RACHAEL ELIZABETH preached for us this morning. The Gospel for the day was one she would describe as “a gift” – but the power of the sermon lay in Rachael’s now customary simplicity of spirit and grace in presentation.
Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his ﬁngers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly - Mark 7.31-35
Without note or pulpit desk, her only prop being a hand held microphone to add a bit of weight to our failing and soon to be replaced sound system, Rachael reminded me this morning of the late and great Brother Roger of Taizé, who, similarly clad and with the same kind of ease and grace, communicated the great truths of the Gospel of Jesus to crowds of thousands.
Rachael Elizabeth is both deeply reflective and contemplative, utterly unafraid of the gift of silence, pause and poise in preaching – and word and silence alike are couched in gentle, probing humour. It took no more than a minute for our gathering to get the gist of her message, simply and closely allied to the message of the Gospel story about deafness, and poor speech. And no more than another minute for our church family to grasp that Jesus – and Rachael too – is calling us to be opened, to recognise our own deafness and the impediment in so much of our speech. We’re to trust. We’re to care for one another. We’re to care for God’s world – and especially for the suffering and the lost. We are family. God is doing a new thing.
Rachael Elizabeth came to us seeking Baptism when she was fifteen. If it’s true that she has learned fast it’s also equally true that she has taught us as much if not more than she has learned. Eighteen now, she’s just about to embark on reading Theology at the University of Trinity St David in Lampeter, and will continue to engage in the processes of discernment about a call to the priesthood.
Loved by many, many people here as both a young pastor and a gifted preacher, our church family will miss Rachael’s quiet and Christlike presence in Bramhall; she leaves us for Lampeter surrounded by prayers and love and blessing. We wish her joy and contentment in continued learning and teaching. And lots of youthful fun, too. We’ll look forward to seeing her during holidays, and we’ll remember Rachael Elizabeth’s call to trust God, and truly to “be opened”.
What “new thing” will we be celebrating next Sunday?