For Reflection: This week’s reflection was written by Benjamin focusing on the theme of “Stir-up Sunday”
Reading: Ephesians 1:15-23
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 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, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Last Sunday has many names.
In correct liturgical terms it was the last Sunday after Trinity – the final culmination of the Church Year. Liturgical reformers, reflecting the shape of our worshipping year, have named this Sunday “The Feast of Christ the King” where – at the end of all things – we worship Christ, enthroned in glory. But for many of us today is “Stir-up Sunday”.
If you are anything like us you have allowed yourself to peak towards Christmas. The flour, eggs, dried fruit and sherry for our Christmas Cakes and Puddings are brought out and we begin in a small way our preparations for Christmas. And as we make these Christmas delights and “stir-up” the ingredients, we look back with gratitude for the year that is past, and forward in hope for what lies ahead.
The ascription of today as Stir-up Sunday comes from the beginning of Thomas Cranmer’s Collect for the twenty-fifth and last Sunday after Trinity.
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The prayer itself is Cranmer’s own translation of a medieval Latin prayer. Cranmer’s translation of the Latin “excita” sums up – in his usual muscular and direct way – the urgency of this prayer. That as we look to the turning of the year and the coming of the child of Bethlehem we might be ready.
This is a wonderful prayer. Direct, compelling, and full of resonance. Full of the urgency and nervous energy that makes the Book of Common Prayer such a powerful part of our inheritance. But is it a prayer we want to hear today?
All around us we are living in a world which is weary. Weary of the ongoing restrictions we are living with. Weary of the constant and changing uncertainty of our time. Weary of the asking again and again “how long O Lord, how long”.
In the context of this weariness the injunction to the “stirred-up” can jar a little. A bit like when children burst into your bedroom in the early hours, full of the insistent calls to play. And you know you should, you really know you should. But in reality, all you want it just a little more sleep a little more rest.
No surprise then to find that some have taken the uniqueness of this particular year as an excuse to fire the Christmas starting gun even earlier. Usually there is a common agreement – outside of our shops – that Christmas things wait for December. But looking on social media, and driving around the area, you can see that some have given into temptation already. Locked down again until at least early December you can see how tempting it is to say: “hang it all, I’m putting on my pyjamas, cracking open the Quality Street, cranking up the Christmas song, and waiting until this is all over”.
However, tempting that might seem – and it is very tempting – as we approach to the weariness of this time we know in our heart of hearts that this would be a sticking plaster at best.
In the face of this weariness, we need something more, something deeper, we need hope. This is what the writer of the letter to the Ephesians speaks of in our reading. Reminding this young Church of the calling we all hear we are told that:
with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.
The call to hope is not to a fleeting possibility, or a distant idea. The call to hope is a call to golden thread which runs through our faith. In the faith and love of Jesus and the saints, in the reality of the resurrection, and in the promise of the future God has prepared for us. It is a hope in what is, and what was, and what is to come.
If we can find the light to look through the weariness of this time, we can see that there are glimpse of this hope all around us.
A few days ago my phone buzzed not long after eight o’clock with a message from one of the mother’s at Henshaw school. With it was photo of a dazzling rainbow over Henshaw church, vivid against the dark clouds behind. For this mother weary with the challenges of this time it was a sign, a glimpse of the hope that look for.
As we look, we can find signs again and again of that hope all around us. Not just in the vivid beauty of nature, but in the memories of the compassion and companionship we have found in our communities over this last year. Looking forward we have begun to hear the possibilities of vaccines and routes out of our weariness.
Signs of hope, glimpses of that hope we seek in what is, and what was, and what is to come.
As we seek to rouse ourselves from our weariness we should draw down on the spirit of “Stir-up” Sunday, and the Cranmer’s prayer which underpins it.
We need to remember that in Cranmer’s prayer – and this is a change he made from the Latin original – it is not us who does the stirring up. It is God who stirs up in us, his faithful people, plentiful fruits of hope.
And as that hope is stirred, as we see and glimpse those signs of hope around us, we need to reflect on the wisdom of our Christmas puddings. That this is not something that will be instantaneous – like putting up the Christmas decorations and hope all our problems go away. The hope that will be stirred in us will like the flavours of the Christmas puddings we make today, grow more vivid, more full of flavour through the weeks that lies ahead of us.
So that as we are stirred from our weariness we would be prepared to find the richness of the hope was and is and is to come.
Questions for Reflection
- What is your reaction to being “stirred-up” at the moment?
- What, if any, signs of hope can you see?
- How can we hold onto those signs of hope in the weeks to come?