After several months of 3Ps – Pause, Ponder and Pray, a daily reflection for at home during the Coronavirus lockdown – we have now reverted to Midweek Musings. This will be posted here, but you can also ask here to have it by email. Additionally, we have started a daily prayer text message. To receive this please send your number.
I was initially want to say something today about Helen's excellent sermon on the image of the church as crazy paving but watching the news at lunchtime made me rethink what I wanted to say. No, I haven't changed my mind on Helen's sermon – I still think it was excellent but I was struck by an item speaking about the hidden pandemic of loneliness.
I suspect that most of us from time to time have had to deal with loneliness and for some of us this is a chronic condition made worse by the pandemic. The rescuer within me wants to make this right for everyone and yet this is impossible. It also isn't the right thing to do. If our reflections on church have taught us anything so far it is that we are equally valued and equally needed. My going out on my own on a one woman mission to save the world from loneliness is unlikely to be effective and is not what God calls us too either.
I am not the church, we are the church.
We are the people of God who are sent out to bless and to declare God's good news in the world. Just like the crazy paving, we are all different shapes and sizes and gifted in unique ways yet when we all join together we create something beautiful that leads to people to the very throne of God.
Loneliness and isolation are killers. One person cannot overcome them alone and yet together, as the church we can make a huge difference when we look beyond ourselves and to the needs of those around us. It takes all of us bringing that little bit of light and hope where we are.
How you can be a blessing right now:
Being church is all about connecting so why not make take the opportunity to connect today?
(7 prayerless days, makes one weak!)
Whilst typing, I am also settling down to catch the final of the IPL cricket tournament which finishes today on November 10th. Whilst not taking place in the setting shown above, it it nevertheless both out of season, and being hosted not in the atmospheric grounds situated around India, but in a sterile and empty stadium in Dubai. It is different, but reassuringly the same and currently the Mumbai Indians look like winning once again!
In a similar way, in this continued rollercoaster of changing restrictions and new opportunities, we are all having to re-invent the way we do certain things, with some activities taking place in unusual surroundings, and at different times. So for example, over the years I’ve developed a bit of an seasonal pattern concerning my responsibilities as tutor for Westcott House, with the summer period being particularly busy with student placements up here, and down time happening at this time of year. However this time round it’s been very different with no students physically up present with me since before Easter. However the use of Zoom has ensured that I’ve recently been in touch with the community in Cambridge a lot more, by teaching and preaching in what would have been a quieter part of the year.
I wonder how such uncertainty has impacted our respective spiritual lives (which also might pass through a variety of seasons each year)? I for one find praying a lot easier when in the company of others, but this has proved a challenge in these present times. Give thanks once again then for the wonders of technology. As well as connecting us in the presence of God each Sunday, we’ve decided to re-introduce midweek prayer through Zoom, sharing together a simple set of prayers and sentences, with space to reflect together on a passage from scripture. If you are able to, do consider joining Jess, myself and others tomorrow (Wednesday morning @ 10am), as we break up a long week between Sundays, and meet up together half way to pray. (Meeting ID: 868 4973 6045. Passcode: 457235).
Yes, it’ll be different, but as it is the same God that we encounter, it will also be reassuringly the same.
Keep in touch
Keep the faith
Well it is day 1 of lockdown #2. I don't think many of us expected to be in this position back at the beginning of the year but here we are nevertheless.
The experience this time is going to be different for different people. In our house, lockdown is not massively different to being in tier 3 because the kids are still going to school and the grown ups in the house were mainly working from home anyway. Our families live quite far away so we hadn't seen them in person really for quite a while either. For us it feels like more of the same. Yet I am painfully aware that for other people this is a return to isolation, and the cancellation of the few things that they were able to do in person.
Lockdown is hard, and for some of us it is even harder. So my message to all of us today is to be kind to yourself and to other people who might be experiencing the current situation differently. However, you are expereincing the new lockdown, one thing that remains constant for all of us is that God is present with us. He knows our needs, hears our cries and he cares. Even in the darkest times, we are never alone. Those words at the beginning of the communion prayer ring as true today as when we are gathered around the table: The Lord is here, his Spirit is with us.
It seems really apt that this month we are exploring what it means to be church in our sermon series now we have the added dimension of what it means to be the church during lockdown. I am looking forward to preaching on Sunday and using a couple of the playdough models that you created last week as a springboard to think about what church is and what it could be. My lips are sealed as to which ones are being used this week so you will have to wait and see!
I look forward to catching up with you on Zoom on Sunday if I don't see you before.
P.S. If any one would particularly appreciate meeting up for a socially distanced walk (I'm thinking a slow poddle rather than a hike!) to be able to see someone, or to talk or to have someone to pray with in person, please let me know and I'd be happy to arrange something with you.
My current passport is due to expire at the end of this of this year, and this week I have been trying to renew it. Tempted by the reduction in price for an on-line application (well I am a Yorkshireman after all!), I’ve been increasingly frustrated by my inability to submit a picture of myself that meets with their criteria! (insert your own joke here). There’s either too much or too little light / shadow / business in the background, and so my application remains on hold, with me questioning why I’m bothering. And of course the question “why” extends to the bigger question of 'why bother?' and 'what’s the point?', when travel anywhere beyond Manchester, yet alone far flung places abroad, seems both a distant memory, and a pipe dream projected into the far flung future. Nevertheless, I applied in hope, that at some future time, all will be well.
In my own small struggles I am reminded by the experiences of Jeremiah, for he as God’s servant and messenger, was a great prophet who lived through terrible times. His country was overrun by Babylonian invaders, and there was widespread panic. Anyone who could was converting their land into cash or valuables. Only a fool would buy land which could be taken by the enemy at any time. The people were to be deported; Jeremiah himself was in prison. But a single verse in Jeremiah 32 is a mighty affirmation of hope. Approached by a cousin desperate to raise cash through selling his land, Jeremiah agrees. In verse 9 he says, "I bought the field at Anathoth."
Jeremiah's decision to buy his family land from his kinsman was more than just a commercial transaction. It was a statement of trust in God's future. He was saying that he believed God would keep his promises to Israel, and that one day the wanderers would come home.
Why do I persist with my passport application? - simply because I look forward to the time when I might be able to use it again. May God be with us in our hoping and waiting.
Keep in touch
Keep the faith.