|Pen and Ink Reflections||
If we ever need to show how important relationships are in nurturing love and faith, Gregory of Nyssa, Macrina the Younger, and their family must be high on the list of examples. For on 19 July we particularly remember Gregory and Macrina, but other members of their family are also notable official saints in the Christian calendar: not least their brother Basil the Great, their mother Emiliana, and grandmother Macrina the Elder. This is a powerful reminder of how the relational webs of our lives are so crucial to us. Not least those women's names are also highly significant, as they point us to the usually deeply buried history of so many women in Christian Tradition, and to the vital contributions they made to the growth of the Church. Sadly, of course, even these we almost always receive through the records of men, who have filtered, through their own perspectives, the full female story. So, on 19 July for example, in the Anglican lectionary, we are able to honour Macrina the Younger. Yet this is only alongside one of her brothers, Gregory, and essentially it is by his references to her, and not through her own work directly, that we know something of her at all. This a great shame. For Gregory wrote both a hagiography, entitled the Life of Macrina, and a profound reflection, entitled a Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection, which he dedicated to Macrina, purportedly describing the deep conversation he had with her on her deathbed. These are wonderful, for they show to us a quite remarkable woman who was clearly a central spiritual influence and model for her family and the wider Church. Spiritually and intellectually, she shaped, in her brothers Gregory and Basil, two of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. In addition, within the limits of her times, she created new space for women. Yet, we might then wonder, despite Gregory's fine tributes, how much more is there which we may never know about her and about other women of her day. What we do have remains an inspiration to us today. For Macrina shows us what it is to be an outstanding sister in the Faith...
What is God’s work on earth and how do we participate in it? These seem to me questions that arise from our reading today - a reading that begins with Jesus appearance to his disciples, and ends with Him sending them out as witnesses to the work of repentance and forgiveness that is to be proclaimed to all nations...
If I were to ask 100 people to give me a nickname or adjective for the disciple Thomas, what do you think would be the most popular reply? I suspect it would be ‘Doubting’, don’t you? That is a shame. For there is much more to Thomas than an element of doubt. Ask any Indian Christian for example. They will tell you that Thomas was the great apostle of the ancient East, and that Indian Christianity traces its origins to him. In the very passage we have just read, we also heard Thomas confess Jesus Christ as ‘My Lord and My God’. What a powerful statement of faith! Historically many Christians have paid a great deal of attention to St Peter for saying something similar. Yet Thomas has been largely passed over. Makes you think, doesn’t it? I mean we don't go on talking about Betraying Peter do we? We might just as well do so. For Peter is manifestly more of a betrayer than Thomas is an iron-clad doubter. The fact is that Thomas is much much more than a doubter. You could even call him Affirming Thomas for that theological statement about Jesus as the Christ. However, I’d like to call Thomas something else altogether. Reflecting on today’s reading from John chapter 20, I’m inclined however to call him Bodily Thomas, or, maybe, as the Welsh might call him, Thomas the Body. For that name points us to some very important aspects of the Resurrection of Jesus…
I love being trans. How about you? No, I am not so much speaking about being transgender, as about simply being human, or at least a Christian variety thereof: in other words, about being a person who is transfiguring. That is each and every one of us. This is not to downplay the significance of someone being transgender, or otherwise. After all, we still have some way to go in working through that. The particularity of each of our human lives really matters. Each transgender life and story is also unique: a special creation in God’s love. Yet, the more I reflect upon it, in a powerful sense, in the divine economy, being transgender is also a way of helping us all recognise that each of us is continually invited to embrace transfiguration. For, as human beings, as Christians, we are never fixtures but loved works in process. What we shall be is not what we are now. All that is loving in our past and present is indeed taken up into what we shall be. In the glory of God however, we are, and will be, so much than we can ever imagine. This is part of the gift of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ which we celebrate today…
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,