Hilda And Our Times

A retreat in order to advance drew us to Saint Hilda's Whitby, on Britain's eastern coast, where the ancient abbey and the modern priory keep watch. On Saint Hilda's Day we joined sisters of the Order of the Holy Paraclete for an open air service in the abbey ruins, courtesy of English Heritage, and our Carol, of The Open Gate, read from Bede's account of Hilda. We were then invited to the sisters' main priory for their annual celebration, followed by a lunch. I had the honour of preaching. This is the start of the sermon, based on the writings of the prophet Isaiah chapter 61: 10 to 62:5:

Hilda's great community up there for women and men, students and workers, was in effect a village. A village of God. Today's Old Testament reading describes the birthright and the legacy and the divine possibility of such a place - in this case, not a village but a city of God. The prophet speaks to this place. He tells it that despite failures and set-backs, destructions and even ruins, because they have put God first they will be seen as a place where God can be seen, where people in authority shall see the divine glory: 'The nations shall see your vindication.'

I believe the time is approaching in our world of climate, energy and financial melt-down when people of influence will see that their authority is imploding, but places like Hilda's Whitby stand for an authority that nothing can destroy.

God transforms first a person, then a place through that person; then it becomes a platform that begins to transform the world. As it was with Jerusalem: so with Whitby.

The Divine Spirit comes upon the prophet, who says: 'My whole being shall exult in God.' That's Hilda, too. Nothing half-hearted, namby-pamby or dualistic about her. Body and mind. God in the soil and God in the Scriptures. God in the chants and God in the chores. My whole being. God in the academic novices who would become bishops: God in the unread cowherd whose tongue was tied.

Posted at 08:38am on 20th November 2008
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