Over her life-time as a teacher, mother, preacher and missionary wife, Bronwen recalls some amusing experiences she has encountered.
The Lectern Restored
Fingers of the long, dusty rays of the sun reached into the sanctuary and settled on the shining surface of the lectern. Glancing down at the invoice in his hand, the priest winced at the cost and read aloud into the silence:
“’For restoration of the Holy Catholic Chicken.’”
He chuckled, “Well, I suppose that’s one way of describing our lectern, but it’s no chicken! He’s an eagle, and a very fine one, too!”
Looking up into the rafters, he spoke into the silence again:
“Dear Father in Heaven, thank you! That gives me an idea for next Sunday’s sermon. We need to be aware of all the signs and symbols that are provided in this simple church building; visible reminders of your loving care for your people. Right here before your people, they, and I, their humble shepherd, can rest our eyes on the cross, the candles, the table, the frontal, the liturgical colours – and our now sparkling lectern that has come back to us. What lessons can we learn from that?”
“Father, only through You can we Christians be made holy. You, our Heavenly Father, created us and gave us gifts! We should use them to help make us holy. You gave us the gift of free will. But then, so often we misuse that gift and choose to think sinful thoughts and speak to others in hurtful ways. Oh, Lord, you gave us another, the most precious gift of all! You allowed the sacrifice of Your only Son, Jesus Christ, so we can be forgiven for all the bad, wrong things we do, think and say. When we are forgiven, we can be made holy and come close to You. Then there’s a third blessing: You give us Your Holy Spirit to guide us all through our lives. Then we can choose to follow The Way that You have planned for each of us.
“Mmm. In the readings for next Sunday Paul writes about the Pharisees and Sadducees. Oh, yes! They were sad you see because they didn’t believe in angels, resurrection, or spirits! But you, Lord, have given us the Spirit of fellowship, fun, laughter, light heartedness, as well as the deeper moments of fellowship when we, Your children, come close to You, our Heavenly Father, and hold you deep in our hearts. That’s holiness!
Now, Lord, my dictionary tells me that that word means ‘universal’. Your holy book, The Bible, rests on the wings of an eagle who flies so far. That’s a symbol to remind us that he is carrying Your message out to the whole Earth.
“How can we help in the spread of your holy Word? We can look at it as our privilege and responsibility at any stage of our lives: as children, teens, adults -and the elderly who have experienced so much. We can’t all be missionaries overseas or translators of the Bible that is needed in the many languages of the world, but some of us can, and the rest of us can help those who go in our prayers and practical support. How many Earthly tribes and nations, still wait for Your Word in their own language ?
“Oh, Lord God, there’s a universal need for all your created people to have your life-saving Word in their own Mother tongue, their heart language.
“We see the image of the eagle before us every time we come into Your house, Father, to worship, but the Good Book tells us images are not to be worshipped. Instead, each symbol is a reminder for us of the strength and power of God’s Word.
“Thinking of the chicken,” he chuckled, “I am reminded of the times when we, who call ourselves Christians, so often ‘chicken out’ - of responsibilities, of our interaction with our friends, with our neighbours, for mission at home and abroad. Your great love, Father, is a gift that is intended for us to share, not to keep for ourselves.
“As chicken we are enfolded under the spreading love, warmth and protection of our Heavenly Father. But we must also obey our Lord’s command to venture out and invite others to join us and share together, in happy times and sad, in occasions of merriment, sadness and depression, the love and comfort of our Heavenly Father.
“The winged eagle bearing the Bible aloft is a symbol that tells us many things:
- Long ago, our ancestors believed that the eagle could renew its feathers by flying up towards the sun to burn off the old ones, and then he would dive down and plunge into water for new ones. We are reminded of this in Psalm 103.2, 5 (KJV):
‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits…. Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.’
- The eagle also reminds us of the Resurrection and our baptism: he represents God's blessing of new life, and that we receive strength through God’s grace: Isaiah 40.31(NRSV):
‘Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.’
- The eagle reminds us of generosity; he always left some of his prey for other hungry birds. As an earthly father provides good food for his child, so we must share God’s heavenly food so others can feed on His Word to grow and mature, in His love.
“As parents plan for their children’s nurture and care, and give them gifts, the Bible tells us of Your good plan, Lord, for the lives of each of us, designed individually for each of His children.
“But God also gives us the power of choice. Do we choose to follow His plan? Or do we run off and try to live in our own way, often far away and ignoring His special care and protection?
“Now, Lord, I can’t end a sermon with a question!
Ah! Another quote from the Good Book, Lord: we only need to ask (Luke 11.13, NRSV):
‘If you then… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much
more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’
© 2021 Bronwen Scott-Branagan