Dear Friends

Ephesians 4: 4 – 6
4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
The wonderful truth about our God-given human nature is that we are all wonderfully different.  One of the changes that have taken place in society over the last 50 years is that we are much less categorised in society  and much less expected to comply with the label we have been given.  Descriptions like working or middle class, gay or straight, and black or white cease to be so defining and it is, at least in theory, easier for people who have disadvantaged backgrounds to be able to escape their shackles and begin to fly.
The most powerful mantra of society today seems to be that we are all encouraged to be ourselves .  Individuality is the name of the game.  Indeed the only people who still have labels stuck to them which are harder to remove are those, very clearly on the margins of society, like ‘traveller’ or ‘refugee’.  These labels carry an element of distrust.  Not many people would choose to live next door to a traveller site and therefore the label stays, because ‘respectable people’ like you and I feel safer that way.
There is much that is really good and liberating about this, and indeed many of the negative aspects I mentioned above are not any worse than they would have been 50 years earlier, and in many cases, rather improved.  However there is a problem.  As the horizons of humanity are extended, seemingly much more becomes possible.  We aspire to things as individuals which, with luck and hard work, we may achieve (and yes, I probably do mean luck, a lot of the time, otherwise we are thrown into the situation of constantly asking why God blesses one person and not another).  In all this it is likely that we are relying on ourselves alone as we strive to rise through the ranks and throw away the label society has imposed on us.  It is a scary business, coming out as gay. It is a lonely journey, travelling to university from your sink housing estate.  And if you are facing failure, it is even lonelier, as bystanders shake their heads and suck their teeth and suggest ‘she should have been happy with what she had’.
That’s where Christian Faith can have a big impact.  For Christianity is firm in its teaching that we are all uniquely made in the image of God, and therefore precious and valuable.  And Christianity is equally firm in its teaching that failure is not something to worry about, rather, that an acknowledgement that we are all failures, is the only route to victory.  Failures in our relationship with God.  Failures in managing to be ‘good’.  And almost always failures in some aspect of our personal or professional life as well.  Jesus Christ, the greatest failure, as his pretensions to being a Messiah ended on the cross, won for us the greatest victory as his love overcame all division and his resurrection opened the way for second chances, healing of relationships, forgiveness and new beginnings.
And now finally we come to the bible verse above, the icing on the Christmas and Easter cake.  As Christians, we are all unique individuals but we are part of one body.  The body of Christ.  This is the best definition of Church that there is.  Church is not just belonging to a club where you pay your subscription and turn up if you feel like it.  Church is who we are, bound together with the crucified and resurrected image of Jesus within us.  And that means failure is not failure at all, but merely the route to victory and loneliness is not loneliness at all but merely the route to unity, and anxiety and fear are not what they seem at all, but merely the route to peace and new beginnings.  We are bound together in the love of Jesus.
After that rather wordy monologue(!), a prayer, the Collect for the Third Sunday after Trinity
Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.
Have a listen to the Breastplate of St Patrick  I’ve just discovered this recording mixed in with Be thou my vision.  I hope you enjoy it.
Every blessing