27th July 2020 – Revd Philip Bee
Jesus and Social Isolation
We think of social isolation as a contemporary thing. Much of Jesus’s ministry, however, involves the rehabilitation of those who have become socially isolated – from family, friends and neighbours. Lepers, for instance, were kept in separate colonies outside villages to avoid spreading disease within the community. A woman with a haemorrhage lives with others still but is considered unclean and must not touch others or be touched. Zacchaeus is a little fella that everyone shuns because he collects taxes on behalf of the occupying forces of Rome – he’s treated as a collaborator. A woman at a well should not be talked to, because she’s from Samaria and therefore stigmatised because of race and faith. The list of socially isolated characters that Jesus encounters, embraces with love and transforms goes on. We are social beings who need one another to feel fully human – that is part of the healing that Jesus brings to those he meets.
COVID-19 has been a terrible disease physically, killing some, bereaving others, and leaving yet others with lasting damage to their bodies. But it has also driven us apart as communities, causing people to be terribly lonely. Part of our role as Church is to walk in the footsteps of Jesus in rehabilitating into community those who have become separated. As guidance and legislation allow, we are doing our best to get our churches open again so that all may enjoy the health benefits of simply being together. We may have to wear masks for a while and wash our hands with more frequency and sit further apart than normal. But these are small prices to pay right now for the chance of enjoying the company of others.
As all this unfolds, continue to keep a careful eye to those around you who are most vulnerable to COVID, most frightened by it, and most isolated because of it. And, of course, continue to remember that however isolated we may feel, our God is with us.
28th July 2020 – Rev Paul Bettison
Danger – Deep Water’. ‘Danger – Falling Rocks’ (although what you’re supposed to do about that I’m never sure). Warning signs can make us edgy, especially the one relating to the perils of Covid 19 – ‘Stay Alert’. All these, and many more, can so easily elicit in us, an acute sense of fear.
Time after time we read in the Gospels words attributed to Jesus – “Do not fear”. But that’s easier said than done. And after all, what is fear, but wisdom encountering danger.
I recall a visit to Strangeways Prison some 30 years ago. Together with another student I was spending the day with one of the Probation Officers working there. He accompanied the two of us around and, as we made our way along a corridor of cells, doors open, he kept repeating the direction “Keep close.” “Keep close”. It was somewhat frightening. We wondered at the time whether he was being just a tad overdramatic. Yet around two weeks later, we heard on the news that a Social Worker visiting the prison had been dragged by an inmate into his cell. It was then a hostage situation.
An episode of wisdom encountering danger perhaps?
If we feel as if, by experiencing fear, we’ve let the side down and are deficient in our faith, try adding to “Do not fear” the words of encouragement “Keep close”. That’s not to say that the danger melts away, but rather that we’re not alone in facing it.
Gracious God, when I feel afraid, as from time to time I do, remind me that sometimes that’s alright. Sometimes my fear keeps me safe.
There are dangerous things around. Some I can see, others are hidden.
But help me to keep close to you so that together we can face the dangers.
Let me hear again Christ’s words:
“Do not be afraid”. Is he also saying “Keep close”?
29th July 2020 – Rev Paul Bettison
No More than thirteen years had passed since Old Mrs Chundle had attended worship at her Parish Church. The new curate soon discovered why. She was, in her words, ‘deaf as a plock’. (I think that’s dialect for ‘post’, but Thomas Hardy, the author of the story, isn’t around to ask!). The curate addresses himself to the problem, and suggests, as a solution, the installation of an ear-trumpet. He explains to Mrs Chundle that a sound tube is fixed, with its lower mouth in the seat immediately below the pulpit, the tube running up inside the pulpit with its upper end opening in a bell-mouth just beside the book rest. He tells her that the preacher’s voice enters the bell-mouth and is carried down directly to the listener’s ear. You know the sort of thing. There’s one on the pulpit of St Mary’s Church at the top of Whitby’s 99 steps installed, in years gone by, for the benefit of the wife of a vicar. A pre-cursor to the PA systems with which we are familiar!
During a recent Zoom Service we heard Sandie reflect upon the parable of the sower. The Word of God being likened to seed falling on ground of various types. Some receptive and fertile, other not so.
Old Mrs Chundle struggled to hear the preacher. That was until the curate found a way of conveying the Word, as if spoken only to her. Whether we share in worship on-line, or back in church (although let’s hope that it’s not thirteen years before we get there!) sometimes we need, as it were, an ear trumpet. For God’s Word, made flesh in Jesus, is a word for each and every one of us.
Speak, O Lord, as we come to you
To receive the food of your holy word.
Take your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfil in us
All your purposes for your glory.
Keith Getty and Stuart Townend
30th July 2020 – Sue Ellis
One of our good friends has been treated for Bowel cancer recently. We are all really thankful as it looks like that he will make a full recovery; although both his life and attitude to life are no doubt altered by the experience. The most positive person throughout has been my friend Anne (his wife of 10 years). She is extremely extrovert and lively woman who having started life as a journalist, has maintained a colourful blog of their journey.
And her most recent post was beside a photograph of the lovely sunflower that has come up in her garden, regardless of the fact that last year, ‘the garden was neglected and went to pot’. She goes on –‘So how thoughtful of the sunflowers to set their seeds. Everywhere. So many, in fact, that I’ve planted them around the village to cheer folk up. It is going to be very yellow!’
Spiritually, the internet tells me that sunflowers symbolise faith and are worshiped throughout many cultures. The sunflower resembles the sun, which encourages us to seek enlightenment and truth.
So I am taking time to reflect on the joy of the sunflower, sprouting for my friends against the odds, and then for that joy to be spread around.
Psalm 104 is a hymn of creation, about all the fullness God has created and part is given below for reflection:
11You send the springs into the brooks,
which run among the hills,
12 They give drink to every beast of the field,
And the wild asses quench their thirst.
13 Besides them the birds of the air make their nests
And sing among the branches.
14 You water the hills from your dwelling on high;
The earth is filled with the fruit of your works.
15 You make grass to grow for cattle and plants to meet our needs
16 Bringing forth food from the earth and wine to gladden our hearts.
31st July 2020 – Rev Paul Bettison
I can recall little of the story of the Water Babies, as related by Charles Kingsley other than the motherly Mrs-do-as-you-would-be-done-by. Her name ofttimes used by my own mother in her attempts at raising a kindly child.
As I write this reflection news is breaking of the revised medical advice relating to the wearing of face-masks. Their purpose, not to protect the wearer from contracting the Covid 19 virus, but rather to protect those with whom the wearer comes into contact. It makes common sense and indicates a concern for others. Yet there are many who I guess will choose, perhaps on grounds of cussedness or vanity, to ignore the instruction. Sad to say, as we well know, some prominent public figures are included in their number. Maybe self-importance imparts immunity from carrying and spreading the virus! Or maybe not.
If there is to be issued, a Government Health Warning maybe we could suggest as a starter, some words from the letter of St Paul to the Christian community in Philippians; “There must be no room for personal vanity among you. Look to not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”
If that does not appeal to folks’ better nature, maybe we’ll have to fall back on Mrs-do-as-you-would-be-done-by, and the virtuous principle from which derives her name.
When I am irritated
For the seventh time
And it feels like seventy times seven…
Help me to remember your patience with me.
When I am asked
To be patient
Again and again…
Help me to remember your patience with me
When I challenge
Over and over…
Help me to remember your patience with everyone.
Rachel Poolman (Adapted)