20th July 2020 – Paul Bridges 19th July
Do you have a sanctuary? A place or a way of getting away from it all, having some “me time”. Does a favourite walk or place come to mind or is it a particular activity.
Perhaps it is your garden or even your shed! – I once saw a book called “Men and their sheds”, but probably best not to say too much more on that!
In the church, the sanctuary is the area around the altar or communion table. This derives from the tradition that this is the holiest place –a sanctuary is literally a container or place of holiness. In the Methodist (and URC) tradition we may be less inclined to understand God in this geocentric way, preferring to see God throughout the world. But at the same time, our churches are special places for us.
In medieval times the church as sanctuary had another meaning. Those fleeing persecution or prosecution could seek sanctuary in the church. This was recognised by English law from the fourth to the seventeenth century. Even today it would be quite something for the police to enter a church or place of worship to remove an individual who was claiming sanctuary.
But the idea of sanctuary is even older than that. In the Books of Numbers and Deuteronomy, there are references to “Cities of Refuge”. The City of Sanctuary movement which supports refugees and asylum seekers reflect this old tradition.
Another way to think about sanctuary is a place where you feel safe enough to be challenged. This opens up the idea of relationships being sanctuary. Friendships, therapeutic relationships, our relationship with God all being sanctuary. But it also means that sanctuary is not a place to run away to but a place where we are willing to see more clearly, to understand in a new way. It also means that sanctuary is not just for the persecuted but for each one of us.
Thank you for places of rest and nourishment
Thank you for relationships of trust and care
Thank you that in all its forms we find sanctuary in you.
21st July 2020 – Revd Paul Bettison
I guess we all like harmony. Whether it be harmony in relationships when we are in agreement with others, or harmony in music when different notes blend together to make a pleasing sound, harmony is something to be sought after. But what if harmony is lacking, and things are discordant? Just listen to a group of first year students of the violin, playing together, and you’ll know what I mean. What then?
In a recent edition of Sunday Worship composer Bob Chilcott spoke about the experience of listening to discordant music and reflected upon the importance, in composing, of the appropriate use of dissonance (lack of harmony). He went on to say that dissonance is not the opposite of harmony, but rather something that makes the listener take notice. Sometimes that’s uncomfortable, sometimes captivating. Dissonance, he said, can be energizing and challenging. It can leave things up in the air. In the introduction to the service we were told that there would be in the worship, an exploration of the power of music to speak in troubled times. Our times.
Listening to the composer reflect set me to thinking about our present situation. We experience dissonance in our relationship with the world as we have hitherto known it. Things just don’t feel right. We have been forced to take notice of lots of things. Bring some of those things to mind now. On what, and on who, has society placed value? What have we taken for granted? What needs to change? Bob Chilcott suggested that dissonance has the capacity to ‘push us forward’. And so it does.
A final thought. If we are looking for an example of dissonance that has pushed us forward, we need look no further that the Gospel of Jesus. His ‘Way’, was, and is discordant with many of the ways of the world, yet it is the way to experience life in all its fullness.
Could it be that the dissonance that we experience as a consequence of Covid 19 will push us on to a new experience of life?
Send me, God of new beginnings,
Humbly hopeful into life.
Use me as a means of blessing:
Make me stronger, give me faith.
Give me faith to be more faithful,
Give me hope to be more true,
Give me love to go on learning:
God! Encourage and renew!
Fred Kaan [adapted]
22nd July 2020 – Revd Paul Bettison
I can even now, some fifty odd years later, picture Mr Wadsworth standing on the platform at Parkside County Secondary School. Hands grasping the lectern, black academic gown neatly pressed, he shared words of wisdom before bidding the leavers a fond farewell and launching us into a waiting world. I have another picture of the headmaster in his study, flexing his cane before doling out punishment on this quivering miscreant. No sign of fondness here.
Yet, more than his valedictory speech, or even the episode in the torture chamber, I recall the words of the blessing that he shared at the end of that Leavers’ Assembly. They will be familiar to those conversant with the Book of Common Prayer. That blessing I offer as our prayer for today.
The prayer has for its inspiration, encouraging words found in a letter of St Paul to the Christians in the church in Thessalonica. (1 Thessalonians chapter Five) By all accounts, they were a faithful bunch of Christians seeking to live out their faith in a world somewhat hostile or indifferent to the message of the Gospel of Jesus. Sound familiar?
In 1966 Mr Wadsworth sent out his pupils to make their way in the world. Today Jesus sends out his disciples in peace with his blessing, to ‘love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit’. So, disciples become apostles. Those who follow, become those who are sent out to walk in his way.
Go forth into the world in peace.
Be of good courage.
Hold fast that which is good.
Render to no one evil for evil.
Strengthen the fainthearted.
Support the weak.
Help the afflicted.
Show love to everyone.
Love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit;
and the blessing of almighty God,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Source: Book of Common Prayer, 1892, 1928, modified.
23rd July 2020 – Revd Paul Bettison
It was only a small puddle but nevertheless she jumped as if it was an ocean. Hood of her yellow cagoul up and feet encased in red wellies, there she was, ‘puddle jumping’ whilst cars and vans sped past and the rain came down in buckets. Time after time the toddler repeated her jumps, water splashing all around her. I watched from the window and couldn’t help but smile. Little things can bring so much joy and transform the dullest, drabbest, wettest of days.
I was reminded that the God who, as it were, flung stars into space and who ‘made the mountains rise’, is the also the God of little things. Life is full of the small things that whilst sometimes appearing in the grand scheme of things to be insignificant nonetheless enrich life and give to us moments of joy.
Maybe, at the end of the day, pause, reflect and ask of yourself the question, What today has made me smile? Then thank God for those gifts of joy.
My God, I thank you, who have made
the earth so bright,
so full of splendour and of joy,
beauty and light;
so many glorious things are here,
noble and right.
I thank you, too, that you have made
joy to abound;
so many gentle thoughts and deeds
circling me round,
that in the darkest spot of earth
joy and love is found.