St Margaret’s Day
Romans 8. 35, 37 – 39
Matthew 16. 24 – 26
How wonderful it is to be celebrating St Margaret’s Day together – and my first one in the parish with you.
But I have to confess there’s been a little nagging question in my mind as I’ve been thinking of something hopefully meaningful to say to you this morning – what is it that we’re actually celebrating?
Of course we’re giving thanks for our life together, and all the wonderful things about our beautiful church, and the community of faithful people here.
But where does St Margaret herself fit into all this?
She’s one of those saints whose lives are best read about on a stormy night, under the covers, by the light of a torch. It’s pretty frightening stuff!
The most juicy and exciting bit, as I’m sure you know, is when she’s swallowed up by a demonic dragon; but she escapes by bursting forth from the dragon’s side, with the cross in her hands.
You can see this depicted in rather gentler fashion on the front of the order of service – it’s an illustration of a lovely mosaic of St Margaret on the wall over there, by the entrance to the Lady Chapel.
I won’t go into all her other torments, because I don’t want to put you off the lovely lunch that’s been prepared for later.
But whether we really believe all the sensational legends about St Margaret, or indeed the lives of any of the saints, there’s one thing about St Margaret’s story that speaks powerfully and timelessly into our own journey of faith.
It’s that in all her troubles – even in the belly of the dragon – she clung to the cross of Christ.
She put all her trust in the cross. It was the cross that gave her the strength to endure – that instrument of the most terrible torture, transformed by Christ into the great sign of the never-ending love of God.
Love that endures, no matter what situation we might find ourselves in; love that forgives us, no matter what we’ve done, or how far we think we’ve drifted away from God.
You’ll remember we kept the celebration of St Thomas just a few weeks ago. We discussed at the family service that his doubts show us that saints aren’t superhumans – they’re not a different class of person, born holy and destined for greatness. They have the same doubts and fears as we do.
God has his plan for them, of course, just as he has his plans for us. But they’re only able to do all the amazing things they did, and endure all the terrible torments, because they haven’t relied on what they can do in their own strength.
They’ve put their trust in the power of the cross; they’ve given themselves completely over into the love of God – love which can endure all things.
We heard those wonderful words from St Paul’s letter to the Romans not long ago. That nothing – not hardship, persecution, peril, sword – not even dragons! – can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As long as we trust in that great love – as long as we cling to the cross, just as St Margaret did – we too can do marvellous things. We too can become saints in our own way and in our own place.
Because there’s nothing at all – no situation, no matter how dark or distressing – that cannot be transformed by the love of God.
So as we go on in our journey of faith together, let us take up our cross – let us cling to it, let us put all of our trust in it – and let’s keep doing amazing things together in this church, and in our community.
God has great plans for us – and we can be sure that he will always be with us in all that we do. Amen.