Fr Thomas Plant, Tokyo-based Anglican priest and comparative theologian

Month: January 2018

Do you trust enough to hear your calling?

Jeremiah was born in the Kingdom of Judah, just outside its capital, Jerusalem, seven centuries before Christ. These were times of political and religious unrest. The small Jewish nation was under threat from great empires which surrounded it, including Egypt, Assyria and, to the North, Babylon.
Early in his life, Jeremiah received his calling as a prophet. It is important to understand what that means. We tend to think of prophets as something like fortune-tellers predicting the future. Although they often did foreshadow future events, that was not the main role of biblical prophets. Jeremiah was not some kind of Mystic Meg. Prophets were called not so much as to forecast the distant future, but to look into the present and speak hard truths about it, especially to the people with the power to make changes before disaster struck – and a recurring theme in the biblical books of the prophets is that powerful people do not always like hearing the truth.
The several kings whom Jeremiah outlived did not always hear his message favourably. Several times, he criticised the policies they were pursuing. He told them that the rampant social injustice they were inflicting on the poor, widows, orphans and immigrants went against the Law of God. He told them that worshipping other gods – some were even taking part in the horror of child sacrifice enjoined by local cults – was a kind of adultery, cheating on God. And he warned them that their policies and injustice would lead Babylon conquering Jerusalem and destroying the Temple. This, he said, would be God’s judgment on them. The kings and priests in charge were not particularly amused. Jeremiah was rejected and punished.
The rulers were even less amused when Jeremiah’s prediction came true. Babylon conquered, and the rulers of Israel were exiled from their homeland for seventy years. Jeremiah stayed on and encouraged the people to stay at peace with their occupiers, watching the signs and prophesying that Babylon, too, would fall: as it did.
Jeremiah’s story from 2700 years ago is not just a matter of quaint historical interest. It is the part of the story of the Jewish people, a repeated story of faithfulness and infidelity to God, of exile from and attempts to restore a homeland, of defiance and resilience of this small race against the attempts of powerful regimes to dilute their religion or even to destroy them forever. The exile of Israel to Babylon foreshadows the Jews’ status as a homeless and hated people through most of the past two thousand years, culminating in the Holocaust of Nazi Germany. We might note that Jeremiah never lost his trust in God even throughout the horrors of his time, just as so many Jewish survivors of the concentration camps and their descendants still keep their faith today, not allowing Babylon or Hitler to destroy it.
And yet, for all Jeremiah’s faith, he was at first reluctant to receive God’s call. He felt the passion for justice and truth pulling at his heart, but he did not think he was up to the task. “I’m just a boy,” he said: but the God who knew him before he was born had always had this role in mind for him, and gave him the courage and grace to perform it. 

What is it that only you can do? 
What is your unique purpose? 
What is holding you back from it? 
Can you learn, like Jeremiah, to trust in God to help you become who you truly are?

The opinions represented herein are those of Thomas Plant only.

THE EPIPHANY PROCLAMATION FOR 2018

While a day like Christmas is fixed in our minds and on the calendars on 25 December, many of the important feasts of the Church’s year move, based upon the date when Easter is set. Following the ancient Jewish lunar calendar, Easter changes each year moving to the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon and can fall between 22 March and 25 April.

In ancient times before calendars were common, most people did not know the dates for the new Liturgical year. On Epiphany Sunday, the important dates in the Church’s calendar were proclaimed after the gospel in this way:

Dear brothers & sisters,
the glory of the Lord has shone upon us,
and shall ever be manifest among us,
until the day of his return.

Through the rhythms of times and seasons
let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination,
the Easter Triduum of the Lord:
his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial,
and his rising celebrated
between the evening of the Twenty-ninth of March
and the evening of the Thirty-first of March,
Easter Sunday being on the First day of April.

Each Easter — as on each Sunday —
Holy Mother Church makes present the great and saving deed
by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death.
From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.
Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent,
will occur on the Fourteenth Day of February.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on Thursday, the Tenth day of May.

Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter,
will be celebrated on the Twentieth day of May.

And, this year, the First Sunday of Advent will be
on the Second day of December.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims
the Passover of Christ
in the feasts of the holy Mother of God,
in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints,
and in the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come,
Lord of time and history, be endless praise, for ever and ever. AMEN.

With thanks to Fr Desmond Bannister for reminding me of this tradition! 

The opinions represented herein are those of Thomas Plant only.

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