Helen - Something Beautiful For God

Helen has died. Two weeks ago I preached in Ottawa about the woman who did something beautiful for God by anointing Jesus' feet. I illustrated how it is never too late to do something beautiful for God with the example of the farewell charity event Helen held the previous day. In tribute to Helen, here is the beginning of that sermon:

"I bring you greetings from England’s Holy Island of Lindisfarne – a place where beautiful things were done for God when St Aidan, the Irish Scot first brought Christ’s gentle ways to English-speaking people. A place where brutal warriors learned the Gospel of Peace, where slaves whose freedom Aidan bought in the market place were offered work or study, where pigments and designs from east and west came to flower in the exquisite Lindisfarne Gospels, and whence Aidan went to dine with his saintly King Oswald, who in a beautiful action, gave the food from their Easter banquet to the hungry and even had the silver dishes cut into pieces that the hungry might be sustained.

An action that is still reflected in the Queen’s yearly visit to an English Cathedral on the day Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, to give silver coins to deserving local people.

Our lives, although advanced in so many ways, can be marred by ugly drivenness or gnawing self-doubt – so we miss what it means to do something beautiful for God, or we have too low a self-image to do anything.

Take heart from today’s Gospel. Yes it was a Pharisee who gave Jesus an upfront dinner party – but it was a woman of the streets, despised by the establishment who was drawn to his goodness, sensed his impending suffering, spent her income on precious ointments, and lovingly lavished it upon his tired feet with kisses and tears.

Perhaps some of you feel, I’ve left it too late. It is never too late.

Helen worked at our Retreat House on Holy Island. She contracted inoperable cancer more than two years ago, and we thought she might die last year. Not so. A few days ago I received an email from her:

This is the last time she could do such a thing – but this valiant Christ-lover had a farewell charity thank you event yesterday at our Retreat House to raise money for the cancer support staff who have been caring for her. Some of us, however, don’t dare to do something beautiful for God because our love is locked up inside us. The Rector who trained me when I was a curate realised this was true of me. He taught me: “If you feel something, do something”. ....

The complete sermon is now a download (Helen ...)

Posted at 04:42am on 30th June 2013
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