Easter Sunday was the last day of my ministry in Bath. I went, as has been my custom for a number of years to the Magdelen Chapel before going on to the service at my church. It has become a place to say my Sunday prayers before a day’s work in a context wider than my own tradition or ideas.
It was a communion service following the Book of Common Prayer. An experience of quiet, controlled liveliness. And as usual it was the invitation to ‘feed on Christ’ that gave the occasion a depth and richness for me and none more so than on that Easter morning.
Yet I knew the Easter reading would include the poignant story of Jesus extracting himself from the frantic clinging of Mary Magdelene so that he, in the words of John ‘could go to the Father’. I wonder how that left Mary.
The point that John weaves into this tale of losing, finding and then losing again is that the Risen Christ is not ours to command and no matter how fond we might be of our own ideas of him or the pathways of our particular Christian church he is not limited to them.
John Taylor, a former bishop of Winchester, sees more and wrote this prayer based on the story of Jesus and the Magdelene.
if the hour has come
to make the break, help me not to cling,
even though it feels like death.
Give me the inward strength
of my Redeemer, Jesus Christ,
to lay down this bit of life
and let it go,
so that I and others may be free
to take up whatever new and fuller life
you have prepared for us,
now and hereafter.
(from A Matter of Life and Death)
Well there was no ‘if’ about it on Sunday. The hour had come to make the break. I like, Mary Magdalene could not cling to the place of ministry I was leaving. It was necessary for me to let go the Christ that I had discovered in that church. Not easy.
So on Easter Monday I was pleased to discover another prayer awaiting me. This time that of Peter Millar from his recent Reflections for Easter.
This is a new day, Lord, and
I have no idea what it may bring to my life
but whatever happens in it
may I go through it in the knowledge
that I actually matter to you.
I’m leading a retreat next year (27 February – 1 March 2015) on ‘Praying our Goodbyes’ as part of the Baptist Union Retreat Group Retreat Programme. For more details see their website: www.burg.org.uk. Later on this summer (27 August – 3 September) I am leading a retreat in Umbria and Assisi on ‘Francis – his land and his pathways‘. For more details see www.umbrianretreats.co.uk