Pastoral Message – Sunday 14th June

Dear friends

When we first went into lockdown we were in the season of Lent with little or no idea of how long we would find ourselves in this situation.  Since then we have journeyed through Eastertide and now, just a couple of weeks ago, we began the season of Pentecost just at the same time as the lockdown was gently eased and we entered a new phase of the Covid-19 journey.

As the weeks unfold we may still feel as if we are in something of a wilderness.  The territory is still unfamiliar, we’re not sure of our destination, we’re not sure how the journey will end and perhaps we’re not sure how to continue to sustain ourselves during this journey.  We still have more questions than answers!

That perhaps reminds you, as it reminds me, of the journey which the Israelite nation made through the desert?  Like them we are journeying by stages, trying to work things out as we go, one day at a time, one step at a time.

Understandably perhaps the Israelite people became rather grumpy on this very long journey, wondering how much longer it would take, expressing their need for food and water and “having a go” at Moses who was leading them.  Exodus 16 v 2-3 says “The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.  The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”  Long journeys and challenging experiences tend to do that to us and maybe there are some resonances here for how we are feeling at the moment?

Perhaps you are feeling the strain of not knowing how much longer life as it is at the moment must continue?  Perhaps you are feeling hungry and thirsty for the familiar routines, for answers and clarity, for an end to the unknown and the risks and the anxiety?  Perhaps you are angry with those in positions of leadership in our nation or our church?  Perhaps you are angry because of the behaviours that you see in others and the damage that is doing to our world, our society, our communities, our relationships and the most vulnerable among us?

So, be gentle and patient with yourselves and with others.  Keep washing your hands, keep putting on your face mask, keep making contact with those who are important to you, keep connecting with your worshipping community, keep reaching out to those who are vulnerable, keep speaking out against the injustice you see and keep praying.  After a very long time, the Israelites did make it to the Promised Land and we will eventually get through this Covid-19 wilderness too.

But if there is still a long way to go, are there perhaps other things that we can also do in the meantime?  Well, I’d like to suggest that we do something rather more productive than simply grumble about all that’s difficult or limiting in these days!  Lots of changes have had to be made to the way that we live over recent months and it’s very easy to focus on all that’s missing from our lives now.  But I wonder if, as well as all the practical things that I’ve just mentioned, we couldn’t also usefully ask ourselves these questions?  What are we missing and why?  What are we glad not to be doing anymore?  What are we doing now that we would want to continue?  What are we not doing that we would not want to go back to?

It seems to me that this current inconvenience and disruption to our normal lives has provided us with a wonderful opportunity to focus our attention on who and what really matters!  So, what if we let this period of time make us more intentional about what we choose to do or not do?  What difference to life after lockdown would that make to you, to those that you love, to those that you worship alongside or work alongside, to the wider community and to the world at large?  What is the Spirit of God saying to us in these days?

Whilst we may be deeply frustrated, anxious or weary of life as it is at the moment, let’s use this time to reflect upon what kind of society, what kind of community, what kind of church, what kind of individual we want to be as we emerge from our current situation.  Maybe this is a fantastic opportunity for change and transformation to take place in all of us?  Let’s not waste our time grumbling about what we don’t have or can’t experience, but look for all the ways in which God is present, active and speaking to us now and look forward to all that might be and could be in the “new normal” of the future.

As you take time to reflect on those questions, if you have thoughts or hopes or questions that you would be willing to share with me, I would love to hear them so that together we can discern what God is saying to us all about how our life together as the church might be shaped in the future.

God who sets us on a journey to discover, dream and grow,
lead us as you led your people in the desert long ago;
journey inward, journey outward, stir the spirit, stretch the mind,
love for God and self and neighbour marks the way that Christ defined.

Exploration brings new insights, changes, choices we must face;
give us wisdom in deciding, mindful always of your grace;
should we stumble, lose our bearings, find it hard to know what’s right,
we regain our true direction focused on the Jesus light.

End our longing for the old days, grant the vision that we lack –
once we’ve started on this journey there can be no turning back;
let us travel light, discarding excess baggage from our past,
cherish only what’s essential, choosing treasure that will last.

When we set up camp and settle to avoid love’s risk and pain,
you disturb complacent comfort, pull the tent pegs up again;
keep us travelling in the knowledge you are always at our side;
give us courage for the journey, Christ our goal and Christ our guide.
Words: Joy Dine (1937 – 2001) © Revd Mervyn Dine.

Every blessing,

Gill Newton, District Chair