The Feast of St George - Service & Reflection

The diocese asked us to produce their 'Online Sunday Service' which we did as St George's Day and can be watched at anytime. In addition, the reflection is below.

The film is HERE.

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‘we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.’ Romans 5:3-5

Brothers and sisters, as you can imagine I love my daughter Amelie to the moon and back. I love her no matter what. I love her when she screams, and even when she ignores me. I love her just as she is! Amelie’s stubbornness is showing more and more. When I ask her to do something, there is a good chance that she will scowl, shake her head and make a grumpy noise which means ‘No way Daddy’. Now nothing can change my love for my little girl, I accept her just as she is. But though I accept her just as she is, because I love her I won’t leave her where she is. Because I love her, I won’t let her get her own way all the time. Because I love her - and want her to grow into the best possible person she can be - I will do everything I can in love to help her grow out of being stubborn and unfairly demanding. This kind of love, this love of parent for child is a much deeper form of love than a love which accepts but doesn’t try to help a person to grow. And it’s that kind of love which God has for us, and which we find in the passage we had read from Romans. As one preacher has put it: ‘God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But because of His love, He does not leave us where we are.’ Because God loves us, He accepts us just as we are and then because He loves us, He moves heaven and earth to make us into the people we were destined to be. That is the amazing love which God has for His world. That is the amazing love which drew the Son out of heaven down to our world onto a cross and out of the tomb.

This last year we have truly been at war. War with a virus which has not given up easily. The war against the virus has led to heartache on any number of fronts, and has produced suffering on many different levels. As we have moved through this year, understandably many have asked ‘What is God up to?’ ‘Why has He allowed these terrible things to happen?’ And the answer - as you can imagine - is not simple or straight forward. The answer to ‘why God allows suffering’ is multi-faceted and takes much prayer and reflection on God’s word. The answer is often only found when we have been through suffering itself. But something of an answer is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Part of the answer, it turns out, is just what I have been doing with Amelie, and which parents all round the world have been doing every day too. For as we have seen Love accepts us as we are but Love does not leave us where we are. Why does God allow suffering, Paul? For God knows: ‘that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us’. God did not cause the pandemic. God does not cause any evil or any suffering to exist. In fact, it was not part of God’s plan that suffering exist at all, and God wants suffering completely done away with. And so - because of His great love for us - God who is Love comes to be with us in our suffering, and in the process redeems that suffering to make it part of the mystery of life, and part of the way we can grow, and to develop the kind of character which points us and others, to the hope of heaven, to the hope of Easter.

Well what does any of this have to do with St George? Well I suspect, you have often seen on TV and films or read in stories those who take an heroic stand, and as they do - if you’re anything like me - thought ‘well I could do that’. Perhaps it was the man in Tiananmen Square who stood in front of a tank. Perhaps it was the story of Maximilian Kolbe the Franciscan who swapped places with a man condemned to death in Auschwitz. Perhaps it was the scene of the slaves surrounding Spartacus who when asked by the Romans who the rebel leader was jumped up and shouted ‘I’m Spartacus’. I like to think that I would stand in front of a tank, swap places with a condemned man, or shout out ‘I’m Spartacus’. But truth be told most of us - myself included - are more like the Apostle Peter, who promises to die for Jesus only to deny Him the first time he is asked. For truth be told, such heroic decisions, such brave acts are the result are the culmination of, years of training… years of moments when we have failed… of the occasional moments where we have stepped out and to our astonishment succeeded… in other words years of formation, years of our character being formed through moments of suffering and difficulty. Christian martyrdom as the final act of heroic sacrifice - as seen in life of St George and others - is the result of the many small martyrdoms, the small acts of training, the small acts undertaken which are a form of suffering, which hurt in the moment, but which is forming our character. St George didn’t jump off the spiritual sofa and make a single heroic choice. Neither did Maximilian Kolbe, or the man in Tiananmen Square. Before the heroic acts of sacrifice there would have been many such martyrdom moments which turned St George into the kind of person who in the moment of challenge could make the heroic sacrifice. We are not all called to the final martyrdom, the red martyrdom, the martyrdom of blood as it were, but as Christians we are all called to the everyday small martyrdoms. The kneeling again in prayer. The asking again for forgiveness. The offering of love to those who laugh at us, or of speaking about Jesus to a friend who thinks He is a joke. That suffering, and the suffering we have experienced in the last year CAN be the crucible in which our character is formed and perfected. This time of difficulty - and indeed every time of difficulty - can be a chance to become the people we’re called to be, if we let ‘suffering produce endurance, and endurance produce character, and character produce hope’ then under God ‘that hope will not disappoint’. As we remember the life and death of St George this morning, let us be inspired by his faith, to endure the suffering which we are experiencing and with God’s help, use the difficulties of this life and the struggles of a pandemic to grow in our faith and in our love. Amen. (from Fr. Mike).