Christmas 2018 At All Saints

Join us this Christmas at All Saints.
Sunday 16th December:
6.30pm Carol Service
Thursday 20th  December:
6.30pm Leavesden Green Hub Carols
Christmas Eve: 3pm Crib Service 11.30pm Midnight Mass Christmas Day: 8.00am Holy Communion 10am Family Communion

The Eyes of Faith

Mark 8:22-26
They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’
What condition are our eyes of faith in? What can we see when we look around seeking for the presence of God in the world? When was the last time when we saw Christ in the other person? What do we notice when we come to church and look around?

Do we find our sight captured by the beauty of holiness dwelling in this place? Or are our eyes distracted, or even looking down? Maybe our visual acuity has been deteriorating for some time?
In whatever condition our eyes of faith are right now, one thing we can be certain of. We have come here to seek God in our life. We have responded to a desire for communion so wonderfully implanted by God within our hearts.
‘Can you see anything?’ Jesus says to the blind man in our Gospel reading.
How would I respond if Jesus posed that question to me today?
‘And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’
The man has already been touched by Jesus. We are told that Jesus ‘took the blind man by hand and led him out of the village’, then ‘he put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him.’
The man still couldn’t see clearly though. This is not something which would be unfamiliar to us. It is certainly not unfamiliar to me. I have walked with Jesus for some time now. He took me by the hand and led me out of where I was – this is how being called to follow Christ often feels to me. It is as if I was walking closely with Christ, as if he was holding my hand or supporting me with his arm when I struggle to walk on my own.
But despite all this I sometimes struggle to see things clearly. I have my doubts as I experience my own blurry vision moments. I try to understand and to trust. And when I struggle I find it liberating to lay those doubts before God. I bring them before God in prayer.  Sometimes I say quite a lot, but there are also times when I don’t say much at all. I also need other people to share their insights on the matters I can’t see clearly on. So I take advice, and meet with my spiritual director, and I make my confession when my sins seem to make the vision even more blurry than it tends to be.
I believe that those blurry vision moments are not peculiar to me. Don’t we all go through them sometimes? You don’t need me to tell you that it looks like our church has also been experiencing those blurry vision moments recently. The General Synod has just debated the bishop’s report on marriage and same-sex relationships. I’ve watched most of it. I was both amazed by the honesty of some, and dismayed by thy hypocrisy of others. Nevertheless, I am thankful to God that there is more to the Church than what we make of it in terms of a human-made institution which it partly is. But it human only in part. The Church exists not because we have created it, but because God became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Karl Rahner, a twentieth century Catholic theologian described the Church once as nothing less than ‘the historical continuation of Christ in and through the community of those who believe in him, and who recognize him explicitly as the mediator of salvation in a profession of faith’ [Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, VII.1A]. But of course it doesn’t mean that this Church doesn’t make mistakes, that it doesn’t sin, or that its vision doesn’t become blurry at times.  
But being in the presence of God, as we indeed are now, makes that blurry vision clearer. We have been called to be the Body of Christ in the world as church, not as a random group of people, but as the people transformed by the grace of God and called to tell the good news of Christ to the world. I love the Church I am part of and I am convinced that only when [by the grace of God] we remain within it we can make the real difference in the world. I am thankful to God that I have a privilege to be a member of the Church in which an honest debate about such important issues as the full inclusion of LGBTI people can indeed take place [in many other churches it can’t]. I am thankful that our church is episcopally led and synodically governed and, that, it is within such structures that we work together and engage in a debate.
The Holy Spirit makes the reality of Christ present, especially when we celebrate the Eucharist, and it is here, more than anywhere else, that our vision is being transformed by the healing touch of Christ. When we receive Christ’s Body and Blood our eyes are being opened, just as the eyes of the disciples were opened when Christ broke bread with them after his resurrection.
I pray that following today’s debate Christ would touch and open the eyes of the Church of England and that he would open our eyes as we meet this evening to consider how to continue to bring about Christ’s love beyond the walls of this building.
May our vision be as clear as to allow us to see Christ in every single person we meet and called to minister to.
Fr. Robert Kozak, 15th February 2017

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