At ‘Home’

25th May 2022

Last week I had some training at Winchester Cathedral on presiding over the Eucharist, in preparation for my ‘priesting’ in July, after which I will be able to say the prayers over the bread and the wine. What an honour and a joy it will be to share that with you all at St Mary’s and St Swithun’s! In looking through all the Eucharistic prayers, I am reminded just how important one prayer is in particular to me – it’s the one known as ‘the long prayer after Communion’ and it’s the following lines in particular which always strike a chord:

Father of all,
We give you thanks and praise
That when we were still far off
You met us in your Son and brought us home.

Just simple words, but they speak so powerfully to me about the grace of a God who comes out to find us, to seek us, even in the darkest of places – a God who does all the running to reach his beloved children.

At Breakfast Church on Sunday, we looked at the parable of the Lost Son. In one of the most poignant lines in the gospels, the story tells us that ‘while [the son] was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.’ Many commentators remark how it would have been seen as very undignified and culturally inappropriate for the Father in the story to be seen running, as a respected patriarch in the community. But the Father doesn’t care how he is perceived – nothing will stop him running to his lost son, to scoop him up and bring him home. This is how Jesus describes our Father in heaven.

Once we are ‘home’ with God, we are then part of a loving household which we can invite others into, to show the same joyful welcome that God shows us. At St Swithun’s Paul shared the story of Lydia from the book of Acts, a businesswoman and ‘dealer in purple cloth’ – a woman who is said have been absolutely insistent in her generous hospitality to the apostles. She ‘invited’ them in immediately with the words ‘come and stay’ and she is said to have ‘persuaded’ them.

My prayer for us all this week is that we are reminded of the great love of God that moves heaven and earth to find us, wherever we are, and that we in turn overflow with the same spirit of welcome – especially at this time as we begin to see more Ukrainian refugees in our villages. Indeed, I heard a lovely story this week from a member of St Swithun’s who was locking up the church:

‘I met two teenage girls (17-18?). Looking around the churchyard, they asked if it was alright to be walking there. They were refugees living with a family in Winchester, mothers, and of course the fathers still in Ukraine. I showed them around the church and they were very interested. They asked if the windows were old and I explained why all are church windows are not medieval, and I showed them the Rood as a small example of wartime damage too.
On unlocking this morning I found a 20 Euro note with a Cyrillic inscription tucked under the front door. A very generous gift under the circumstances. I will not be forgetting them.’

How moving that these young women, thanks to this person’s kindness and hospitality, were able to ‘find home’ for a time in one of our churches.

Go in peace, Revd Jemima