I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,
I know that there are many reasons why one might want to come to CAMEO lunches. And before I start I should say that whatever the reason you come you are VERY WELCOME – we are delighted to see you!
But of the attractions I suspect that the food comes high on the list. It is always totally delicious and wonderfully prepared by our fantastic volunteers. But also there is the company – meeting people and having a chat and a laugh with each other on what might otherwise be rather a dull day. Then for some people there is the attraction of being able to take Holy Communion which for some people is rather difficult on a Sunday. But perhaps at the bottom of the list is listening to me at this stage of the proceedings.
My stepfather in his retirement used to be an avid listener to Radio 4 – to the Today programme in the mornings and to PM in the afternoons. He would read the newspaper every day. But in his last few years and I remember when he heard the news come on the radio he would say ‘blah blah blah…they all never stop talking – what’s the point?’
I think there is a stage that we get to in life when we just don’t want to take on board any more information. You may have had it up to here with opinions and facts and have realised, perhaps earlier than the rest of us, what foolishness lots of talk is. So I don’t want to burden you with more information when what you are really looking forward to, is lunch.
I am also conscious of the huge effort that so many of you have made to come here today. As one of you said to me early in my time in the Valley, ‘old age is not for the faint hearted’. So many of you show a level of courage in the face of great adversity which humbles us of a younger generation. Just incredible. A huge example to a younger generation and to me personally.
My aunt has MS. Whenever I call her, her refrain to my polite inquiry about how she is, is responded to by ‘I’m fine from the neck up’. She feels imprisoned in her own body.
So many of the conditions that we have as we get older, which reduce our mobility can narrow the size of our world and can feel like a prison sentence. A world reduced to the distance that we can travel unaided. This must be so totally all absorbing that the last thing that you have time for is to be – taking on board mere information. Its all blah blah blah…
So what can I say today that could possibly make an actual real difference to you and not be just more information?
Well firstly I want to say that God loves you. The creator of the universe cares deeply about you.
He loves you now in your declining years as much as he did when you were a child or an adult. He doesn’t love you for your potential or for your achievements. He just loves you.
He loves you in the prison cell of reduced mobility.
He just loves you.
And he wants you to enjoy that love, even though it all may be difficult to understand, even though you have not had the answers to all your questions, even though you cannot stand the church or even Christians, even though you may feel a bit doubtful about some of the things you have done in your life. Even though up and until now you may not have felt his presence.
As one person has written about the life of Chuck Colson, who spent a long time in an actual prison cell in the United States for his role in the Watergate Affair: “It is the central paradox of Christianity that fulfillment starts in emptiness, that streams emerge in the desert, that freedom can be found in a prison cell”. He continues ‘pride is the enemy of grace, and prison is the enemy of pride’. How true this is for the prison of reduced mobility in older age as much as for the actual prisons for offenders.
God wants to know you and for you to know him. You don’t need information. You don’t need to learn anything.
As St Paul says in the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians that I have just read to you, we need to pray that God will ‘give [us] a spirit of revelation as [we] come to know him’ This is the Holy Spirit that he is talking about – God himself living in us. We don’t need a degree in theology to understand this – we don’t even need to have read the Bible or learned any prayers by heart. We don’t even need to be a churchgoer (although we may want to do many of these things once we know him).
All we need is to open our hearts to receive him.
And I want to pray that we all do this now.
Because if we do this, we can have the joy of freedom even in the prison cell of our immobility.
Lord Jesus in the prison cell of our immobility we need you to give us a sense of your presence. Send your Holy Spirit to make us free; to help us encounter you.