Sermon preached by the Rev’d Catherine Haynes at the Welsh Eucharist on 19th September, 2015, at St Thomas.
‘Tangnefedd’ (Pronounced tang – nev – eth: Peace, Jim, but not as we know it!)
(The living Word came down from heaven to earth, died on the Cross and lives in my heart)
It’s good that there are so many Welsh learners here today, because Welsh is the language of heaven and in order to understand the kingdom of heaven it is necessary to speak Welsh! For, as far as the kingdom of heaven is concerned, there is one peculiarly welsh word which has so much to teach us: tangnefedd.
There are 2 words for peace in Welsh. Tangnefedd is the word used in the Bible and in our liturgy for peace – it is the deep peace of Christ. It is not a peace which papers over the cracks, nor is it the mere absence of conflict (the Welsh for that peace is heddwch), but it is the hard-won reconciliation of the Cross. In tangnefedd we do not always find an easy peace, but a desire to move towards reconciliation, an acknowledgement that such a peace belongs to the Kingdom of heaven, and that kingdom can come on earth. ‘Gwyn eu byd y tangnefeddwyr, oherwydd cânt hwy eu galw’n blant i Dduw.’ ‘Blessed – or happy – are the peacemakers, because they shall be called the children of God’ – children who are in the process of growing in tangnefedd.
Tangnefedd is the treasure which is held in the clay jars of our humanity. We are frail, we fail, we may struggle to forgive; but the treasure of God is the tangnefedd Christ made with us on the Cross. As we recognise the tangnefedd within ourselves, we can bring tangnefedd to others: since we have the mission to be ambassadors for Christ. In Acts Paul reminds the early Church that they need that tangnefedd to hold together and to encourage one another in difficult times.
When I was away this summer at a conference in Montreal, Archbishop Fred, the primate of Canada, told us a story about how at the last Lambeth conference (where there were some serious differences), the bishops were invited to “seek out the person with whom you need to have a conversation.” Good advice, although not always easy advice, not only for bishops. Tangnefedd is recognising Christ in the person with whom we need to have a conversation, and not being afraid because Christ is already there.
In the Eucharist we carry Christ within us, and we become bearers of tangnefedd. So, as we share the peace today, we share tangnefedd. If we are sharing tangnefedd properly, we need to understand that tangnefedd takes time, and so we have to take time over it. Tangnefedd is not an annoying intrusion into the liturgy, but rather an integral part of our incorporation into the Body of Christ, a re-membering (putting the limbs back together, as well as making the past present) of our communion, and so we prepare ourselves to carry Christ and His tangnefedd within us.
Tangnefedd is the opportunity (maybe or maybe not literally) to fall into one another’s arms, to recognise that we all suffer pain and we all have a need for healing and for love. God’s call to us is a call to share his love, as He has shared His love with us. But it is like the call that Jeremiah heard, which seemed impossible to one so young before God reminded him that he would be with him, at his side to carry him through trouble. Responding to this call to love may not always seem possible this side of heaven, but we do not respond to God’s call in our own strength. Jesus tells us, ‘You did not choose me, – no, I chose you.’ God’s call to us to bear the fruit of tangnefedd is always accompanied by the promise of His grace, new every morning, again and again.
Tangnefedd yr Arglwydd a fo bob amser gyda chwi. The tangnefedd of the Lord be always with you.