All moments are of course, moments in history. No two moments are ever the same and everything is always new and fresh and, in a sense, unrepeatable. That is a staggering thought, that we constantly live moments of unrepeatable history. It is into this history that Jesus, of course, enters. It was good to celebrate last week the Feast of the Annunciation – always a favourite of mine. It so often falls in Lent and is the opportunity to dust off the Gloria and give it another airing before we enter into the seriousness and intensity of Passiontide.
God enters into history through the womb of the Virgin Mary, ‘born of a woman, born under the law’ (Galatians 4.4), a birth like so many others but not like any other and a birth that would draw each of us into the true nature of God and our true nature as well.
‘God became man that we might become God’ wrote one of the Fathers of the Church, Athanasius and of course this is a true moment of history – yours and mine.
But there were other moments of history this week and not least the coming into effect of the Same-Sex Marriage legislation. Archbishop Justin on Friday was clear that there was no fight between Church and State about this. The law has changed and marriage has been redefined, as far as the State is concerned. It is now an institution that embraces all people and extends that ancient institution, one of the building blocks of our society, to even more people. Society will be more secure because of this not less. Those who suggest otherwise I believe are wrong.
‘Love binds all things together’ writes Paul in his Letter to the Colossians and that must mean all love. The love of gay people is not some kind of lesser love than heterosexual love. Love is of the very essence of God, for as John writes ‘God is love’ and there is no qualifying of that. If love binds together and makes things stronger, true love will always do this and especially that where two people commit themselves to one another in love.
It was good to see pictures of weddings happening. Soon it won’t be remarkable at all, no more remarkable than any other wedding that takes place. For me, what is most important, is that marriage is faithful and stable and it encourages faithfulness and stability amongst those who enter into it. But marriage is not ‘magic’ and any couple needs help and encouragement to embrace the state of life that they enter. When we celebrate a marriage in church we ask the congregation to commit to supporting the couple to be married with the words
Will you, the families and friends of N and N,
support and uphold them in their marriage
now and in the years to come?
Perhaps, when we know that a couple have been married who, at the moment, we are not allowed to marry in church we need to welcome them into church and support them in this way. We do something similar if a baby has been baptised in another church than the one they are normally brought to. We receive them into the congregation as a baptised brother or sister and welcome them as such. Perhaps we need to welcome and state our support of those who have been married elsewhere. We owe it to one another to give the support we need whatever state we live in, single or married – that’s what being a community of Jesus Christ means.
So we celebrate this particular moment of history; we are a better nation for having done this; there is more justice about than there was before.
It was for a more just society that people fought in the First World War. We began our commemorations of the centenary of the War with the rededication of the Parish War Memorial in Borough High Street. It is a prominent and powerful memorial, a beautiful piece of work by Captain Philip Lindsay Clark DSO which was originally dedicated in November 1922 by Bishop Cyril Garbett. The foundations of the memorial were becoming unstable, a bronze plaque had fallen off and the bayonet that is on the soldier’s rifle had become loose. So the whole thing was dismantled, taken away and fully restored. A new stone has been placed in the pavement in front of the memorial and today’s moment of history recorded.
We are grateful to Southwark Borough Council and not least the councillors of Cathedrals and Chaucer Wards for the work that they did in getting this restoration agreed and completed. It will become a real focus for the commemorations over the next four years.
This week will contain many more moments in history as we walk life with the God who walks with us. We do not know where the week will take us, all we do know is that in small ways and in greater, it will be historic.
God, may I live each moment of this coming week with you,
a moment in history,
a moment in my history,
a moment in our history,
and may I know that you are always with me
through each change and chance of life.