“Christ has no hands, no feet on earth, but yours…”
Those well-known words of St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) were recalled for us by the Revd Jill Thornton, who led our worship on the first Sunday in October.
Developing the theme of hands, Jill described how a bride traditionally leaves the wedding service on the groom’s left arm, leaving his right arm free to draw his sword. There was a spontaneous ripple of laughter as she suggested not many men in our congregation had arrived wearing a sword.
Jill then described a visit she once made to an infant school assembly. There the children were asked to raise their hands if they would like to come forward and say a closing prayer. Astonishingly, a virtual sea of hands went up. One small girl came to the front, placed her hands together, and said, “Thank you God for the sunshine,” then sat down. That little girl was saying, in her own words, all that she wanted to say, for she was thanking and praising God for His good works.
That simple, uninhibited prayer called to mind some words by the late Revd Robert Llewelyn, one-time Chaplain of the Julian Shrine in Norwich, who said, “Praise and thanksgiving, like faith and hope, peace and joy, flow into one another at every point. You cannot have an abundance of one without a deep experience of the other.”*
Moreover, that child’s prayer was spontaneous. Speaking for myself, there are times when I find prayer hard going. At such times I can take comfort in the advice given to fourteenth century Solitaries to help them cope with the scarcity of human contact: “…when the Psalms attract you, use them, but when they become a burden, change to reading; when reading palls, rouse yourself to prayer; when wearied of them all, take to manual labour. By this healthy alternation you will refresh your spirit.”
Yes, our spirits were greatly refreshed on the first Sunday morning in October. Let us praise and thank God for the Revd Jill Thornton and all the other folk who give so much to us… including our musicians. Jill sent us on our way that Sunday morning with a joyful song in our hearts…
“Tell out, my soul, the Greatness of the Lord!”
(Rejoice and Sing, No 740)
* ‘Our Duty and Our Joy’ by Robert Llewelyn.
Published by DLT: ISBN 0-232-52195-6