Friday, December 20, 2013

Bishop Pat Storey’s Address at Kildare Cathedral Enthronement

Bishop Pat Storey at the door of Kildare Cathedral Most Revd Pat Storey was enthroned at St Brigid’s Catehdral, Kildare on Saturday 14 December 2013, having been enthroned in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trim on Friday 6 December. 

She is pictured above at the door of Kildare Cathedral before the service.

Bishop Storey gave the following address at Kildare Cathedral:

‘Well, I am now almost there! I have been consecrated a fortnight ago, and enthroned in Trim Cathedral last week, and finally, last but not least, I am here with you in Kildare and I am delighted. It is a dawning realization in all the ceremonial rituals that the Church of Ireland does so well, that really the work is only about to start. A consecration is a beginning and not an end! 

‘Firstly may I thank you all for your warm welcome? Earl and I were so blessed with all your good wishes and kindness through the last few weeks. They say that moving house and moving job are at the top of the league of stressful events in your life and we have just completed both! Obviously the media attention will all die down shortly and we will be able to just get on with the job. But we have now very definitely moved in, moved on and are ready for a new start. We were extremely happy in Derry, and we have no doubt that we will be happy here. So thank you for your warm welcome.

‘We all have our favourite hymns, don’t we? I imagine if I were to go around you all, we would all have a special hymn that means something to us. We have just sung mine, and whilst I love the rolling tune of it, it is the words that really grab me: “O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless free. Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me.” What amazing words! Isn’t that what Christian faith is all about? We need to know the deep, deep love of Jesus as we try to live out Christian faith in a stress–ridden world. 

‘There’s nothing like being elected a Bishop to help you to cling to God in a way that we probably should be doing every day! Today’s psalm, Psalm 146 says this: “Put not your trust in princes, nor in any human power, for there is no help in them. Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help; whose hope is the Lord their God.” We often say that we depend on God, and yet I wonder if we really do? Sometimes it takes a huge life event to make us throw ourselves on Him in a fresh way and it is our need that drives us to Him. I wonder if God wishes that it wouldn’t take a huge life event for us to truly walk closely with Him? And yet He always forgives our weakness, and waits until we come to Him.

‘Uncertainty is a hallmark of 21st century life, isn’t it? People don’t know anymore what to believe, who to trust, how they will meet their financial commitments, and how long their health will last. Life, especially as we get older, is full of uncertainties. The reading from Isaiah has something to say to our uncertainty: “Say to those who are of a fearful heart, Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God! He will come and save you!”

‘This man may have been acquainted with fear. A Canadian country preacher decided to skip services one Sunday and head to the hills to do some bear hunting. As he rounded the corner on a perilous twist in the trail, he and a bear collided, sending him and his rifle tumbling down the mountainside. Before he knew it, his rifle went one way and he went the other, landing on a rock and breaking both legs. That was the good news. The bad news was the ferocious bear charging at him from a distance and he couldn’t move. “Oh, Lord” the preacher prayed “I’m so sorry for skipping services today to come our here and hunt. 

Please forgive me and grant me just one wish … please make a Christian out of that bear that’s coming at me. Please, Lord!” That very instant, the bear skidded to a halt, fell to its knees, clasped its paws together and began to pray aloud right at the preacher’s feet. “Dear God, bless this food I am about to receive…” Fear is a natural human phenomenon especially when there is danger!

‘I have no idea what you face in your life right at this moment – but I do know who will calm the storm. To some extent, we all have fearful hearts, so this word is for each one of us. Fear is a normal, human everyday experience. We all have it. There are some fears that perhaps particularly grip us – I hate flying; daddy long legs, and being late! Your fears may be entirely different, but nobody is immune from fear. If you are human, you know what it is to fear. So this word – “say to those who are of a fearful heart”, is a word for you and me. And what is the message? “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God! He will come and save you!” 

Naturally we know, from life experience, that this does not mean that God will not let us go through any troubles, otherwise we are all doing something very wrong! God doesn’t promise us stress free lives where no–one will get sick or die, nobody will lose their jobs and all marriages are happy. No. What God promises is that he will walk with us. It is that simple. “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.” It is my experience that no matter what the storm is in my life, and how strong the fear is, God never fails to show up. He has never abandoned me or left me to it. He has walked me through it even though there are times when I would rather He just took the problem away. So how about you? Where in your life right now are you of a fearful heart? What part of you needs badly to hear that good news – “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God!” 

‘Many of you may know from media interviews in the last few weeks that I wasn’t brought up in church circles. We weren’t a churchgoing family and when I developed a personal faith in my early twenties, the one massive difference that my faith made to me was knowing I wasn’t alone – that there was someone who was always there; utterly reliable; always available; perfectly loving. Now I had a wonderful family and great friends – but in the core of my being when a personal faith grew in me, I knew for certain that I would never be left to my own devices again, and this is good news for a newly appointed Bishop! I promise you I will not be depending on my own wisdom! 

‘It is the love of God – the deep, deep love of Jesus, which drives those of us who claim Christian faith. That is what we have to offer other people, and that is what they desperately need. Perhaps more than ever, people’s lives are busy and full and stressful – they need to know that there is someone who loves them and who will always show up. That is our God. 

‘So how do people know that we Christians have something they need? Mustn’t there be a way of demonstrating how much they are loved by God? The gospel reading for this afternoon has a challenging message. It is the story of how John the Baptist is wondering – is Jesus the Messiah? He has heard rumours, and he doesn’t quite know what to make of Jesus yet. So he sends a message from prison to say – so is it you? Are you the one we have been waiting for? Jesus, are you it?

The Lord’s answer is this – what do you see? That’s his answer. Here’s the proof: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good news brought to them. That’s how you know. What a challenge to us as we live out Christian faith in the 21st century, with busy lives, family and work demands, and trying to keep our head above water. If John sent a message from prison to us and said – is it you? 

Are you it? Are you the one with the good news? How might we respond? Could any of us say – what do you see? Here’s the proof. I find this personally a very daunting challenge from Jesus. The bottom line is – our faith absolutely must be demonstrated in who we are, and in what we do. Our faith must result in something – it must have legs. Otherwise it is just words. 

‘So how might we meet that challenge in our ordinary everyday lives? How might we prove that we have good news? It would be daunting for us to think about restoring sight to the blind, or raising the dead, or cleansing the leper – but let’s go back to the Old Testament reading from Isaiah – because this we can share. We can say to those of a fearful heart – “Be strong, do not fear. Here is your God!” When we ourselves have experienced his personal love for us and his mercy towards our weakness and fear, we can say to others with confidence – Here is your God! 

‘The season of Advent is about waiting for Jesus. It is traditionally a time of penance and thoughtfulness and stillness when we wait. We just wait. Perhaps we should take some time before the madness of the Christmas season, to wait for Jesus where we need Him most. Wait until we can say – Here is my God! And when we have, we give it away to those who need it too. Faith, like a well known box of chocolates, is for sharing. 

‘In the Isaiah passage God promises to “strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees”. My knees are certainly more feeble than they used to be!! And my hands are beginning to look more and more like my late mother’s! But where we are weak God will strengthen and make firm. That is His promise to us this afternoon. Be strong. Do not fear. Here is your God. 

Firstly, know it for yourself, deep down inside, in the core of your being. And secondly, give it away. Share it. Be extravagant with it, so that God is given all the glory. Then when people ask – is it you? Do you have something that can help me with my fear? Then you can say – what do you see?’

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