2nd September 2020 – Revd Paul Bettison
Mixed Colours the label said. Packs of a dozen bedding geraniums, but no indication as to what colour they would turn out to be, or indeed whether they would flourish.
I needn’t have worried. With careful nurturing, and a few weeks to settle in and become established, they are in more ways than one, ‘in the pink’.
When planted in the border, I’d no idea as to how they would turn out. The best I could do, was to care for them and hope!
Kahil Gibran, in his book ‘The Prophet’, speaks to us of children. “They come through you, he writes, but not from you.” “You may give them your love, but not your thoughts.” ”You may house their bodies, but not their souls.” ”You are the bows from which your children, as living arrows, are sent forth.”
I wonder sometimes whether God, having granted us free-will, knows how we will turn out. Will we please, or disappoint the one who created us and loves us?
God of tender care,
You have cradled us in goodness,
You have mothered us in wholeness,
You have loved us into birth. *
Day by day, dear Lord,
Of thee three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
To love thee more dearly,
To follow thee more nearly,
Day by day. **
**Sir Richard of Chichester
4th September 2020 – Revd Philip Bee
Learning and Wisdom
Education has been in the spotlight recently. Home-learning has changed how we value teachers. The exams crisis shows how life-changing results can be to young people’s futures. Our PM makes a moral case for getting children back to full-time education ASAP.
We tend to think of education as providing us with knowledge and skills which help us to get jobs and determine whether we live well. But that’s not the only purpose of learning, nor is it the only path to living well. There is a spiritual dimension to education too. It is known as “wisdom”. Wisdom is the ability to make sensible choices about what we do and how we live. It is the capacity to discern what is wrong and what is right, what is good and what is bad. Wisdom involves understanding the consequences of our actions and acting accordingly.
Take climate change, for instance. Learning provides us with the knowledge that the world is warming up and that this is bad for our planet and for us. Only wisdom leads us to change how we live to stop that from happening. We need to both learning and wisdom to live spiritually in God’s world.
O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures. (Psalm 104: 24)
Understanding God, give us the wisdom to live well in your world. Amen.
What foolish choices you have made in the past and how you might you live wisely in the future.
7th September 2020 – Rev Paul Bettison
A surgeon friend of mine is an accomplished dry-stone waller. He tells me that, as a means of de-stressing, wall-building is second to none. Apparently, the concentration involved in placing the stones leaves no room for thinking about anything else.
I have watched in awe as a waller takes a stone, each one unique, and studying it carefully, gazes at the partly constructed wall, eventually to place the stone carefully in its allotted space. Apparently, the aim is to handle each stone only once. I have discovered that, rather than sorting through a pile of stones in order to locate one that will fit in a particular place, the object is to take a stone and identify the space into which it will best fit.
In a passage from 1 Peter we read that the folk to whom it is addressed are to see themselves as ‘living stones’, being built into a spiritual house. I have a picture of the ‘Divine Dry-stone Waller’ holding, almost caressing, each living stone, each one unique, and carefully placing it in a place to which it is best suited.
A question for each one of us; ‘Can I picture that same ‘Divine Dry-stone Waller’ taking hold of me and, considering my unique nature, gifts, and graces, placing me in the me-shaped place in the spiritual house that is the embodiment of the Kingdom of God?
Here I am, gracious God.
I don’t know quite what I have to offer.
I am not great,
I don’t think that I’m learned,
I don’t think that I’m wise.
I don’t think that I have deep insights
Or the greatest understanding.
I know that I’m not the most devout,
Or most faithful.
I’m just me.
And yet, help me to see that
there is a place in the world,
in the church,
and in your Kingdom
just for me.
Based on a prayer by Karen Campbell
9th September 2020 – Rev Paul Bettison
They are, apparently, quite a spectacle. Redundant cruise ships, moored in Weymouth Bay. No longer, because of the pandemic, ploughing the ocean waves, they float virtually empty and sightseers take boat trips to circumnavigate the flotilla.
Since the first century, the image of a boat has been a symbol of the Christian Church. In these challenging times, do we feel redundant? Our buildings, as it were, moored offshore, we’re not even a tourist attraction.
Yet deep down we know that the church – the body of Christ – is not furloughed, but at work in the world as we respond to the good news of the Gospel of Jesus by sharing in worship (albeit rather differently), showing concern for others, and offering support both to each other and to those with whom we share our lives. We are called to be a symbol of hope in a troubled world.
Each cruise ship has a skeleton crew (not literally!) aboard. One of their tasks is to ensure that, in rough weather, the ship doesn’t drift. As we weather the storm another symbol of the church comes to mind, that of the anchor, and I’m reminded of the Boys Brigade hymn. In answer to the question, ‘Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?’ comes the assurance –
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
Fastened to the rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!
If, in these strange times, we feel that the church is redundant,
assure us that we have a purpose to fulfil.
If, because being unable to gather as once we did, we feel that our church family is drifting,
assure us that the anchor of our faith will hold us fast, and hold us together.
If I feel that my faith is wavering, and I wonder about what the future may hold,
assure me of your unwavering love.
11th September 2020 – Rev Paul Bettison
‘Flip Flops are having a moment’. So ran the headline in a recent edition of a popular newspaper. How could I resist exploring further? Reading the article I discovered that it was about how the pandemic has changed the way in which people dress for work. Or more specifically, the tendency of those working from home not to worry about the boss ‘seeing your toes’. It went on to report that ‘elasticated waistbands are in’. Phew! Basically, the gist of the article was that, when working or socialising on Zoom or any other on-line platform, what we wear, if not seen, doesn’t matter. But a word of warning; I heard of a police officer working from home, who, preparing for an online meeting with colleagues, donned a shirt and tie in the sure and certain knowledge that anything below the waistline would remain unseen. However, the appearance on screen of a very senior officer necessitated his standing to attention. The sight of his boxer shorts caused a few eyebrows to raise. Folk can come a cropper (or copper!).
But, as we are countless times reminded in scripture, appearances are not the be all and end all. In fact, what we look like is of little consequence when compared with the sort of people we are and the things that we do. Jesus had hard things to say about Faith leaders who seemed to be more concerned with outward appearance than with inner holiness and acts of loving kindness. “By their fruits you shall know them”
Maybe the pandemic has taught us a lesson about what really matters.
So, flip-flops, elasticated waistbands, and boxer shorts – who cares? And anyway, I promise that if you take part in Zoom worship or coffee mornings you will not be required to stand up!
As if it mattered to you how we look!
Help us to see that our devotion to each other and to you is what matters.
That our acts of loving kindness are of more importance than our outward appearance.
If we try to follow in the way of Jesus, that’s what really counts.
And we thank you that, knowing us as we truly are, you love us still.