Wednesday 27th January 2021 – Rev Philip Bee
I once lived in a house not far from the local secondary school. At the start of every school year, I used to smile at the new students lumbering to school. They were smaller than the older children, but also weighed down with luggage that the others had long since jettisoned: bags were full with books and files; PE kits, woodwork aprons, science coats; anoraks they didn’t quite need yet. They also carried personal fears and their parents’ expectations for the future. However, it was always a joy to see them two weeks later, skipping more lightly into their new world unencumbered by things considered indispensable at first.
Faith is a journey not a destination. And we are encouraged to travel light.
You will travel well in faith, Jesus tells his disciples, if you are not weighed down by the trappings of life. Our wealth offers security against an uncertain future at one level; at another level, money can become such a focus of attention that it starts to own us, rather than us owning it. Having clothes to keep us warm, a home to keep us dry and enough food to keep us healthy are basic essentials to life which we should desire for all people. But when we become obsessed with what we look like, what restaurant we eat at, and whether we keep up with our neighbours, these things have probably become a burden rather than a blessing.
Living well in God’s world means keeping all things in proportion. It means travelling light.
“Take nothing for the journey.” (Mark 6: 8a)
Loving God, help me to declutter my life, that I may see more clearly where I am going and journey lightly in your world. Amen.
Friday 29th January 2021 – Rev Paul Bettison
Whitby has for centuries been at the very heart of seafaring and shipbuilding. At one point there were, along the banks of the River Esk, twenty shipyards. Now there is only one. Yet, this one is thriving, growing, and looking forward to a prosperous future. So, what are they doing right? According to their project manager, it is a blend of three things. The first is tradition, the second is innovation, and the third is diversity.
As we prepare to emerge from the pandemic, eyes blinking in the light of the ‘New Normal’, maybe there is something for us here. In order to thrive, grow, and prosper, we would do well to reflect upon and treasure (but not idolise!) our tradition, identify and initiate new ways of being and doing, and recognise and cherish the variety that is to be found in the Church at its best.
That is, treasure the beliefs and practices that herald God’s Kingdom, dare to do things differently, and rejoice that Christ’s Church is a real mixed bag of folk.
The Church has been, throughout the ages, likened unto a ship, be that an ark or a lifeboat. If we are to be in the ship-building business, then we have some lessons to learn from Whitby’s shipyard.
The Church of Christ in every age
Beset by change but Spirit led,
Must claim and test its heritage
And keep on rising from the dead.
Then let the servant Church arise,
A caring Church that longs to be
A partner in Christ’s sacrifice,
And clothed in Christ’s humanity.
We have no mission but to serve
In full obedience to our Lord:
To care for all, without reserve,
And to spread his liberating Word.
Fred Pratt Green
1st February 2021 – Rev Philip Bee
I used to play true or false with my children. “A butterfly has 4 wings: true or false?” And they would jump one way or the other. It’s true by the way.
There’s a second type of trueness. Decorators use a plumb bob to measure whether wallpaper is truly vertical. Bricklayers use a spirit level to check that their wall is truly horizontal. Navigators use a compass to stay true to the intended direction.
That second trueness is important spiritually. A true friend aligns themselves with you and sees things as you do. They walk the path that you walk. A true friend loves you. Saint Paul describes what true love looks like in action:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not show off, and it does not think it is better than everyone else. Love is not rude, it is not selfish, and it is not angry easily. Love forgives other people. Love is not happy when people do wrong things. Love is always happy with the truth. Love never gives up on people. Love trusts people, always hopes for the best, and never quits. (1 Corinthians 13)
The spiritual person sees God as a true friend who guides us in straight paths with a love like this.
Reflect: Who has been a true friend to you in life?
3rd February 2021- Rev Paul Bettison
Poirot was a perfectionist. In one of the opening sequences of the most recent film version of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ we see him rejecting, time after time, boiled eggs that are not uniform in shape and size. He repeatedly adjusts misaligned cutlery, and on a couple of occasions, requests that men straighten neckties that have become askew. When challenged about his obsession, he replies “I can only see the world as it should be. And when it is not, it sticks out like a nose in the middle of a face”.
Few would say that the world is as it should be. The biblical Creation stories come out of communities that had arrived at the same conclusion. Looking at the world, they saw that all was not as it should be, hence the story of the catastrophe in the garden. God saw all that he had made, and it was ‘very good’. Yet it seems that what they saw led to their conclusion that something had gone horribly wrong. Likewise, with many of the prophets. Jeremiah, for example, berates the people for their unjust behaviour; people ‘who have eyes, but do not see’.
So, a question for us; can we, with Poirot, see the world as it should be? Have we a vision of the Kingdom of God? That is, a world in which all of God’s creation is cherished. A world in which its people, in the prophet Micah’s words, ‘do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God’. Then, if we can, what will we do to establish God’s Kingdom here on earth?
Poirot replied “I can only see the world as it should be. And when it is not, is sticks out like a nose in the middle of a face”. He went on to admit “It makes most of life unbearable.” I have admiration for those people who want to see the world restored to how it should be, even though for some, it means that their efforts result in life being, for them, almost unbearable. My own life is more than bearable, yet I hope that I never lose sight of how the world should be and live with that vision as my guide. How about you?
Maybe I’m not a perfectionist,
but even so, when I look at the world in which I live,
I can see that there is much amiss.
Surely, this is not how you intended it to be.
Help me to catch a vision of your kingdom.
A kingdom in which Creation is cherished and protected.
A kingdom in which everyone is valued equally,
and the earth’s rich resources are equally shared.
May that vision be the guiding principle of my life and focus of my love.
Then, life for all people and all things will be not just bearable, but more abundant.
5th February 2021 – Rev Paul Bettison
This week I had occasion to borrow a car belonging to our grandson. Whist driving, I could not help but notice that other road users were giving me a wide berth. It wasn’t until I arrived at my destination and was leaving the car that I noticed the ‘L Plates’! I considered, for the return journey, covering them up or affixing a notice bearing the words ‘Not me!’ After all, I gained my driving licence over 50 years ago, so surely, I’m not still learning. Or am I?
That set me to thinking about the whole area of learning. Recent research has revealed that, during the pandemic, learning something new has been one of the things that has helped people to cope and thrive. For some, that has been the learning of a new skill or craft, for others, a new language or academic discipline.
I think that it is really important for me to learn more about the faith that motivates and informs my life. You may have picked up that Hugh Bonneville has narrated a short series of programmes based on the scholarly book by John Barton – The History of the Bible. I know that some of our Local Preachers have studied the tome. In the programme we heard fascinating and challenging insights about the bible, and I found myself both inspired and challenged. Much of the content was reasonably familiar to me, but there was also lots to learn. The French composer, Michel Legrand, observed that “The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.” How about you – do you know it all, or are you still learning? That I passed my driving test over 50 years ago gives a clue to my age, so why, at this stage in life should I bother to learn anything new? The wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi comes to mind;
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
So, maybe I should, as it were, attach some ‘L plates’ to my front and back to show that I’m still learning!
And that applies not only to my knowledge and understanding of the bible, but to all of life and faith.
God of wisdom
We thank you for our intelligence
with which we can probe the mysteries of the universe.
We thank you for our knowledge of medicine, of technology, of theology, of scripture, and so much more.
We thank you for the joy of music, art and drama, and all our creativity
O God of everything that is good,
add to our intelligence, our speech,
our knowledge and our creativity the gift of
your cross-shaped wisdom and the willingness to learn new things.
James Ashdown in ‘Conversations’ URC Prayer Handbook (adapted)