The Revd Margaret Legg
Holidays. The schools, parliament, the Queen, Bryan. Even the vicar is on holiday!! Hurray for an August Baptism to swell our numbers!
Where do we look for happiness? For many of us, holidays are a source of happiness. They are after all a time of relaxation, refreshment and regeneration. The author Alain de Botton writing in the paper this week about holidays, points out that there’s no work to be done, the view on the azure sea is perfect, the weather warm and sunny. Holidays are a time of happiness and fulfilment. My cleaning lady longs for hers all year. Personally I long for hers to end!!
Jesus, however, gives a different message. He advises us not to rely on the ‘flesh’, on transient things like holidays for happiness, for a full and contented life. The flesh is useless, he says in our Gospel. It is the spirit that gives life.
Well yes. Literally, holidays do the flesh no favours – I read in the papers that typically we return from our hols half a stone heavier than when we set out (it’s true – I speak from experience!) Our flesh may well have turned beetroot on day 1 and our keep fit regimes go for a burton. Sadly all too true in my experience!
But these are hard words of Jesus. I’ve had some wonderful holidays and the memories are still with me. Jesus of course is talking of more than a happy memory. He is talking of our whole life span: past, present and future.
If hols aren’t the complete solution to happiness in life, what are the ingredients of a fulfilled life?
It will of course be different for each of us, but may include: to be treated kindly, to receive generosity and to give it, to know love, to have hope, to feel safe, to have enough to eat, to be healed when we are ill.
And Jesus is clear – base your life on me and you will have all this.
Base it on worldly goodies and you will ultimately feel hollow and dis-satisfied.
In a way we know this. We know that holidays may not be the panacea for which we long, just as we know the images put out by the marketing people are unrealistic and fleeting and yet … we still fall for these appeals to the ‘flesh’ as the gospel puts it - they lure us and tempt us.
We buy those ‘to die for’ dresses, and shoes because they will make us happy. My friend was delighted with her Louboutin shoes! £500 around.
And the chaps are not exempt! Belts, the humble belt, are now style statements: formal, casual, a novelty number, a designer buckle and have you thought about a signature piece? Coloured, snakeskin, beaded, studded, metal chain – which is the belt that you will use to mark yourself out from the crowd. That will give you prestige, status and of course happiness!
Or will it? Worn only once or twice, the red soles of my friend’s Louboutin shoes are marked. Well they would be, wouldn’t they? Dissatisfaction has crept in! And at a deeper level, the one thing we always have to factor into the happiness promised by ‘the flesh’ is ourselves! We always take ourselves with us; we always carry with us all that challenges, frightens and bothers us.
Even in the holiday cottage, even stepping out on our 9” heels (those were the days!), sporting our so ‘on trend’ belts, we may still be distracted by issues in relationships, or fear of humiliation, or anxious about whether our outfit really suits us.
The armour of God. Try something different, exhorts the writer of Ephesians. Put on the armour of God, by which he means focus on God, believe in Him and place Him at the centre of our lives. The symbolism is vivid: The belt of truth: honesty, clear conscience. The shoes of peace, an inner peace: shoes of forgiveness, at one with ourselves and each other so no resentments or anger. Then we are able to readily give and receive love. The helmet of salvation (salve = health) which is most deeply rooted in our hope, hope of life with God after death
All symbolic not of the latest fashion or gimmick, carefully marketed to appeal to our superficial appetites, but of what brings true and lasting happiness and fulfilment
When we robe before a service the vestments we put on are deeply symbolic. They point beyond themselves: to the life of Christ and all he did for us and to the beauty of the heavenly kingdom.
So the chasuble,(Robin) the all covering cloak of the ancient world, reminds the priest of the love of Christ, the framework which binds and perfects all things.
The stole – just a scarf – reminds us that we are yoked to Christ and serve him. Antonio’s as a Deacon, is worn to remind him of his servant ministry, so it’s like a towel.
This Alb is derived from the plain linen tunic that everyone wore in the ancient world. It’s a reminder of the freedom from sin and purity of new life which Christ gives.
Lily is wearing a beautiful Christening gown today, stitched by her Godmother. It is also white, symbolising her cleansing in the waters of baptism, the start of her new life clothed with and enfolded in Christ.So much love, so many hopes and prayers have, I suspect, gone into the garment, as it was sewn.
The gown symbolises the faith that will ground Lily when she is assailed on all sides by the allurements of the flesh and struggles to resist. When she struggles to do what is right, rather than what is expedient; to tell the truth, even if it’s to her detriment, to be a force for peace even when she herself is struggling to hold it all together.
So let us be realistic about holidays and all those enticing adverts and fashions.
It is Christ who can give us true happiness. He has the words of eternal life. We need look no further!