Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House
In the present uncertainties of church life it helps to remember that the Christian life is one of ‘sequential living’. By this I mean that it is a life lived by ‘following’. To understand our life in this way can help us come to terms with the experiences we have of being incomplete of being not ‘quite there yet’.
We follow him who repeats the command ‘follow me’ at many points in the gospels. If we are followers we have the comfort of knowing that the path has been trodden before us and that our friend and master waits for us. This, of course, is true about the life we look for beyond the threshold of death, but it is also important to grasp that this is in fact the case in every moment of our lives.
In the Book of Common Prayer, the Easter Collect prays that ‘by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires’. Pre-venting, or ‘coming before’ – that is how God’s grace works. It prompts us to desire a path of life, a course of action for God. This is so important to learn and relearn.
We soon experience frustration and sometimes a depressing darkness if we forget that our life of discipleship is given to us by God himself. When we forget this and begin striving to move forward in our own strength we are bound to fail. It is inevitable that to begin with God and then to fall away will lead us into temptation and the powers of evil.
In its wisdom the collect continues, ‘so by thy continual help we may bring them to good effect, through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ We cannot follow Christ except in and with Christ. This is simply the way of Christian prayer: responding to the God-given desires of our life by a constant looking and listening to Jesus.
It is only Christ who can see the purpose of our life from the perspective of the present moment. We have to live in the present moment, trusting that his purpose will come to pass. This is going forward in faith.
Many people ask me at this time of confusion in the Church of England, what are we going to do, what is going to happen? I can only respond honestly by saying ‘I don’t know.’ All I do know is that we all have to keep faithful, moment by moment, and let the Lord’s purpose unfold. This is the essence of the Christian vocation. We have to trust God to give us what we need for the journey.
For our part we must always place ourselves where we know he is. He is to be found in Scripture, in the Body which is his Church, in the partaking of Holy Communion. Most importantly we should dwell on him in our hearts and express love for him.
This is the right way of living. It is the way of holiness, and holiness is the vocation of us all – whatever our age or circumstances.