Thought for the Day – July 16th, 2020.
Legend has it that if it rains on St. Swithun’s Day, 15th July, then it will rain for the next 40 days. The origin of this is obscure but may have something to do with the re-burial of Swithun who was Bishop of Winchester in about 850. Very little is known about his life other than that he was a humble and self-effacing man and a therefore a trusted advisor to the king of Wessex, Egbert. He was a good pastor to his diocese and when he died there was a strong movement to build a great shrine. He, however, had explicitly forbidden this and so he was laid to rest in an ordinary grave. About a hundred years later a new cathedral was built in Winchester, the foundation of the current building, and the bishop insisted on Swithun, who was by then something of a cult figure, being re-buried in something much more impressive. On the day of the ceremony there was a terrific storm and it was said to have rained for the next 40 days.
It seems a pity that someone who was so highly regarded for piety and humility should only be remembered today for summer storms. I like to think that he would have found this rather amusing, and it is probably often the case that Christian saints are celebrated for quite the wrong reasons. If Swithun was as modest as the records tell us then he would not have minded, and there is an important principle there for all of us to bear in mind. Often our Christian service is not noticed by others, or it is overlooked and remains unacknowledged. This can make us feel hurt, rejected or unloved. God says to us, however, that we are all known to him – cared for, loved and understood. Others may not see what we do or say, God does. As soon as we start to seek after the approbation of others then we start to move away from the example of Jesus who himself was not at all self-assertive.
“He did not think to snatch equality with God, but made himself nothing, assuming the nature of a slave.” (Philippians 2.6)
That is not to say we should not strive, work hard and use the gifts God has given to us. Swithun was a successful bishop despite his humility. We just need to have the right attitude and approach to all that we do. God knows us, which means that he understands how easily we can slip, and loves us no less.
“He that is down need fear no fall, he that is low no pride; he that is humble ever shall have God to be his guide.” (John Bunyan)