Over these last few weeks, I have found myself celebrating (sometimes purposely and sometimes inadvertently) a number of significant anniversaries. It took my mum's congratulatory phone call of yesterday to remind me that it was 30 years to the day since I was ordained deacon and officially started my dog collar wearing days. In fact a few days previously I had been across to Bradford Cathedral in support of a Westcott student who was deaconed there, and whilst waiting for the service to start, noticed the ornate font in which I must have been baptised 55 years ago (not that I remember it you understand!). Finally, mention of cathedrals takes me back to Manchester Cathedral where just over twenty years ago (and joined by a good number of yourselves), Helen and I were married (and which of course I do remember - if not always the precise date!). Anniversaries then of some of the significant events that have made up part of my life.
But on reflection, none of these events mentioned have been an end in themselves, whereby no further work or change has taken place; My baptism may have marked the start of my supported faith journey, but it it is one that I have had to own and grow in myself. My ordination as deacon didn’t mean that I was automatically the finished clergy article - I’m certainly still working on it, although I trust that I never ignore the call to “serve” which from the outset had grabbed me. Finally of course, my marriage continues to be a work in progress too (perhaps that’s why it is described as a “holy mystery” in the order of service) - it’s a continuous adventure of mutual discovery and adaptation.
I mention these observations as I have been recently reflecting on how so many of us can be and are shaped by events and experiences of the past, both good and bad. All of these influences can impact how we are and how we act, but they needn’t dictate to us. For whist we can build on good experiences, we need not be slaves to past negative ones, particularly if there are any unhelpful aspects attached to them. Jesus’s offer of life in abundance is extended to us all, whereby as we are open to the Spirit’s work of change in our lives, we can grow both more Christ-like, as well as flourish as the children of God that we were always intended to be.
So, in our walk of faith, and as we journey together, may we all be open to the transforming power of the Spirit, equipping nourishing and strengthening us, but perhaps also gently healing us from knocks experienced along the way.