Talk given at Christ Church Toxteth Park, 23 September 2020
9 Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. 5 Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.Luke 9: 1-6 (NRSV)
This week I received a message from an old friend asking me to pray for her and for the alleviation of the acute anxiety she was experiencing. This I was glad to do.
These are anxious and anxiety-inducing times. That much, at least, we can be certain of. The very term ‘lockdown’ (locking down) is anxiety-inducing. We all get anxious from time to time, yet anxiety in its most extreme form is an illness. A dis-ease.
My calling as a parish priest is to wonder and to wander. To ‘wonder’ at God and his glorious ways, and to wander the streets of my parishes, looking out for the lost, the lonely, and the unloved. The afraid and the anxious.
In my previous role I served as a missioner in Liverpool city centre. On the eve of my retirement from that role I was standing outside Liverpool Anglican Cathedral reflecting on seven years of ministry in the city centre. A woman I had never met before came along, stopped and said:
“I know you. You’re the priest who walks around the city centre looking for what God is doing.”
I was dumbstruck (a rarity for me!). No sooner had she spoken than she had gone. I like to think that I had in that moment received an angelic visitation in human form. A sign. A message from a Messenger.
As Jesus’s disciples – all who bear His Name and title (‘Christ-ian’) are His disciples – we are a ‘sent’ people. Sent out into our little patch of the world to look for the signs of what God is doing, and to get involved – ‘to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal’.
We find in the annals of the ancient Celtic Church mention of the ‘peregrinati’, itinerant priests wandering for ‘the love of God’. As self-imposed ‘exiles for Christ’ these men were sent out from their monastic communities with not much more than the clothes on their back, and with only the angels for company.
As followers of Yeshua we are appointed as His messengers. Sent out as living sign-posts, pointing towards the Kingdom of God, a place where ‘mourning and crying and pain will be no more’. Not only are we appointed (called), but we are also anointed (given power and authority) to enact signs of God’s enduring presence in the world. Countering evil forces and structures. Bringing healing to the dis-eased. Signs that cause us to wonder.
To even attempt to do these things is difficult in these locked down days. Yet, even in our limited wanderings let us offer to another a gesture of healing. A simple prayer. A kind word. A reassuring smile of the eyes.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his Name!
Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done
his mercy sure, from age to age to same
his holy Name–the Lord, the Mighty One