Over the next week our theme is ‘Living my vocation’ as we approach Vocations Sunday on 3rd May. You may have been amongst the millions that watched the BBC’s ‘Big Night in’ last night, a joint fundraiser led by Comic Relief and Children in Need. I’m someone who doesn’t usually watch these kind of all evening long spectacles, mainly because of the heart breaking clips they screen – I’m too much of a softy and can’t bring myself to sobbing every 20 minutes. This time I found myself really looking forward to the show, primarily due to the carrot being dangled – the comeback of so many comedy sitcom sketches and characters.

In the aftermath of the show I noticed very divided and strong opinions on Twitter and other platforms. They either loved the evening and the return of the likes of the Vicar of Dibley, Peter Kay, Catherine Tate and Little Britain; or they were angry at the concept of ‘tax avoiding celebrities asking those of us struggling to stump up the cash for charities yet again’. There’s undoubtedly much raw emotion and a plethora of personal opinions on the matter which can be understood in a variety of ways. As a naturally positive person though, I’d like to focus on these:

  • £27m (so far) has been raised to fund projects that will have a profound effect on the most vulnerable;
  • The power of music will have inspired music lovers to action in ways we may never know;
  • Entertainers brought us moments of relief and joy by living their vocation and making us laugh;
  • Peter Kay’s remake of the Amarillo video sparked a wave of flowing creative juices, imaginative ideas and smiles across the country (you’ve only to search online to see how many key workers took part in their place of work – thousands!).

This Sunday’s first reading comes from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:14, 22-33) and presents to us the apostle Peter at his very best delivering an impassioned speech to a crowd. It begins with ‘addressed the crowd in a loud voice’ (2.14), a striking comparison to the fearful character we see weeks earlier ‘Peter replied “I do not know the man”…and he went out and wept bitterly.’ (Mt 26:72,75). Peter on this day is filled with energy, he is alive with the power of the spirit and is determined to evangelise the crowds. He declares the truth of who Jesus was ‘Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God by the miracle and portents and signs that God worked through him.’ (2:22), he teaches by relating the scriptures to the resurrection:

‘my body too will rest in the hope
That you will not abandon my soul to Hades
Nor allow your holy one to experience corruption.’. (2:27-28)

Finally, Peter does the very opposite of his actions before the crucifixion, this time he attests that both he and all the disciples are witnesses to the fulfilment of the messianic prophecies ‘God raised this man Jesus to life, and we are witnesses to that.’ (2:32) and the spirit of God is the one responsible for their courage to fulfil their vocation ‘…and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.’(2:33). Peter has now found a way of living his vocation.

Finally, I’d just like to share a couple of thoughts on the Gospel of Sunday, the famous Road to Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-35). The scripture recounts two of the disciples sharing time and experience on a journey with a stranger, before finally recognising him as Jesus when they sit down to eat and he breaks bread ‘Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.’ (Luke 24:35). This passage is one that forms the basis for an experience called the Emmaus walk at one of our retreat centres in the UK – St Cassian’s, Kintbury part of the LaSallian network. It is a mainstay of the Kintbury Experience for every retreat so that our young people can resonate with what it feels like to experience that of the disciples ‘”Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us…”’ (Luke 24:32). By sharing something of themselves, being open and honest, and truly listening to the person they are journeying with for their 45 minute walk, the young people become Christ to another and walk beside Jesus.

It seems a simple concept but from my years of going to Kintbury I’ve both felt the effects of a moving Emmaus Walk and revelled in seeing how transformed young people have been by it. The young people (and slightly older leaders) who give up a year to work on the team at the retreat centre and other ones across the UK find a way of living out their vocation, even if their long term ambitions are in a different sector of work. Covid-19 may have stopped them leading retreats right now, but they continue to share on social media including an invitation to join together for Morning Prayer of the Church every weekday at 9am – simply search for the Kintbury Experience on Instagram and Facebook. If you know any young person who may be interested, or fancy sharing their faith in a fun and exciting way then please do direct them to this video about the adventure of a gap year in retreat centres – https://vimeo.com/410194700?fbclid=IwAR0Elbo1cfO-_YpCgkFdjGu639y7Y9YDCmjzY-9GMptPltTiTNEvEHPO6S8.

Mr M Robinson
Lay Chaplain