In a world full of information who do we listen to? Where do we go for information and who do we trust? It’s a tough one.
We are entering a new phase of easing of restrictions. The pubs are opening and we can think about how we might start public worship again. But are we listening to medical advice or political advice or economic advice? All will be saying different things and they are likely to contradict each other. Which one do we follow? If we all make a decision based on our own risk assessment what happens if lots of other people do the same thing and we end up with a situation that is fine with 10 but is dangerous with several thousand as this week’s decision to go to the beaches shows. It is all very complicated.
What we need are prophets who can see the future and guide us there.
The problem is that prophets in the sense of the prophets from the Bible were not people who saw the future. What they did was see what was really going on in their society and spoke about it. It didn’t always make them popular. Today we might call that speaking truth to power and it is as unpopular today as it was in ancient times. One of our modern prophets is a child, Greta Thunberg who has been on the receiving end of some utterly vile reporting and comments in the press and social media.
Perhaps our reactions to those who speak the truth shows us who the real prophets are. If we react badly might that show us that we are hearing something we don’t want to hear? Might we not want to hear that our way of living is causing climate change or that our way of behaving is damaging our neighbour? It is far easier to dismiss and denigrate the prophet than change our behaviour. They are wrong. We don’t have to listen and we can keep on living as we always have. No need to change.
Jesus’ message of love your neighbour as yourself is a hard one to put into practice. That neighbour may be someone who is different to us, from a different culture, different schooling or with a different worldview or religion. How much easier to look after just us and our family and ignore our neighour, our community and our world.
Maybe when making decisions we notice how we are feeling. Is this is comfortable decision? What is the uncomfortable one? Who benefits? Who loses out? Perhaps we need to listen to the uncomfortable prophets. What are the uncomfortable prophets calling for you to do in your life?
We can’t meet to sing together but here are some hymns and songs to enjoy at home.
O God our Help in Ages Past – we sing acapella at St Mark’s so this is a reminder of when the CD has broken and we have risen the challenge of singing unaccompanied!
Lord of all Hopefulness reminds us that God is with us always
As we love Taize at St Mark’s here is one of our favourites – O Lord Hear my Prayer
According to the experts it takes 21 days to change a habit. It sounds really simple but if you have ever tried to create a new habit or break an old one it really is difficult.
In our reading from Romans today St Paul asks the question ‘How can we who died to sin still live in it?’ and one answer might be that it is hard to break a habit. Perhaps you are thinking that sin is for the serious stuff and it is but if we change the word sin for habit we might see more of what we need to change and why it is so hard.
Some habits are simple and small. I have been trying really hard to remember to put the house keys in the new key pot by the front door when I come in the house rather than spending ages trying to find which jacket pocket they are in. It is very simple. Come in and put them away. But it isn’t. I think it is safe to say that changing this habit is work in progress….
Losing my keys when I need to get out is an easy bad habit to spot and we can laugh about it but when we try and see our deep seated habits which have become our worldview they are really elusive. We find ourselves saying ‘but that is the way I’ve been brought up or that is the way I do things, everyone does it.’ Yet what if the way we do things hurts other people? What if the way we do things exposes an underlying racism, sexism or inequality? Now we are in sin territory.
If it is hard to learn to how to tidy up house keys it is going to be really hard to change society. If we get that far at least we are being realistic about what we are about as we try and live more Christ like lives; as we aim to become more like Jesus. St Paul’s argument in Romans about how we change as Christians is that the change starts at our baptism. Good intentions are in there. Maybe to update the image it is a bit those intentions are a bit like programming the sat nav and what we need is a voice that tells us when we have gone off course from ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ and we can start to do something about it however hard that will be.
If it takes 21 days to change a habit at least we know habits can be changed. The first step is to recognise there is a habit that needs to change. The outrage over the death of George Floyd may have made those of us who are white realise that we have not seen or named the racism in this country. The pause travel may have made us think about climate change and how we might need to change the way we live. Noticing our habits and sins is a good first step. Now we need to address them.
There aren’t any obvious songs for this week so here is one of our favourites at St Mark’s
Because there is a theme of light in our gospel reading and bringing what is hidden into the light it is an excuse to hear another one of those songs that are new to St Mark’s.
I was looking for a video for ‘Walk in the Light of the Lord’ which I remember singing at university and I came across this gem from South Africa. I’ve been singing the chorus ‘Walk in the light, He is the light, And you will become light’ all week. Enjoy!
WALK IN THE LIGHT Move spirit move upon my earth Uncover the face of my deep Move spirit move upon my earth Flutter your wings come in now king of all lights drive away my night Let the new day be realized
CHORUS Walk in the light He is the light And you will become light
Let there be no part dark in me Father take over my soul Let the glory that I once shared with thee long ago Be now awaken in me King of all lights Drive away my night Let this new day be realized This is the promise of the day star that had risen in the west Arise and shine thy light has come
Can you see it? Do you believe it? Can you accept it ? It is yours
Light of the World
Service sheet is here: 2020 June 21st service
In today’s gospel reading (Matthew 8-35 -10 8-23) Jesus sends his disciples out into the world. It is a scary place where Jesus’ message that the kingdom of heaven has come near will be opposed. This reading occurs in our calendar at a time in the UK there is a significant easing of the lockdown restrictions with shops allowed to open and churches preparing to open their doors to private prayer from Monday. There is a lot of fear as we move from ‘stay indoors; save lives’ to ‘stay alert.’
As I’ve reflected on this long and uncomfortable reading it has struck me that this reading reminds us that the Christian life is not easy. Jesus message of what the kingdom of heaven looks like in the command to love your neighbour as yourself is a hard one. It is easier to criticize, hate or just ignore those who don’t look like us, or were raised in the same culture, or speak another language. We have seen a lot of that in the news and on social media this week. Loving ourselves and loving our neighbour is hard.
Loving ourselves sounds easy but who are we really? It is a hard journey to find out who we really are and not who we pretend to be. That journey can be painful as we unearth those parts of ourselves we would much rather hide.
To love our neighbour we have to also have to spend time with that person and listen to their lives and their worries. Not our worries but theirs. This means coming out of a place where we are comfortable and moving into a place of vulnerability and uncertainty that is never easy.
In Jesus’ pep talk to his disciples he is really clear that sometimes the world outside our safe places is hard ‘see I am sending you out into the midst of wolves.’ There is a realism here. Jesus’ message of love and care will be opposed. But there is wisdom ‘be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.’ So educate yourself, be strategic, engage your brain but be kind and look for the best in people.
So how do those of us who are not shielding get back into the world outside our front doors? It isn’t going to be easy but we can make a difference if we keep Jesus at the centre.
The reading is here: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=86340552