The Venerable Bede writes about Aidan and his days: Churches were built in diverse places; the people joyfully flocked together to hear the Word; lands and other property were given of the king’s bounty to found monasteries; English children, as well as their elders, were instructed by their teachers in study and the observance of the discipline of a Rule.
And we know from Bede and other witnesses how Aidan lived and witnessed among the people: regularly, mindfully, prayerfully, he walked the land and talked to all people he met, sharing of himself and of the love of Christ.
Aidan brought hope, he brought learning, he was generous in helping the poor, he ransomed slaves and restored them back to freedom and life, he was humble, he was gentle, he showed no favouritism to any group or class or background or status or origin.
Aidan left his homeland to lay down his life for the English-speaking people, never to return.
Sharing life, sharing of ourselves, sharing faith, sharing God’s love as followers and friends of Jesus is about making neither faith nor church, let alone God’s love, a possession.
We listen to God for the opportunities to serve, to love, to grow, to be transformed in grace.
Walking as followers of Christ, taking up the challenge of the new beginnings laid before us, my friends, means to take time to withdraw as well as to reach out, to retreat and rest and be refreshed as well as give, and give abundantly, give of ourselves.
For Aidan, place was important, but it was not the be-all and end-all. What was all-important to him was to be in the right place at the right time.
What does that mean for us today, my friends, here in this place, to be in the right place at the right time, to face new beginnings as a church family and as individual Christians in a place where place is important, this beautiful church we call our home, this challenging part of the city in which it is set, in which many of us live (or lived in the past), or into which many of us travel to worship, to love, to serve…
What does it mean to us, my friends, here in this place, to be followers of Jesus?
To let ourselves, yet again, be overwhelmed by his love, by his generosity, by his compassion, by his call.
For calling us, he does, my friends, calling us, he does, to walk as his friends and followers, his disciples and witnesses, responding to his love, to his generosity, by being loving, and generous ourselves.
And here, unashamedly, my friends, is my hook, my hook to our stewardship campaign which we will be running over these next seven weeks.
And yes, stewardship has to do with money.
We need money, we need more money, we need regular money, we need money from you and from me. We need it today, we need it next week, we need it in the months and years to come…so about money we will talk and think and pray in the next few weeks.
But stewardship has to do with so much more than money. It’s actually easier to give money than to give our hearts, to give our lives, to give our love.
What do I mean, you ask? You can’t look into our souls, you say, and judge our faith. And right you are, I can’t, and I don’t want to! It is God who will judge, and God alone, who is infinitely merciful.
But I still say it’s easier to give money than to give our hearts and lives and love, otherwise we would be giving more freely of our time, our talents, our skills to God, to each other and to our church.
So about that, too, how we respond to God’s generous love in active service, giving a bit of time, using some of our skills and talents, our smiles, a helping hand, about that we, too, will be talking and thinking and praying in the next few weeks.
And may God give us ears to listen!
For us and for this holy place I pray:
Here be the peace of those who do your sacred will;
Here be the praise of God by night and day;
Here be the place where strong ones serve the weakest,
Here be a sight of Christ’s most gentle way.
Here be the strength of prophets righting greed and wrong,
Here be the green of land that’s tilled with love;
Here be the soil of holy lives maturing,
Here be a people one with all the saints above.