Proverbs 8 v1 & v 22 to 31Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.(Other readings for this Sunday - Colossians 1.15-20 and John 1.1-14)
No, you're not going nuts! No, it isn't Christmas (again)! No, it isn't a mistake - these really are the readings set for today - at least in the Church of England.
When the powers-that-be first decided not to follow ancient custom and practice, but rather, in these dank, grey, northern climes, take the chance of cheering us up in February before plunging headlong into Lent, other more traditional types shook their heads, and wondered if it was wise. If the pattern of the seasons had been sufficient (at least since the Synod of Whitby sorted Easter out) why differ? Who did we think we were? And you can see their point. But - oh! - this morning, asked to write a few words at short notice, when the sun is shining, and birds are singing, and the snowdrops and crocuses in a house up the road's front garden are coming out - oh! what a breath of fresh air it gave to turn to the sheet and think about new beginnings.
This year, in this third (and I hope final) lockdown isn't it good to remember life carries on? The first verse of our piece from Proverbs asks a leading question (ie knows the answer it wants): "Does not Wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?" : well, yes it does. It STILL does. It always has: even before the world was made, or Adam and Eve were thought of, or God's Word conceived (in him, let alone in Mary's body) this great and wonderful power of wisdom stood ready, under all possibilities yet to come true, and, for a while, held its breath; but then! oh, then! such goodness flooded the world that everything was all right.
This year, of all years, it is good to be reminded of that: the choice to differ from the readings of the past turns out to be ok after all; one might say, Wisdom persists, come what may, simply until the right moment: its presence makes all moments right. These last few months it has been hard to know what day it is (Monday, Tuesday, or whatever), routine habits have been put on hold, and "everyday" no longer means just "as usual". It's not an easy lesson, but perhaps one useful in a way too big to see, ourselves, until the right moment comes, reminding us that, no, people don't rule the world - that's God's job - but may instead dutifully and lovingly run it according to his instructions and on his behalf, for the benefit of all. That takes Wisdom. Church, if it's wise, may make decisions (about readings or anything else) under delegated powers: and time will tell the value or virtue of each, as it transpires. Last week (only last week!) we read how an old man was prepared for his death by Christ's simply "being there" for him. Churches (even empty churches) can do that: remind us of Christ's presence in the world even whilst (for safety's sake) holding their breath. To breathe out is to expire: to breathe in to inspire: and to do both, consistently, to respire. Life, in all its fullness, may seem, for a long time now, to have barely been happening: but God has it in hand. Please, if you can, remember who holds you, and watches over you, and will not let you go from his love.
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Welcome to All Saints & Martyrs, part of the Parish of Langley, a Christian community in the town of Middleton, in the Anglican Diocese of Manchester.