1st June 2020 Revd Paul Bettison
The Divine Heart of Darkness
I’ve been reading Catherine Bird’s book ‘The Divine Heart of Darkness’ and to be honest, I found it a bit hard going. But there were some real gems between its covers.
Catherine challenges the assumption that associates darkness with fear and evil and points out that darkness can be both comforting and a place in which to grow.
She writes of visiting a Neolithic tomb at Maeshowe on the island of Orkney. A low and gradually descending passage leads into the darkness of the tomb. It has been excavated so that, around the time of the shortest day of the year, a sharp ray of sunlight pierces the tomb at sunset and settles upon the back wall of the chamber. From within the darkness new life emerges.
In these challenging days our experience may, at times, feel a bit like being entombed in darkness. Yet God meets with us in both the light and the darkness.
‘..the darkness and the light are both alike.’ Psalm 139
Twilight is the space of our dreaming,
Even-tide when mourning shall cease,
Darkness is the place of renewal,
Deep within, the birthing of peace.
Through the Shadows God speaks silently,
Whispering the language of love.
2nd June 2020 Revd Paul Bettison
When reading the daily ‘Thoughts for the Day’, I’ve been struck by the frequency with which the theme has been, in some form or other, the wonder of Nature. Contributors have invited us to reflect upon the sights and sounds of Spring. Many of us have, during recent days and weeks, found ourselves re-connected with Creation.
An appreciation of the wonders of Creation affirms our humanity and connects us with the Creator. I understand that some Rabbinic traditions suggest that at the end of our lives God will just ask us whether we enjoyed Creation. Maybe now God is asking us the question “How are you enjoying Creation?” God may also be asking “How are you caring for it?”
“And God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good”
Genesis Chapter 1
Lord, how your wonders are displayed
where’re I turn my eye,
if I survey the ground I tread,
or gaze upon the sky!
today give me eyes to see the wonders of your creation and a heart that cares for it.
3rd June 2020 Revd Paul Bettison
My car is standing on the drive and, as I don’t want to contravene the ‘Stay at Home’ instruction, it has not been driven for weeks. Will the battery be flat? I just wonder whether, not having had the benefit of a regular spell of charging, all its energy will have drained away.
It would be easy, in these strange and challenging times, to let our ‘Spiritual Battery’ lose its charge. Without realising it, our ‘Spiritual Energy’ may, drip by drip, drain away. It’s not always easy, when separated from our friends in the church family, to keep our spiritual batteries charged. The practice of reading the bible daily and spending time in prayer is a helpful discipline, but sometimes easier said than done. I am grateful to those who have made sure that materials are easily available to members of our church family. I value the weekly news sheet, suggestions for worship, recorded sermons, thoughts for the day, regular telephone calls, and yes, even virtual coffee mornings via Zoom. All these things help me to keep my batteries charged, I hope that they help you too.
It was Samuel Johnson who said that friendships should be “kept in good repair”. The same could be said of our relationship with the God who created us and loves us.
Day by day, dear Lord,
Of you three things I pray:
To see you more clearly,
To love you more dearly,
To follow you more nearly,
Day by day.
(Richard of Chichester 1197-1253 adapted)
4th June 2020 Revd Paul Bettison
Setting an example
I don’t display a fish or a cross, or any other Christian symbol for that matter, in the rear window of my car. It’s not that I feel embarrassed, or ashamed to declare my faith, but rather because I don’t want, by misdemeanours whilst driving, to give Christians a bad name.! I don’t want to set a bad example.
We read in John’s Gospel of how Jesus, when sharing supper – the ‘Last Supper’ – with his disciples, by washing their feet, set them a good example. An example of selflessness and self-giving.
So, what example should we be setting? Later in the story, John tells us that Jesus gave them a new commandment “love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And it’s clear that this commandment extended to loving neighbours too – whoever and wherever they happened to be.
And surely, as those professing to be disciples of Jesus, that’s the example we seek to show.
May the love of Jesus fill me,
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self forgetting-
This is victory.
May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.
Katie Barclay Wilkinson in Singing the Faith
5th June 2020 Revd Paul Bettison
It was looking rather stunted and appeared not to be doing too well at all. Still alive, but not really flourishing. I turned the planter upside down and all was revealed – the poor old plant was pot-bound. Its roots a tangled ball, confined and enclosed by a pot that it had outgrown. Re-potted, the roots spread out, took on nourishment, and the plant grew by leaps and bounds.
I think that it’s easy to become, without realising it, spiritually pot-bound. We need space to explore different ways of thinking, broaden our horizons and grow. In what we know as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, challenges his listeners to think outside the box. He has no intention of ‘abolishing the law and the prophets’ – the bedrock of the Jewish Faith – but rather teaches the importance of exploring what it means for them as they go about their daily lives. Read about it in Chapters five and six of Matthew’s Gospel..
This time of enforced social isolation and distancing may offer the opportunity to be, as it were, ‘re-potted’, given the space to grow and flourish. With time at our disposal, we can read, think, and pray and maybe discover new truths and ways of understanding.
A reflection and Prayer;
‘When was it that we first forgot
that questions helped us grow,
or lost the openness to ask
and learn what we don’t know?”
in my faith, it’s tempting to ‘stay safe’ and stick with what I know – or think I know!
But, as those around Jesus discovered, in order to grow and flourish, it’s necessary to be open to different ways of seeing things.
Help me as I explore what it means to live a life of faith, to be guided by your Spirit, and feel embraced by your love.
And, when I sometimes get it wrong, as surely I will, let me know that you understand, and forgive.