Friday, September 18, 2020

New routines in the new normal?



I’ve got to admit, despite my love of adventure, I have found that I have become a creature of quite some routines:

In a typical week I attend the same meetings, get in touch with the same colleagues, relatives and friends, garden, watch the same sort of TV dramas, listened to Radio 4, stick to tried and trusted recipes, walk to the same places, enjoy the same activities, send the same sort of emails, check the same sites on line, make small talk with the same neighbours, and read the same (or at least the same kinds of) books. Yes, I have a routine, and I don’t mind it. That’s not to say that I avoid change. I really enjoy visiting new places. And there’s something borderline adventurous about going for a walk later in the day when you would normally pack it in for the night!

We all get used to a certain pace of life. For most of us, I venture to guess that our typical pace is anywhere from steady to warp speed. Yet I also think that a great many of us have had that physical pace come to a near screeching halt over the past months .

Most of us have had to adjust to this ‘new normal’. And none of us knows for how long these adjustments will be necessary and whether things will once again lockdown. Here’s what I’ve concluded: the new normal is not what we would have chosen, but there is a sense in which we really need it. We cannot lose so many more lives, loved ones and friends, or allow our health services to be so overwhelmed that they can’t treat everyone else. We need to keep one another safe.  

We really want everyone to be  able to work, get to the theatre, go to live concerts and sports events. We long to go back to handshaking and hugging and parties and eating out and being able to have family gatherings and visit without restrictions our care homes.

But we have learned some things:

·         That we don’t always have to be “on the go”; we can grow to appreciate simply being at home.

·         Activities can still be enjoyed, but we don’t need to let them rule our schedules.

·         Economically we may need to be content with less, more willing to support local small businesses and shops, churches, and charities, and appreciative of what we have already.

·         Parents can work more closely with teachers, and perhaps  partner together more regularly in the education of children.

·         Families can enjoy the outside more together even when it gets colder, taking more walks and cycle rides.

·         We can interact more with our neighbours, keeping in touch with the elderly or the lonely

·         We can read more, play more games, call distant friends more and having more down time.

Technology can (and has) served the church well, both before and after the days of social distancing. Churches need to use  technology wisely for the good of the members and the glory of God but technology can never replace the authenticity of meeting together in a wonderful sacred space as the family of God.



Matthew 6.19-21; 24-33

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 



Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Reassurance


 

Northumbrian Morning prayer Meditation

Your love comes to me
in the silence,
ordinary.
Like a child’s treasure.
I turn it over
in the nook of my hand,
warming its smooth
heaviness.

A thought of You,
stony,
clearly defined,

drops as though
down a deep
well,

is lost
momentarily,

then turns up
a certainty in the heart.

Cathy Hutcheon




Sunday, September 13, 2020

Forgiveness



Doug writes:

Today’s Gospel reading was hard to take (Matthew 18.21-35). A king with slaves meting out terrible consequences for one of them who mistreats a fellow slave. It isn’t one of the best-known parables, and that is understandable since it is pretty unpleasant. The point of the parable is to emphasise the need for forgiveness, and we took the point from a story designed to shock its hearers, to make them indignant, to engage their sense of outrage and desire to see justice done. It is not unlike some of the Nordic noir series which represent some extreme situations before justice is finally done. Perhaps we don’t like the darker side of human nature brought to our attention so dramatically – or maybe we do find it engaging. Certainly there are many things in society today which cannot be ignored. Like the legacy of slavery and the prevalence of violence. And the need for judgement.



Jesus is portrayed responding to a question about how often we should forgive another who sins against us. He says that the suggestion of seven times is not the right way, but rather broadens it out to seventy seven times. By that time you would have lost count anyway! So be forgiving. To fail in forgiveness is to create barriers and to perpetuate your own unhappiness as well as that of others. And it is not Christ’s way, for he is the one who says, as he is crucified, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”. Forgiveness is at the heart of the Gospel, and as God’s people we need to recognize that we are forgiven so much that we can live in the light of God’s forgiveness and offer it to others.




There are, of course, some situations which cannot simply be forgiven, where someone’s life is impaired or ruined physically or psychologically and we know that this can happen in families, churches and throughout society. We should report those who abuse others. Only then can we begin to consider how to move on and hopefully forgive. Yet much of daily life that needs to be forgiven is relatively mundane but very significant. Selfishness, bullheadedness, gossip, letting people down, failing to maintain social distance, failing to assist or support, wastefulness, intolerance: it all builds up and we share in the general “falling short” that mars our relationships and our world. This evening’s programme by Sir David Attenborough will look at the consequences of our combined carelessness and greed in wiping out many species and polluting the planet. Like some Nordic noir, or a dramatization of Jesus’ parable about blatant greed and avarice, I am not sure I can bear to watch though I think I need to.




The Wedding Service (when will we have one of those again?) contains a prayer asking that, for the couple, may “forgiveness heal injury”. It’s not a sentimental prayer, it recognizes that even in the most loving relationships we have the capacity to hurt one another. Yet there is healing, when we turn to God, when we seek his forgiveness for our failures and follies, then we return to the Divine perspective and realise afresh that we who are forgiven by the Lord, at the cost of the sacrifice of his Son, can offer newness and forgiveness to others. We who are forgiven are rightly challenged to be forgiving people, we who are loved can learn more of what it is to live in the love of God in company with all our brothers and sisters.

 


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Helplessness

 


“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God. It changes me.” C.S. Lewis

Last night after hearing the news that the virus is spreading again at such a high rate that numbers of people meeting will be limited to six inside and outdoors, the vaccine trial had been halted in Oxford as an adverse response may have been triggered, a neighbour’s house burnt down. In the middle of the night, the sound of falling and breaking masonry, huge fire hoses, firefighters shouting instructions to one another and the sight of flames and smoke going high above the rooftops, just made one feel utterly helpless. We stood there shocked, watching and praying.



Feelings of helplessness make it difficult to focus on anything, our lives feel as though we are on hold so we stand rigidly, physically holding in too much breath, helpless and hopeless. There are so many things which can cause us to feel helpless when there is – regrettably – no realistic way of changing the situation. Yet to go on trusting and praying is the Christian response to a crisis, and as C.S. says, ultimately we are helpless and in need, but turning to God means that we know we are loved and held through all things and that by His power we can be changed to be more like Him in his compassion and love.

Last night all I could do was watch and pray and this verse came to mind:  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’. Philippians 4: 7




Sunday, September 6, 2020

Living and Flourishing in the New Normal

 


Here we are in Church, some of us have been back to work, some of us have returned to school and others never stopped going to work; some may have managed to have a holiday and others may well still feel that they need to stay at home.

We have all had to cope with these new restrictions and to be honest, it just does not feel comfortable. We may have thought that somehow by this time we may be able to give one another a hug, sit closely together and throw away our facemasks.  New outbreaks or spikes can and will occur.

So what can we do, how are we to live? In the Bible we read about people having to cope with new normal, taken into captivity, travelling through the desert in Exodus, the Exile in Babylon and Jesus facing death on the cross and the apostles travelling to far shores as itinerant preachers.

It was not easy then and it’s not easy now.

How can we sing songs in a strange land? How can we cope let alone feel joy?

When we go back to these stories we can see how the faith of the people of God has sustained them through hard times, giving them hope, strengthening their resolve, inspiring in them a new sense of purpose. This faith was powerful as they held on to the scriptures, prayers, rituals and ethics which maintained their identity as individuals and as a group and helped them to feel the constant presence of God.



Keeping faith in new, unexpected and adverse times is not easy, but it gives us continuity in life as we realise through prayer and worship that God’s ways are so much greater than our human ways, and we live in a changing, uncertain world but God’s plan and mission is eternal.

The crisis brought about by the spread of the virus means that we need to look afresh at our own lives and at the mission and ministry of the church. Our confidence that we are all in God’s hands now and for ever is so basic to the Christian faith but it is something which many people have not come across in a meaningful way. Because living with and rejoicing in the love of God is normal for God’s people, and however wretched the current situation may seem – very much so – we can share our confidence with others by the way we care for our neighbours in Christ and continue with renewed hope and firm confidence in the eternal love and salvation of God. The new normal is a wake-up call to be faithful and to prayerfully seek the Lord’s leading into caring and sharing in this time of change.

 


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Enfolding


An ancient Celtic prayer for everyday

God to enfold me,
God to surround me,
God in my speaking,
God in my thinking.

God in my sleeping,
God in my waking,
God in my watching,
God in my hoping.

God in my life,
God in my lips,
God in my soul,
God in my heart.

God in my sufficing,
God in my slumber,
God in mine ever-living soul,
God in mine eternity.

 


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Reflections on Take up the Cross

 


The Dutch priest, theologian and psychologist,  Henri Nouwen  1932-1996 wrote a meditation on Taking up the Cross as he reflects that in life we all have pain to deal with:

“Your pain is deep, and it won’t just go away. It is also uniquely yours, because it is linked to some of your earliest life experiences.

Your call is to bring that pain home. As long as your wounded part remains foreign to your adult self, your pain will injure you as well as others. Yes, you have to incorporate your pain into your self and let it bear fruit in your heart and the hearts of others.

This is what Jesus means when he asks you to take up your cross. He encourages you to recognize and embrace your unique suffering and to trust that your way to salvation lies therein. Taking up your cross means, first of all, befriending your wounds and letting them reveal to you your own truth.

There is great pain and suffering in the world. But the pain hardest to bear is your own. Once you have taken up that cross, you will be able to see clearly the crosses that others have to bear, and you will be able to reveal to them their own ways to joy, peace, and freedom.



Definition of the Cross

…..the cross performs a function of synthesis and measurement.  In it Heaven and Earth are conjoined…in it time and space are intermingled.  The cross is the unbroken umbilical cord of the cosmos, linking it to the center from which it sprang.  Of all symbols the cross is the most universal and all-embracing.  It symbolizes intervention, mediation, the natural and permanent structure of the universe and communication between Heaven and Earth and Earth and Heaven.

 

-Champeaux,G.de and Dom Sterckx, S. (O.S.B.) Introduction au monde des symboles, Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, Dictionary of Symbols

 

Prayer

O God of love,

We journey with your son,

ever closer to Jerusalem,

to his cross, his true destiny.

 

We hear his words

“Take up your cross and follow me,”

but we’re not sure what this may mean for us.

 

We hear his words,

“deny your self,”

and wonder which self it is;

the self we put on for others,

or the self centred self

that wants it all for ourselves?

 

Whichever it is,

it seems like Jesus

is asking for all of us

and we’re not sure we can do this.

 

God, we will need your Holy Spirit

to be able to do this.

God, we will need your grace and mercy

to be able to do this.

 

We remember that you empowered your disciples,

the early Christians,

and others who decided to follow you and

we know and trust that you will do this for us.

Amen.