Why did we choose “Sparks in the Stubble” as our Newsletter title?
Every morning at 8.30 am staff at St Cuthbert’s House gather for morning prayer. One of the Canticles in the Book of Alternative Services said each month is Canticle 10 “The Souls of the Righteous‟ The Canticle is taken from Wisdom 3:1-8. Towards the end of the Canticle there is a fascinating line that says, ” In the moment of God‟s coming they shall kindle into flame and run like sparks through the stubble.”
“In the moment of God‟s coming‟ – The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church asks – “is this the visit of God among the righteous? Or is it an occasion when the saints show up? Because it can be translated both ways.” When the saints show up, or when the Spirit makes a home in the saints, then the saints begin to burn and set the world alight. Their leadership, their ministry, their ability to see and influence and pastor the world, is set afire. All the saints are meant to run like “sparks through the stubble‟, through all that dead and no longer fruitful stuff, the dross of this world. You and I are “supposed to get lit and set that flame to burning by our willingness, in the presence of God, to be vulnerable change agents”. Imagery here of the day of Pentecost, when the Saints caught fire with the fanning wind of the Holy Spirit that changed the world.
We have all seen wildfires, fires that are out of control, fires that consume and destroy everything in their path. “Sparks in the stubble‟ is not that destructive force, though there may come a day when such a fire may come. No, “Sparks in the stubble‟ is an image which, under God’s visitation and the fanning wind of the Holy Spirit, is more like a controlled burn. Across the prairies such control burns were used to clean up the fields after the harvest. You can probably remember such burns when clouds of smoke filled the skies, and drifted for miles. These days, due to air quality and carbon footprint issues, other methods are adopted, but many farmers still say that controlled burning is still the best way to sanitize the fields, get rid of the stubble and enrich the soil for the next seeding.
Our shared ministry; or as Bishop Schori described it, “the episkopeis” of the saints”, as a ministry that cleanses the fields of that which cannot survive in God’s dream of shalom. It burns away whatever limits that dream or cannot contribute to it, reminding us of the imagery of Isaiah 42. It is a righteous burning, one that brings life and one that brings nations back to God.
There is much to be done across our diocese in terms of spiritual renewal and church growth, through our readiness in piety, study and action, through encouragement of one another in grouping, Ultreya‟s and especially the weekend Cursillo‟s, let us pray: That the Lord will set us alight with a renewed passion to share the Gospel. That we be fanned into a consuming fire to cleanse away all the dross and stubble. That we be a holy fire for His purposes and fire-lighters in God‟s mission field.
So, are you willing to run like sparks in the stubble?‟
Would that we all answer, “Set me on fire! I will, with God’s help. Ultreya!”
Bishop of Quappelle