Isolation apart, It’s been a useful time to get on top of sorting the clutter of a lifetime; the multiple sets of old (but oh so comfy) work clothes and shoes; the old radio, the rusty tools, and the debris and decay of a long-neglected garden.
Sat in the sweltering 30 degree heat of a June afternoon I am becalmed in a sea of socially distanced vehicles, each stuffed with bin liners, builder’s sacks and recently disgorged compost bags, all queuing for an hour and a half at the Council tip as, with stiff upper lip, we sweetly comply with ‘one out –one in’.
How and why did we collect this ‘stuff? When did we think we were going to need it all? And who made us believe our lives would be so much the less without it!!!?
Lord, thank you for the stillness. Thank you for this time of deep reflection, a time to empty our lives of all the needless clutter which leaves no space for you to enter. Help us to reorder our priorities so we may reach out to you, to take your hand by simply letting go.
7th July 2020 Sue Ellis
So the latest Methodist newsletter asks us to supply a recent smiling photograph in order to welcome Nick our incoming minister, and assist him in meeting people in these strange times,. We are advised that the album will be created as a ‘thing of beauty for Nick’ when he arrives. My first thought -now that’s optimism for you!
My conversation with a fellow female Methodist on this topic, led us inevitably to discussing lack of access to haircuts, and how we currently feel about our shaggy appearance!
I don’t think that we are actually particularly vain – it’s just that our self-image and possibly self-belief are currently changed by circumstances. This made me think back to the Bake off contestant Nadiya Hussein – a humble, hijab-clad housewife from Luton with her emotions written all over her expressive face as she competed. When Nadiya was announced as winner, there wasn’t a dry eye in the tent, especially when the tearful victor inspirationally said: “I’m never going to put boundaries on myself again. I’m never going to say I can’t do it. I can. And I will.”
So yes I will supply a photograph without comment or apology! The important thing is for Nick to feel welcomed (and my haircut is booked and my self-belief will return as we work together.)
Reflection (adapted from refrain Hymn 471 by Geoff Bullock)
Lord Hold me close,
Let your love surround me;
Bring me near, draw me to your side.
And as I wait,
I’ll rise up like the eagle,
And I will soar with you,
Your spirit leads me on,
In the power of your love.
8th July 2020 Revd Paul Bettison
Who would have, a few short months ago, thought that we would be sharing in Bible Studies using something called Zoom? I’d never heard the word, other than to describe the action of moving very swiftly. Yet, at a recent ‘meeting’ as we reflected upon a passage from Romans, we recognized the importance of words, and the difference they make to our understanding.
We noticed that, when St Paul is reflecting upon the experience of suffering, in one translation we read that it ‘produces endurance’, whereas in another translation the word used is ‘perseverance’. That set us thinking and talking.
The word ‘endurance’ has a passive feel about it. It sounds as if St Paul is saying “There’s nothing you can do about it, so put up with it”, whereas, ‘perseverance’ sounded to us, much more positive. “Yes, suffering is challenging, but by keeping on going, something positive will come out of it”.
The passage is to be found at the beginning of the fifth chapter Romans, have a look at it, and see what you think and feel.
Has this something to say about how we face the challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic?
I thank you for the Bible.
Sometimes I hear people call it your ‘Word’
But maybe it should be called your ‘Words’.
And there are so many of them!
There are so many versions too.
I notice subtle differences between them, and some of those differences I find to be not so subtle at all.
If I’m honest, there are times when I find it all a bit confusing.
So, when I’m reading the bible, encourage me to use both my head and my heart so that, with the help of your Spirit, I may discover a Word for my life.
9th July 2020 Revd Paul Bettison
Images of God
When thinking of God, what images spring to mind? Shepherd, King or Lord? Jesus, Father, or Mother? Trevor Dennis, in his book ‘Speaking of God’ offers lots of suggestions including Butterfly, Fox, and Slug – yes, slug! I’m not sure that I would want to go that far, albeit from a slug’s point of view. But the images that we have of God are many and varied.
A few years ago, when supporting a probationer minister, we were exploring together what images resonated with us. When I suggested ‘Mother Hen’, he became excited and with a beaming smile told me that in the language of his native country of Ghana there was a word that, when translated into English, was just that. That’s not surprising – its an image we find in two of the Gospels. (Matthew 23 v 37 and Luke 13 v34)
Maybe today you could picture a mother hen, chicks all around her, keeping a watchful eye, but allowing them to wander off and explore the wide and wonderful world. Yet, at the first sign of danger, or when she senses that they need shelter, security, or comfort, calling them back, and gathering them under her wings.
So, today, what images of God ring true for you?
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.
Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.
Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your goodness;
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us;
in your love and tenderness remake us.
In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.
In Common Worship – from St Anselm of Canterbury (abridged)
10th July 2020 Rev Paul Bettison
Are you, each day, reporting-in to the COVID 19 Study? Almost 4 million people are using the App to advise Professor Tim Spector and the researchers whether they have had a COVID 19 test and whether they feel physically normal (for some of us that’s always debatable!)
I suppose it prompts me to ask myself the question ‘How am I feeling today?” Of course, its not only our physical well-being that should be of concern. How many of us reflect on how we’re feeling spiritually? A daily ‘Spiritual Health Check’ may not go amiss.
What questions should we ask of ourselves? Maybe something like; Do I feel up or down, or something in-between? Am I happy or sad, certain of my faith or doubting, close to others or somewhat distant? Am I in touch with God? You can think of countless others.
The good news is, that whatever the honest answers to the questions may be, God accepts us, cherishes us, and stays with us – ‘normal’ or not!
I bring to you my happiness and my weariness,
my disappointments and my hopes,
my friends and those I find myself at odds with,
my family and all the strangers I see, day in, day out.
I bring you everything,
and tip it out in front of you.
And now I pause a while in silence,
waiting for you to show me what I need to understand…
Gracious God, light up the things I need to see,
brush to one side the things I need to put out of my mind,
show me the doors I need to open and the paths I need to take,
and be beside me as I go.
Roddy Cowie (adapted)
Wild Goose Publications
11th July 2020 Rev Paul Bettison
The Basil is coming on in leaps and bounds. Seeds, planted only a few short days ago have sprouted and the seedlings are looking good. Placed in the shed, just by the window, they were growing at an angle, gravitating towards the light. Feeling benevolent, I gave them an airing outside where, basking in the sunlight, directly above, within a few short hours, they were standing erect.
My mind went back to Sunday School days and Mary Butler’s hymn ‘Looking upward every day, sunshine on our faces’. The last time it made an appearance in a Methodist hymnal was pre 1983, and even then it was relegated to the section bearing the heading ‘For Little Children’. And I think that’s a shame. For it speaks of growth in the Christian Faith. ‘Pressing onward every day’. ‘Growing every day in awe’. Learning every day to love with a love more lowly’. And in verse three, ‘Walking every day more close to our elder Brother (I take this brother to be Jesus).’ Maybe, when inspired to write the hymn, Ms Butler had in mind that wonderful passage in the Letter to the Hebrews in which the author encourages folk to ‘keep, their eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith’.
Looking, as it were, upwards, we can grow in faith, following in the way of Jesus. That way will be more lowly, in awe of the wonders of God, and close to ‘our elder brother’. Then we too will stand erect.
Our reflection; some words of the hymn, once considered to be ‘For Little Children’, but surely encouragement for children of all ages.
Looking upward every day,
Sunshine on our faces;
Pressing onward every day
Toward the heavenly places;
Growing every day in awe,
For Thy name is holy;
Learning every day to love
With a love more lowly;
Walking every day more close
To our elder brother;
Growing every day more true
Unto one another;
Leaving every day behind
Something which might hinder;
Running swifter every day;
Growing purer, kinder—
Lord, so pray we every day:
Hear us in Thy pity,
That we enter in at last
To the holy city.