By Revd Canon Charlie Allen, Canon Chancellor, Durham Cathedral

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Good morning.  My name is Charlie Allen and I am the Canon Chancellor here at Durham Cathedral.  You join me today in my garden – a sunny and, this morning, a rather blustery place, that goes by the historic name of ‘Paradise’.  The unusual name derives from the monastic heritage of the Cathedral, as this was the place where members of the monastic community and some pilgrims were buried.  As I stand here I am reminded how the landscape of this place has been shaped by those who have gone before us – by Cuthbert, whose shrine the pilgrims came to pray at, and by the monks who lived and breathed Christian community here in this place. 

Today we celebrate the Feast of St Mark the Evangelist – a character who shaped the life of the early Church in so many places, especially in Alexandria, and who continues to shape our lives today through the words of his gospel.  Mark’s gospel is brief in comparison with the others.  This is because he wrote it whilst facing persecution and time was short – the essentials were all that could be jotted down.  He must have thought so carefully about what those essentials were – and how they may shape the lives of those who would follow him on the Way of faith.

The landscapes of our lives are shaped by so many factors, some within our control, some beyond it.  And, like Mark, we have the task of discerning what is essential within them and what isn’t.  We’ve all been learning a lot about that during the past few weeks as regular routines grind to a halt and our lives are pared back. 

And when life begins to return to something of a normality, there will be decisions to be made about the insights we have gained.  Will we shape our lives, our priorities, differently?  As individuals?  As communities?  Which are the essentials we will rejoice in; what is the unnecessary clutter we can leave to one side.

This season of Easter is a time to ponder all this, as we are called to shape our lives, even in these difficult days, in the light of the resurrection – and in hope and in joy.

Alleluia – Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed – Alleluia!

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