The Bishop of Hull, Dr Eleanor Sanderson, writes:

Giving God Permission to Shape our Year and our Lives

As the family of God, we live our lives in multiple time-zones. Yes, our global family of faith experience summer or winter, day or night, but we also live in the times set by the cultures around us as well as nurturing our desire to live within God’s time.

The shape of our Anglican liturgical seasons forms an ongoing pathway of encountering Christ’s story. Year after year we give the seasons space to shape us, impact us, bring us deeper into maturity in Christ.

The beginning of a new year in western culture is one of those times when the cultural and the liturgical times pull against each other. The culture around us encourages us into resolution. A new year and a new start. New commitments. New resolve to stop habits or indulgence. This culture might at first feel very familiar to our Christ shaped lives of repentance and belief. There is much to which we might say Amen.

January, however, is not the start of our church new year. We began our church year in Advent. We began in a season of longing. A season of acknowledging the darkness of this world and seeking the hope of God’s movement, God’s initiative, God’s commitment towards us. January is now the season of Epiphany. Here we marvel, not only in fresh thankfulness for the gift of the incarnation, but now we also marvel at God’s continued self-revelation and self-giving. We witness God’s grace and God’s movement in all creation. We remember the people who set out in pilgrimage or vigil in response to the movement of God. We remember that they went to give, not to receive. They gave gifts. They gave the testimony of witness.

This is where the pull of our cultures comes; we are not our source of hope and salvation, but our resolution is set on God. Our invitation is to respond to what God is doing and to mirror God’s initiative of self-giving.

We have a children’s book called The Fourth King. It is one of those imaginary adventures of an extra king who gets waylaid on the journey to worship because of responding to various situations and events that unfold. It is similar to the childhood tale of The Errant Knight, who never quite gets to meet the king he seeks to serve because of the relationships and service he gives to the many people of the kingdom that he encounters on his way to the King’s household. In both stories, the lesson, in the end, is that in the authentic love and service we give to those who have interrupted our lives, we have, in fact worshipped, served, and met our king.

This year we determine to live Christ’s story together. May we never forget that it is Christ’s story, Christ’s initiative, Christ himself who will interrupt, re-direct and transform us. Our lives are a constant pilgrimage towards the one who we long to see face to face. Until that precious day, we are asked to see Christ’s face in each other and love him through our love for the “least of these.”

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me"
(Matthew 25:40)

+ Eleanor