Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Circles





"Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in."  (Isaiah 40:21-22)


The Circle has always been an important symbol, representing the sun or the moon. And as it has no beginning or end, it can represent God's love; the Alpha and Omega; eternity, that which has neither beginning nor end.
Thus the circle has become a vital part of our religious heritage, from the glorious rose windows in cathedrals to the simple Advent Wreath.

The wheel cross evolved from the chi-rho symbol. The Greek letter chi, the first letter in the title Christ - similar in appearance to the letter "X" - was rotated until it formed the shape of a cross. The Greek letter rho, the second letter in the title Christ- similar to the letter "P" - was merged with the rotated chi, and the whole symbol enclosed in a circle. Eventually the rho disappeared, leaving a cross in a circle. The combination of standing-stones with wheel crosses gave us the familiar form of the Celtic Christian cross.

The Celtic Cross is the circle that speaks of God's love which has no beginning or end.

Widening the circle:
'A human being is part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole [of] nature in its beauty.' - Albert Einstein, 1950

A Celtic encircling prayer by Mary Fleeson:
Circle Me Lord,
Let love be my reason,
Let hate be a stranger.
Circle me Lord,
Let joy be my comfort,
Let sadness be no more.
Circle me Lord,
Let peace be my aim,
Let conflict be resolved.
Circle me Lord,
Let love be my reason,
Let hate be a stranger
Circle me Lord,
Let joy be my comfort,
Let sadness be no more.
Circle me Lord,
Let peace be my aim,
Let conflict be resolved.


Monday, May 25, 2020

A Monk who stayed put




Today is the feast day of St Bede. Like us during this time of isolation, Bede stayed in his monastery never travelling, and yet left us an amazing history of Early Britain, theology and prayers. He may inspire us to think about what we can achieve from one place or his words may help us to reflect on what love is. 

Bede was born in Northumbria around the year 670. When he was seven, his family gave him to the monastery of St Peter and St Paul at Wearmouth. This was probably not as horrid as it sounds to us today as it was the only way in which a family of poorer means could educate their sons and give them a good start in life particularly if a child showed ability. He then moved to Jarrow, where he lived as a monk for the rest of his life. Bede never travelled further than York but was incredibly well read. His monastery, under Abbot Benet Biscop and then Abbot Ceolfrith,  was a centre of learning, and Bede studied extensively. He used all the resources available to write the most complete history of Christian England up to the year 729, as well as commentaries on books of the Bible. He was renowned for his faithfulness to his monastery and his love of teaching, and was fondly remembered by his pupils. He died peacefully on this day, still in his monastery, in 735.

Some of his most important sayings are:

‘Unfurl the sails and let God Steer us where he will’

‘He alone loves the Creator perfectly who manifests a pure love for his neighbour’.


“The ultimate Mystery of being, the ultimate Truth, is Love. ….There is in Being an infinite desire to give itself in love and this gift of Self in love is for ever answered by a return of love....and so the rhythm of the universe is created.”


Bede’s Prayer
O Christ, our Morning Star,
Splendour of Light Eternal,
shining with the glory of the rainbow,
come and waken us
from the greyness of our apathy,
and renew in us your gift of hope.
Amen


Sunday, May 24, 2020

At One




Jesus prayed; ‘Holy Father protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one’ John 17:11 

Doing things God’s way! It is in our unity with God that we find our unity with one another. The translators studying the New Testament were looking for a word for the new relationship to be found with God in Christ. They decided on the Middle English word ‘atone’ which came from these two words ‘at one’. It seems such a small difference but in small things large important things are found. We have made ‘atone’ a chore, a task, a thing we must do, make up for, to pray for, for to right the wrong that we ourselves have dome. This is not what  ‘at one’ means at all!

‘At one’ means that we at peace with God, so that we can be at peace with one another! And that at-oneness is an act and gift of God; not an act or gift of us! In the middle of the complex message in St John’s Gospel is the simple one that Christ makes us one with God and with each other. So, our calling is to remember that we are one with God and with one another and act towards each other in ways that reflects that oneness. As someone wisely pointed out; whatever troubles we may have with other people they are having the same troubles with us. As we may find on our families, Being Church in lockdown is difficult as we need that ‘at-one ness’ with one another, it is hard to love and learn to love in isolation.

In John’s gospel, Jesus prayed that we would find a home with one another, a place where our ‘at-one ness’ with God becomes a strong ‘ at-one ness’ with each other. May our Church be both a house and a home, for us as the family of God, prayerfully seeking to know and so the will of God.  Thy will be done, thy kingdom come.             

Our website gives details of the worldwide prayer together being offered as our sharing in Thy Kingdom Come. We will begin an online prayer course about praying and for praying together: please get in touch with me if you can join us 01992 584899 vicar@allsaintshertford.org as you will need to be invited and welcomed into the online meeting. I feel this course will help us explore together our praising and forgiving, for we need each other to grow in faith and learn to be at one.




Saturday, May 23, 2020

What's the Point?



This has been going on long enough now, I feel restless, I want to go back to the old normal, I want to make plans, see family and friends, get back to church. There are days when I feel this intensely, it can make getting up difficult in the morning, it can make doing anything hard. I am eating too much, watching too much TV and letting things go.

And yet, all around me I hear sounds of neighbours doing things: one has a massive building project and there’s  the sound of hammering, hauling and fixing, one is painting and doing lots of DIY, others are working in the garden, mowing, planting and watering, then there are families cycling by or walking, but somehow for me, today, the inertia has kicked in and I feel, what’s the point?

So I pray, hand those troubled feelings of loss and listlessness to God, ask him to help me deal with feeling this way.  

In the prayer time, mostly silence - well, God knows my feelings, he knows those hopeless thoughts of mine - I come to see, once again, that those around me are working in hope, looking to a future but working with the here and now that this time has given them, us, me.

As Julian of Norwich said; All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.



An Examen for Times when we are down or anxious

I pause (breathe in and out) and thank you for this day. For the challenges, the emotions, the struggle. For in all this, I grow closer to you.

I pause (breathe in and out) and ask that in the darkness, I see your light and in my fear, I feel your strength.

I pause (breathe in and out) and remember that today, As in days before, I can carry on. When I’ve wanted to run, I’ve stayed. When I wanted to hide, I’ve faced the day.

I pause (breathe in and out) and ask for forgiveness for the days I falter. I ask for compassion and love when I’m unable to give those to myself.

I pause (breathe in and out) and resolve to love myself more tomorrow. And always feel your spirit surround me in safety.

I pause (breathe in and out) and rest.      - By Erin Roush



Friday, May 22, 2020

A Mayor in Lockdown!



Rosemary Bolton writes:

You are probably aware that my term of office as Mayor finished on the 21st May.  It has been the most tremendous honour and privilege; I am so proud to have had the opportunity and have loved it.

Before I was sworn in Bishop Michael gave me some memorable and extremely pertinent advice.  He said that this would be my opportunity to thank everyone, and that I could make a difference to people’s lives, just by thanking them.  It sounds extraordinary, why should one person’s thanks matter.  However, there is a reason why Bishop Michael is a bishop… he is very wise.  Most volunteers aren’t thanked, or don’t feel as if they are, perhaps they missed the memo from on high, but they do like being appreciated and hearing someone thank them.

I have made it a mission in my Mayoral year to thank everyone, and I mean everyone I could.  We live in a wonderful community, full of kind and generous people, they give of their time and talents willingly, and donate to charity as much as they are able.  It has been a joy to be able to observe our volunteers, charities, businesses and organisations at work, quietly making life better without making a fuss. 

Our upbringing and Christian faith make us humble, all the volunteers I have met do not like to acknowledge the difference they are making to their community, they are reticent to accept how important they are.  That is why it is vital to keep thanking them and I’m sure that some of them are probably heartily sick of me by now. The Hertford St John Ambulance team definitely are, they attend every public event and I thank them every time, because they deserve it.

It came as a shock to all of us when Covid 19 came slithering into our lives, like a cold, unpleasant fog of fear, driving us all into our homes, fearful of catching or spreading the virus.  But God’s light and rainbow of hope has shone through, and we have felt the uplifting joy of our community working together, finding coping strategies, helping each other and sharing the love. Friends, neighbours and strangers are taking care of others, and enjoying the experience.

And here is my lockdown dilemma, for the last three months of my Mayoral year I have struggled to be able to thank people for making the effort, to be able to acknowledge the Hertford Heroes, just when they deserve the recognition most.  It is frustrating.  The planned receptions for volunteers had to be cancelled, press releases are buried under more important news, social media moves on a pace and no one can keep up.  It is most definitely not ‘all about me’ nor should it be.

However, I can send a message to whoever is reading this blog… I know that you, in your own way, are important and making a real difference to someone, and I would like to send you a personal message to say THANK YOU! And I genuinely mean it, not just because the Bishop told me to!
THANK YOU!


A Celtic Morning Prayer

Thank you Lord.
I dwell upon the goodness in my life. Thank you.
I cherish in my heart Your gift to me. Thank you.
For all the people that I meet. Thank you. 
I notice the blessings of life, breath, loving and sharing.
                            I am so very grateful. Thank you, Lord

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Ascension


A contemporary Ascension Sonnet

We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.
We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centred now, and sings,
Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we our selves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed .
                                     Malcolm Guite



A C16th Ascension Collect by John Donne 

Salute the last and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sunne, and Sonne,
Yee whose just teares, or tribulation
Have purely washt, or burnt your drossie clay;
Behold the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the darke clouds, which hee treads upon,
Nor doth hee by ascending, show alone,
But first hee, and hee first enters the way.
O strong Ramme, which hast batter'd heaven for mee,
Mild Lamb, which with thy blood, hast mark'd the path;
Bright Torch, which shin'st, that I the way may see,
Oh, with thy owne blood quench thy owne just wrath,
And if thy holy Spirit, my Muse did raise,
Deigne at my hands this crowne of prayer and praise



A prayer of Blessing
The glory of the God of life glow within you
even  when clouds hide God from your sight.
In valleys of discontent
in birth pangs and death pains
the glory of the God of life  glow always within you. Ray Simpson

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

In the End God





God be at mine end, And at my departing.
The end of life is perhaps the moment that many people suddenly feel that God is most relevant, where the God to whom we have paid perhaps a little attention suddenly becomes extremely relevant. God be at mine end is the ultimate moment of realising our need of God.

Faith is about the quality of our lives, and it gives us a feeling of guidance, stability, well-being – and knowing that we are loved and valued by our Creator. So much so that God sent the Redeemer. We need God in our understanding, our looking, our speaking and our thinking to live the lives to which we are truly called. Our human falling short of God’s glory and the many temptations of this world can cause us to keep God at a social distance.

Yet the Lord is forgiving. His love is ever-present, and if we wander away we are sought out by the Good Shepherd, welcomed back by the father whose goods have been squandered. We are loved. In life and in death.

My departing is a thought to which we may sometimes give consideration. I have a couple of pieces of music I would like played at that time, and I hope that people will think kindly of me. You know how it is. I imagine some tears will be shed but I hope that my loved ones will go forward into the future without lasting sadness, for they have given me such joy. And yet, this is the human side – I want God to be there, or more correctly I want to be aware of that presence. I want what life has taught me of the love of God. I want Jesus’ salvation to hold me fast and assure me that I am truly going home.

We naturally spend so much of our time dealing with earthly things, but when it comes to departing we are definitely thinking of going elsewhere. We don’t know what it will be like, we can only trust God and know that Jesus has gone before us. His resurrection speaks of newness of life, but as on this day he leaves the world, he ascends, he transcends this earthly life. We can think spiritually of soaring into the serene presence of our Father and of the faithful who have gone before us. Our departing is not the end, it is going above and beyond earthly things into the heavenly life of God. May God be with us all, throughout life and on into eternity.


Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

God be in my head, And in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, And in my looking;
God be in my mouth, And in my speaking;
God be in my heart, And in my thinking;
God be at mine end, And at my departing