St Francis, Terriers - Patronal Festival (02.10.2016) Tony Dickinson

You’ve been on the road all morning. You’re walking along – and suddenly the path divides. You’re faced with three choices of road to follow. Each one leads to an important city. Which one are you going to take? How would you decide? What would you use to help you come to a decision?

You might look in your guide-book.

You might look at the map.

Or you might do what St Francis did when he found himself in that situation. He told his travelling companion, a friar called Masseo, to stand in the middle of the crossroads and turn round and round until Francis told him to stop.

Now, what happens when you turn round and round? [You get giddy.]

And what happens when you get giddy? [You fall over.]

That’s just what happened to Brother Masseo. He fell over. He fell over quite a few times. But Francis hadn’t told him to stop, so he just got up again and carried on turning. And then, finally, Francis did tell him to stop, and off they walked (or, in Masseo’s case, probably staggered) along the road which Masseo was facing when he finally stopped turning round.

Many stories are told about what happened to St Francis when he was on the road – in the same way that many stories are told about Jesus and his followers when they were on the road. They remind us that at bottom Christian faith isn’t a system or a set of beliefs. Christian faith is a way, a road along which we follow Jesus. Sometimes wondering where on earth he is leading us; sometimes worrying whether we’re on the right path: but always trusting that whatever strange things are going on around us, God is in charge and it doesn’t matter how often we fall down. The important thing is to be like Brother Masseo, to get up when we fall and keep going until we are shown more clearly the way ahead.

On Friday at his inauguration as Bishop of Oxford, Bishop Steven reminded us that we are people on the way. “We are” he said “a company of pilgrims who know our need of God [and] who ground our lives in prayer and worship and scripture... called to be a outspoken for justice and for the poor… called to find the paths of holiness, to bear the cost of our discipleship, to recreate the peace of the world, and to walk always with humility before God and others.”

That sounds very like that Micah tells the people of Judah in our first reading. God doesn’t want expensive offerings, “thousands of rams, ten thousands of rivers of oil”. No. “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” It’s not far from what Jesus tells his disciples in today’s Gospel. Don’t worry. Don’t worry about food and clothing. Don’t worry, we might want to add – don’t worry about all the other things that TV and radio, the newspapers and social media, tell us we ought to worry about.

What do you worry about?

Does it help?

So why do it?

What did Jesus say almost at the end of today’s Gospel? “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” That’s where all our journeys will end. We don’t need to spin round and round, like Brother Masseo. We don’t need to take out our guidebook and our map and spend hours poring over them. We do need to listen to the voice that says “Stop. This is the way.” And when we hear that voice we know that, like St Francis and Masseo, we can go ahead with confidence, trusting the One who calls us to follow in his way. To him, Father, Son and Holy Spirit…