Strength for the journey

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Go Peaceful  by Paul Field

Go peaceful
in gentleness
through the violence of these days.
Give freely.
Show tenderness
in all your ways.

Through darkness,
in troubled times
let holiness be your aim.
Seek wisdom.
Let faithfulness
burn like a flame.

God speed you!
God lead you,
and keep you wrapped around his heart.
May you be known by love.

Be righteous.
Speak truthfully
in a world of greed and lies.
Show kindness.
See everyone
through heaven’s eyes.

God hold you,
enfold you,
and keep you wrapped around his heart.
May you be known by love.

Those words are an encouragement to live out our faith in a beautiful way. And they are pretty challenging – it’s not easy to live like that!

So what can help us live like that, as we look ahead in different ways to the future? In her lecture on Monday Lucy Winkett focussed on those words from the prophet Isaiah:

‘In returning and rest you shall be saved;

in quietness and trust shall be your strength’.

When we try to live out of our own resources, even though our intentions may be good, we struggle. We get tired, and sometimes disillusioned, and maybe angry – and we lose our focus on God. And then it’s hard to go peacefully, or show tenderness, or live faithfully. Then we may be known not by love, but by something more negative.

Lucy pointed out that the verses following on from these talk about riding on fast horses – but never being able to outrun our pursuers. Life can feel like that – we’re being chased by pressures we can never escape.

But God is always there, ready for us to return to him… ‘Come to me,’ Jesus says, ‘all who are weary and heavy laden’. A few years ago, on retreat, I noticed my response to walking up a hill and getting tired – it was – push on harder, keep going! But there is another way – allowing ourselves to stop, to rest, to return – finding our strength in God.

We will all find our way of returning and resting. Lucy was talking about spending time with God in silence, and she told a lovely story about Mother Theresa. One day someone asked Mother Theresa what she talked to God about in her prayers.

‘I don’t talk to God,’ she said, ‘I Listen’.

Well, what does he talk to you about, then? came the reply.

‘He doesn’t talk to me, he listens.’

On Sunday churches will be celebrating Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus, with tongues of fire and the sound of a great wind. But there is, surprisingly, another story about Jesus giving the Holy Spirit to his disciples.

The Message translation puts it like this:

The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Just stopping to breathe, and recognising the breath of the Spirit filling us, renewing us, giving us fresh strength and vision – we can do that wherever we are – here in the university – in our new life beyond the university – wherever we are – making time each day to return and rest,

Lord, we come before you with all that is going on in our lives, in our minds, in our hearts…

We think of those who are moving on, into a new chapter of their lives. And for those who are keeping going here. Lord, give them the strength they need – give us the strength that we need…

In all the challenges that we face, Lord, may we each sense your gentle Spirit within us, guiding us and leading us on…

Lord, we offer ourselves to you – guide us, empower us, and send us out to make your love known in our world…

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