Prayer During the Day Sunday 31st January

service 31 1 21

What do we mean by authority? Who has it? Why do they have it?

These are key questions for our time as we live in a pandemic. There is so much fake news around that we need to know who is giving us information. When it comes to vaccine safety do we listen to Kevin the Keyboard Warrior or Chrissie that we meet in the Co-op. The people tell us that Covid19  is fake and the hospitals are empty. Or do we listen to the scientists and doctors who are working in labs and hospitals? Who has the authority to help us make decisions that can have a huge impact on our lives and the lives of others?

Thanks to the Downing Street News Briefings, we now know the names of some of our top scientists and epidemiologists. The people who spend all day in labs and in front of students are now in front of the nation. The authority they have is twofold. They have positional authority because of the roles they have and they have relational authority because of what they do.

An example is Chris Whitty the UK’sChief Medical Officer. He has a role because he has studied medicine. If you are sick you go to a doctor.

We all know some professionals who know lots of stuff yet are actually not that much good in the day to day work. In my own field of vicaring I have priest friends who are fabulous theologians yet are seriously out of practice in doing funerals. At a funeral you need someone who cares not a clever sermon.

In the case of Chris Whitty we found out in the news that he has been volunteering in a North London respiratory ward. He has relational authority because of what he does. He has seen the effects of the pandemic on people with serious Covid infections first hand and not just in statistics.

Anyone in leadership has both types of authority. Those in leadership know that they have to use them wisely. I can insist that something is done because I’m the vicar and the buck stops with me. Mostly that is not the best way to use authority. A better way is to show what can be done, listen to people and work together. This is what Joe Biden meant in his inauguration speech when he said ‘we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power, but the power of our example.’ Leaders need to do as well as be.

In our reading from the gospel today, a story from the beginning of Mark’s gospel we hear that Jesus has authority based on who he is. No one in the synagogue that day has any inkling that the one who is teaching the scripture is the one who was present at the making of the world but the demons who are present in an afflicted man do. Jesus has positional authority because of who he is, the son of God and the second person in the trinity. But he also has authority in what he does – he heals the man and continues to heal and teach and practice compassion and love throughout his ministry.

As we make decisions about the pandemic can we think about where we get our information from – scientists or keyboard warriors.

As we make our decisions about faith can we go back to the person of Jesus because of who he is and does? A person of goodness, love and healing.

 

Sunday 24th January 2021- link, service and reflection

Service 24 1 21

This week’s gospel reading is the familiar story of a wedding where there is almost a disaster and Jesus saves the day by turning water into wine. There are many layers to the story. It is a miracle and points to who Jesus is, not just Mary’s son but something so much more. It points to God’s overwhelming generosity and abundance; the wine is really good and there is a lot of it. It points to the importance of healing in community as the couple risk shame in their honour based society if the wedding is not up to expectations. But what does it say to us stuck at home in lockdown not able to go to weddings and parties or even just pop out for a coffee and hug a friend?

This week as I wrestled with this story I am really grateful to Margaret Silf’s book Soul Journeys which is a new Lent book for 2020. She reflects that the story begins with emptiness – the stone jars of water that have to be filled and the wine jars that have been emptied by the guests. Emptiness is something that many are feeling at the moment. If we are thinking of the Christian life and spiritual journey as transformation, then emptiness can be the space where new things can happen. If we are on a journey can we start the journey by letting go of what we are grieving for and those things that we can’t do right now. Some day we can go back to those things but right now there is space to try something different. It means taking a glass half full rather than a glass half empty view. I can’t do this anymore or I’m too tired to do this and that is sad, but I could try this.

So here is a new way of looking at this story using the image of the water jar.

At the beginning of the story these jars are empty. They are full of space. Can we see that as a gift of space for something new?

The water jars don’t fill themselves. In the story Jesus tells the steward to fill them with water. Can the act of waiting to be filled be seen as a spiritual act? Of not rushing to fill the jars with any old rubbish and hold my hand up to watching far too much TV in lockdown, but giving the soul space and quiet to listen and to be filled?

The steward fills the jars with something very simple, water. As we hold that space in the emptiness can we slow down enough to enjoy the simple things such as the beauty of the outside world. The frost on the ground and plants has been really beautiful this week as have the branches of the trees against the blue skies

It is said that practicing gratitude can help improve mental health so can you look back each day and find three simple things you are grateful for?

The water in the jars are transformed, not by anything they did but by the presence of the living God in Jesus. We live in a culture of doing and achieving and acquiring. Can we at this time of lockdown embrace space and the simple and just be? We know that good wine takes years to grow on the vine and then mature in the bottle so perhaps the image of water into wine is one of patience however hard that can be.

One day we will party and there will be good wine and good company but for today can we take that image of the empty water jar and make it part of our transformation knowing that Jesus was not only at the party but in the backroom with those big water jars transforming what they contain into something extra ordinary and is part of a wider healing.

There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’  And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it.

When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.                                                 John 2.1-11

 Images – free bible images
Margaret Silf Soul Journey with Scripture and Story (2020)

 

Sunday 17th January 2021

service 17 1 21

One of the hardest things in prayer is to listen.  It is really easy to tell God what we want and what we think God should do but it is really hard to listen to what God might be saying to us. In today’s reading Samuel hears the call of God but mistakes it for his master Eli.

It can be hard to know how to listen to and make sense of the news let alone to God in prayer!  An increasingly digital world should have given us access to so much information from so many viewpoints yet it seems that we mostly live in our echo chambers listening to the views that reflect our own. It can be hard work to hear the views of others. This week I have found myself reading a lot of commentary on the events in the Capitol Building in the USA on the 6th January. The raw footage of what happened is available on the net. The opinions of those who truly believe that the election of Joe Biden was fraudulent can be read or viewed. It is easy to dismiss others as wrong before we start to listen and that frames what we hear.

There is a great deal of wisdom in our reading for today when faced with uncertainty. Eli is a flawed man. His time as a leader is not covered in glory yet he recognises that God is speaking to Samuel. It would have been so easy to ignore the child who was kept waking him up. Although the word of God is rare at this time Eli trusts that it is God speaking and he encourages the child to listen. That takes humility and courage.

God could have had a message for Samuel about how Eli had failed yet Eli gives the child the permission to listen and the freedom to do that without someone else getting in the way. Flawed as he was Eli was a man of prayer and able to put his agenda to one side so that young Samuel could become the prophet who would speak truth to power.

Can we be more Eli?

There is hope that our current lockdown will be eased with the roll out of the vaccine. The world has changed. What will our calling be in this new world and how do we hear it? Time to look to our listening? Who knows where it will lead…

 

Sunday 10th January 2021

The church is closed for public worship. Our Sunday service is simple to allow those who have no online access to take part as well as those who can use phones, tablets and computers to access it.

Service 11th Jan  yes it is the wrong date but it is the right service!

Revd Karen’s reflection on Mark 1 4-11 is below the video

This week’s gospel tells of how John baptises Jesus in the river Jordan. The text is at the end of this blog past.

washing

John calls for repentance and the forgiveness of sins and this is done with water. Washing is a very powerful metaphor in 2021. There is clean water. There is soap. There is time spent pausing to do something routine and simple. The miracle is that this act breaks down the surface of the virus that has killed so many people and destroys it. Washing is a powerful symbol in the Christian faith and a very effective tool in the fight against the Corona virus.

In the Church of England, we often baptise babies so the sense that in baptism is about washing away sin makes no sense as babies are not yet able to make decisions about what they do or what they don’t do. This is why some parts of the church only baptise adults. In the gospel John is calling for repentance and it is following that repentance that baptism can take place – the past is washed away and there is a new start. Of course we are only human and we make mistakes again but the important part is that we acknowledge that we are at fault.

In this week where we have seen deaths from CV19 hit record highs in the UK and the storming of the centre of democracy in the USA something as simple as admitting that we can be wrong, repentance seems to be in short supply. To be fair we are in the middle of a global pandemic and it is easy to see faults in a country other than your own. The ability to blame the other and deny fault over the storming of the Capitol Building is astonishing yet how often do we do the same thing ourselves? Do we listen to all sides of an argument before we do something or just the people in our echo chamber? Do we do what we want because we can or do we consider the impact on our neighbours?

In baptism the symbolism of washing away sin is profound. We know that something as simple as washing our hands whilst singing happy birthday twice or a couple of verses of your favourite hymn will reduce the spread of the virus. Can we take the simple act of washing and wonder what difference that would make in our lives if we could wash away all those little acts of unkindness and selfishness? How might we change if we could admit that we were wrong? That the decision we took yesterday was right in the context of the information we had then but the world has changed and now it is not the right thing to do? Just as washing is part of the armoury of our fight against the virus so repentance is part of the Christian way of life. It is a simple start. But in that simple start Jesus heard a voice from heaven say “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Stay safe.

Keep washing those hands.

Remember that we make mistakes because we are human but we can ask for forgiveness.

Mark 1:4-11 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Photo credit Geetanjal Khanna at www.freelyphotos.com