The Rev. Canon Laura Howell
Trinity Church, Bethlehem
There are times when everyone feels lonely. Even in the midst of a family, group of friends, or busy workplace, we can suddenly realize how isolated we are. Sometimes, tired and discouraged, we ask ourselves, “What is the point? Where is all this taking me anyway?”
One of the things I most love about our Anglican tradition is the assumption that we are never alone. We don’t have to be all-wise, all-competent, or able to navigate each bend in life’s path on our own. In the ones who have gone before us, we always have access to the finest guides, the most faithful spirits. They know the ways that lead to God and to a life grounded in holiness.
Most of the rooms that I inhabit contain pictures of them–the saints and holy people. Especially my office, which is filled with their presence. They are my family in a very real way. Having their icons or pictures in places where I see them frequently keeps me aware that I am surrounded and supported by loving companions. They are always walking with me on whatever path the Spirit draws me. For the next two weeks, let’s take a daily journey with the saints on our calendar.
Today, August 1, is the feast day of Joseph of Arimathea. I first encountered him as a teenager at a Good Friday service. The beautiful and moving chant “Noble Joseph” for Good Friday echoes in my memory whenever I think of Joseph. The loving compassion and kindness that prompted him to ask for the body of a crucified criminal so he could provide a respectful burial–even at risk to himself–has always touched me.
This generous man is a wonderful model for a travelling companion. Legend has it that Joseph took the teenaged Jesus with him on some of his merchant journeys, They even made it as far as Britain. Setting his pilgrim’s walking stick on the ground, he rested. And overnight, it took root, growing into the now famous Glastonbury Thorn. Thus, Blake’s famous lines: “And did those feet in ancient times…” Set to the tune Jerusalem, one of my English friends calls it the Church of England’s “fight song.”
While we are not called to serve Jesus by burying his body, we are called to serve by caring for the bodies of our brothers and sisters who make up the Body of Christ. And we are certainly called to serve by travelling together in kindness and compassion along the Way of Christ.
Merciful God, whose servant Joseph of Arimathaea with reverence and godly fear prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial, and laid it in his own tomb: Grant to us, your faithful people, grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Photo Credit: Laura Howell