8th March 2021 – Revd Paul Bettison
‘Speech is silver, silence is golden’. So runs the ancient proverb. The sentiment is echoed in the bible ‘When there is too much talk, offence is never far away; the prudent hold their tongues’. (Proverbs 10 verse 19) I can, without too much difficulty, call to mind meetings when I have wished that such a statement had appeared as Item One on the agenda. Believe it or not, some of those occasions relate to church meetings! There is wisdom in the saying ‘We have two ears but only one mouth’ When our mouths are open then, so often, our ears are closed.
The season of Lent affords, for many folk, an incentive to purposefully set aside times to be silent. Sitting or walking in enforced silence has been our experience during these past months. For some, that has proved to be difficult, yet for others there has come a fresh discovery of the value of silence.
Sometimes, silence really is golden. For, in silence we are able to listen to the world and listen to each other. And, who knows, in listening to the world and to each other, we may be listening to God. In silence we can also listen to ourselves. Sister Wendy Beckett hits the nail on the head – “The capacity for silence – a deep creative awareness of one’s inner truth – is what distinguishes us as human.”
So, this Lent why not set a time and place aside in which to be truly silent? Who knows, this holy habit may become the habit of a lifetime.
O sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
when Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity
interpreted by love!
With that deep hush subduing all
our words and works that drown
the tender whisper of your call,
as noiseless let your blessing fall
as fell your manna down.
Drop your still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of your peace.
John Greenleaf Whittier
10th March 2021 – Dr Alison Caswell
Despite all the problems of shopping online etc., I’ve not gone wanting during the lockdowns, not least because of my excellent neighbours and the way we’ve
co-ordinated our activities and shared our bank details. Good neighbours are a real blessing. “Love your neighbour as yourself” is one of the two greatest commandments, and it’s not a hard thing to do when you have good neighbours. Sadly however, some may be surrounded by those who are not good neighbours, and if we recognise, as Jesus intends us to, that neighbours are not just those who live next door, I’m sure most of us can think of people who we find it hard to love as ourselves. So today, let’s give thanks for those who are good neighbours to us, but also pray for those who are not and ask God for the strength to love them as we love ourselves.
12th March 2021 – Revd Paul Bettison
When the psalmist looks up to the heavens he sees ‘the stars – work of God’s fingers’. When you look up at the stars in the heavens what is it that you see?
In Graham Swift’s novel ‘Waterland’ Dad, looking to the open skies of the Fens, professes a belief that the stars are “The silver dust of God’s blessing.” He says, “God cast them down to fall on us. They are little broken-off bits of heaven.” Then the sting in the tail. “But when he saw how wicked we were, he changed his mind and ordered the stars to stop. Which is why they hang in the sky but seem as though at any time they might drop.”
So, it seems that we are sunk! That is, if in order to see those bits of heavenly blessing to drop to earth, we need to wait until the world is freed from wickedness.
As travelling through the season of Lent, we reflect upon our lives, and acknowledge that they are far from perfect, it would be so easy to become downhearted.
And yet, the wonder of the Gospel is that, as St Paul proclaims, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Not just then – for the good, but “Once, and for all”. What greater blessing than to be a recipient of God’s love, so often channelled through those with whom we share our lives and shown most perfectly in Jesus?
Our Reflection for today:
This Lent is my heart and my mind
open to both recognise and receive
the ‘silver dust’ of God’s blessings
as they fall from heaven, undeserved,
yet given in love.
15th March 2021 – Revd Paul Bettison
The ‘Influencers’ have been getting some stick for allegedly breaking pandemic rules, travelling to exotic locations and then posting pictures of themselves living it up. I wrote ‘allegedly’ because their defence is that they were working. So, what do ‘Influencers’ do? Because I wasn’t really sure, I looked up a definition; An influencer is someone who has the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his or her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his or her audience. So now we know.
I cannot recall that, in my childhood, there were many such folk on the scene. But I do know that my parents were not happy for me to go out to play with Jimmy, because they judged him to be a “bad influence”. If, contrary to their advice, I went out and spent time with this miscreant they would, on my return home, complain, “I know who you’ve been playing with”.
So, as those who aspire to be disciples of Jesus, what sort of influencers are we? Maybe we think that our individual influence is pretty minimal. But there we would be wrong. By the way in which we set an example of how life in the Kingdom of God may look; by caring for the environment and for each other; we can influence the actions and views of others.
Jesus reiterated the greatest commandments – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind’ ‘and your neighbour as yourself’. So, let us aspire to be ‘Influencers’ for good, seeking to affect not only the purchasing decisions of others – although in the context of ethical trade and conservation that is important – but also the way in which folk live and love.
How small a spark has lit a living fire!
How small a flame has warmed a bitter world!
How great a heart was moved to hope, to dare
and bring the faith out in the open air!
Shirley Erena Murray
17th March 2021 – Revd Paul Bettison
‘If your day’s up the spout
Well there isn’t a doubt
There’s nowhere to go but up’
So sing characters at the end of the film, ‘The Return of Mary Poppins’ as, holding strings attached to balloons, they drift skyward, leaving all cares and concerns behind. There is something appealing about ‘drifting-off’, be that during a boring meeting (not that I speak from experience), or into sleep at the end of a hectic or monotonous day. To drift off, having let go of worries and burdens, yet holding on to dreams, truly is a blessing.
In the Old Testament we find the story of Jacob, a troubled soul, burdened by regrets and fears. Exhausted and despairing, Jacob lays down to sleep. As he sleeps, burdens, as it were, drift away. In their place appears the image of a ladder, ‘set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven’.(Genesis Chapter 28). In drifting off to sleep, Jacob discovered that, rather than, because of his behaviour, being alienated from God, God was with him ‘in that place’.
The ancient office of Compline, cherished by Christian communities for centuries, offers, in an attitude of quietness, an opportunity to seek peace as the day draws to its close. The service includes words from Psalm 4: In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. The service also includes the prayer;:
‘Save us, O Lord, while waking,
And guard us while sleeping,
That awake we may watch with Christ
And asleep may rest in peace.’
So, maybe revisit this ‘Thought’ at the end of today as you ‘drift off’. Sweet dreams.
Our Prayer is by Fay Rowland:
At the end of the day
I bring to you my tiredness,
For beneath me are your everlasting arms.
At the end of the day
I bring to you my failures,
For with you there is forgiveness.
At the end of the day
I bring to you my worries,
For you know what I need before I ask.
At the end of the day
I bring to you my dreams,
For my hope is in you alone.
At the end of the day
I come to you with nothing,
For you are my all, you are with me
At the end of the day. Amen
19th March 2021 – Revd Philip Bee
Contemporary spiritualities are often all about you. They encourage you to look inside yourself to search out what makes you happy. True spirituality, however, teaches that happiness is not found inside you. True spirituality turns you inside out. The search for happiness begins not with you, but with others. It’s counterintuitive, but we discover fulness of life in loving others.
Love your neighbour as yourself. (Mark 12:31)
Loving God, help me to focus myself on the wellbeing and happiness of those around me. In so doing, lead me to discover that fulness of life that you desire for all people.
What might it mean to live life to the full?