worth, because God has thought us worthy to be members of his family".  Our home is in heaven - our father's home is our home.  We are citizens of heaven.

When we pray thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, we're asking for what Jesus wanted, that his brothers and sisters should love one another, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, looking after those who are wounded.  We pray that the whole universe will respond to the gift of God.  Sister Wendy Becket says that in these lines we ask that our lives may show God's glory as the angels who sing God's praises and the stars and planets that reflect God's beauty and glory.  We ask that we might join this great universal harmony. 

When we pray for our daily bread we again pray for the material needs of the whole universal family and that we may share together in the sacrament, the foretaste of our enjoyment of the presence of Jesus in heaven. 

I'll end this morning with words from Buzz Aldrin, about those first moments after landing on the lunar surface 50 years ago.  In the radio blackout, after that appeal for all listening to give thanks - "I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine.  I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup.  Then I read the Scripture, 'I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.' ...I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine.  I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility".

Whatever our journey is in this life we have food for the way in the holy sacrament and we share in Jesus' relationship with the father in the Lord's prayer. 

Thanks be to God.

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