Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 22
Saturday after 3rd Sunday of Lent
A Lenten Journey with the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
The Second Way of Service – Study
‘And this is eternal life: that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ (John 17:3)
True knowledge is knowledge of God. Therefore we give priority to devotional study of scripture as one of the chief means of attaining that knowledge of God which leads to eternal life.
From St Francis:
Exhortation on the Fragrant Words of Jesus
I, Brother Francis, the lesser one among you and your servant: With the desire to kiss your feet, I pray and beseech you, in the charity which God is, that you receive with humility and with the love they deserve the fragrant words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and use them well and observe them perfectly…..
And all those men and women who receive them with goodness and ponder them and send copies to others, and then persevere in them to the end, may the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit bless them. Amen. (Letter to All the Faithful, Second Version)
Aggie Weston’s, is a group of faithful Christians who have worked for many years in the ports of the United Kingdom where the Royal Navy has a dockyard. In my Junior School years they were an important part of my journey into faith and I remember spending a succession of Sunday afternoons in draughty Nissan huts on assorted Married Quarter estates at the feet of people whose lives breathed a passion for God and God’s Word.
It was amongst them that I first learnt the practice of ‘sword drill’. Not the elaborate ritual taught on the drill square at Whale Island and demonstrated at Sunset Ceremonies presided over by the Royal Marines, but the simple use of the scriptures as the Sword of Faith. In Sunday School we would be asked to hold our ‘swords’ (our closed Bibles) above our heads and, at the command of an Aggies Pastoral Worker, search our Bibles for the requested Scripture Reference. The first child to stand up and read out the correct verse being suitably bribed with some sweeties!
The eagerness with which I raced through the pages of the Bible has remained with me down the years and I still treasure the bible I received from the Naval & Military Bible Society (who now work in the same offices and Aggie Weston’s) when I went to High School.
I fortunate enough to have a succession of treasured Bibles. The big floppy leather one given to me as a leaving present by my work colleagues when I entered the Church. The well-worn, underlined and re-covered one, which was for many years the first book to which I would reach each day. The pristine one kept in my prayer desk in church which ‘holds’ all the weddings, funerals and baptisms of which I am a part. Some of these are dress-swords and are kept for special occasions, whilst others are for regular daily use; a kind of Pusser’s Dirk of the spiritual life. Each of them, if I but let them, provide balm for the wounds of the past, give sustenance for the present, and are signposts for the way ahead. But none of them are any good unless I pick them up and read them. Weapons are useless without hands to wield them!
True knowledge is indeed the knowledge of God and we should remember that it is in the Scriptures that we most easily hear the voice of the One who loves us best. The Bible has been given to us as a sort of ‘home room’ in our adventure of the study of God. Studying the Bible is not easy and there will always be those who point to apparent contradictions within it.
Remember, whenever challenged by its words – be they confusing or all too easily understood – that the Bible is not an end in itself. It is not the words of the Bible which are holy per se it is how, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we receive the words that bring moments of holiness. It is in the application of the words of the Bible that holiness is found not in their reading or recitation.
After all, reading the Bible from cover to cover will no more make me into a Christian than reading the manual of a computer will turn me into a microchip. I have to allow the Word to become living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword and pierce my soul before its words will have any effect on my life.
Is your sword sharp and well-oiled or blunt and rusty?
God of revelation,
we thank you that you are not a silent God, isolated from humanity; leaving us to guess and speculate about the things that matter.
We pray for those who serve you by studying manuscripts and clarifying texts: for scholars and preachers who wrestle with the words of life for the building up of your church;
for linguists, translators, and publishers who continue to serve the cause of your Gospel by making the Bible available to more and more people.
Lord, create in us a hunger for your Word, thankfulness for your Gospel, and faithfulness to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Patterns and Prayers for Christian Worship
Read a book of the Bible from beginning to end at one sitting.
Take a small gospel book – or print a copy from the internet – and underline or highlight all the words spoken by Jesus.
Make a commitment to have a regular plan for reading the Bible.
99 Words to Breathe:
Our senses vary. For instance, my ears might not be attuned as yours, and your eyes might take more light. The contrasts may be slight, but imagine each of your senses differed form mine and we could ‘feel’ divergently about an identical experience. Consider now seven billion people, their combination of senses unique, each ‘feeling’ our planet differently, and you’ll find there are as many worlds as there are people. Try to heed the views of others, you might have missed a thing or two, and if given the chance, share your world, no one sees it as you do.
performance poet, graphic artist and designer
I could explain what a Pusser’s Dirk is but I will leave it up to readers to search for its meaning on the internet themselves. Enjoy your journey into the world of Royal Navy Slang.
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged