8th June 2020 Revd Paul Bettison
The Open Book
Light appears to shine from the book laying open before the High Priest. Jesus stands impassive as the priest, using the book of scripture as his authority, accuses him of blasphemy.
In his painting, Gerrit van Honthorst illustrates the danger of being too ready to judge, especially when using scripture as evidence of wrong doing. Writing about the painting, Revd Nicholas Holtam, one time vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, comments “Jesus’ silence ought to give all religious people pause for thought about our confident judgements of right and wrong. It is so easy to misuse scripture”.
In the painting, the light emanating from the book is in fact light reflected from a candle, standing on the table. A brighter light shines from the one standing in front of the High Priest. Jesus, the Light of the World.
Not far beyond the sea nor high
above the heavens, but very nigh
your voice, O God is heard.
For each new step of faith we take
you have more truth and light to break
forth from your holy word.
George Bradford Caird
Gracious God, help me to discern the truth in your word and use it wisely.
9th June 2020 Revd Alan Wilthew
I’ve noticed of late, that when I go out on my daily walk how people smile and say hello. Perhaps it’s because fewer of us are about. I mean when there’s lots of people around, you don’t say hello or smile to acknowledge everyone. You would never get anywhere, but when you take time to be friendly to someone they respond likewise. Its’ the same with God. If you ignore him he seems far off. And if you take time to acknowledge him through prayer and reading his word, he seems nearer.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:8
Lord I just want to thank you that whatever is happening in the world today you have time for me, help me to regularly make time for you.
10th June 2020 Revd Paul Bettison
In the swim
“Just relax,” he shouted from the edge of the swimming pool “And you’ll float.” There I was, in my mid-thirties, attempting to learn how to swim, and Stead was doing his best to give me confidence. But, “Just relax”? Easier said than done.
My initial reaction was to panic, arms and legs flaying around like demented windmill blades. The result? More than a sinking feeling. Yet, with encouragement, my confidence grew and I came to discover that if I trusted the water to hold me up, it would. Wonder of wonders, I could float.
It was all about trust. And that’s what faith is about too. Trust in God, as revealed in Jesus, and present as the Holy Spirit. Faith, understood in this way, counteracts panic, relieves anxiety, and casts out fear.
Whilst I’m not very good at it, when on holiday I enjoy ‘swimming’ in an outdoor pool. I lay back on the surface of the water and gaze heavenward, and it’s bliss.
Drop your still dews of quietness,
Till all my strivings cease;
Take from my soul the strain and stress,
And let my ordered life confess
The beauty of your peace.
John Greenleaf Whittier (adapted)
11th June 2020 Revd Philip Bee
On Little Joys
“The idea of hurry-hurry as the most important objective of living, is unquestionably the most dangerous enemy of joy.” So wrote German essayist and author, Hermann Hesse, in 1905. He goes on to describe a world 115 years ago, where people lived at an ever-increasing pace in pursuit of entertainments that erode people’s capacity to appreciate the little joys that actually surround them. One can only imagine Hesse’s despair at the world we inhabit today, where distractions have multiplied a thousand-fold and where people have tuned out almost completely to the joys he wants us to be open to.
“The loveliest joys,” he says, “are always those that cost no money.” We should accustom ourselves to look for a moment at the stretch of sky above every morning; to remember to scent the fresh air that is bestowed upon us between night-time and day-time; to remain alert to the nuances of lighting that change at the gable end of a building from hour to hour; to listen out for the birdsong that goes largely unnoticed by most people. These are the “tiny things from which one can weave a bright necklace of little pleasures for one’s life.”
Lockdown has slowed life down. It has quietened the world we inhabit. Perhaps that also makes time and space to re-acquaint our senses with some of the little joys that we’ve been missing in life?
12th June 2020 Revd Paul Bettison
‘Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
bridges and houses, hedges, and ditches’ – so begins Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem From a Railway Carriage.
The traveller glimpses through the window of the railway carriage, meadows, horses, cattle, a child gathering brambles, a tramp who ‘stands and gazes’, and much much more.
The poem ends, ‘And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever’ But are they? Their memory and their impact have made an impression.
In these challenging times there will be those people who, whilst entering into our lives for only a relatively fleeting moment or two, will make an impression. People who show loving kindness. For patients, maybe a nurse, cleaner, or doctor. For others, someone who has in some way enriched our lives.
Someone once said that there are those people who enter our lives for only a brief moment, yet we are never the same again.
Christians believe that Jesus was such a person. And his Spirit is with us still.
I thank you for those people who have enriched my life, and in the stillness remember some of them now.
I thank you too for Jesus, who revealed your love for the world, changed lives, and changes them still.
Help me to draw alongside others as they journey and show something of your love.
13th June 2020 Revd Paul Bettison
The Supper at Emmaus
Caravaggio, in his painting, depicts how, as they share supper, Jesus is revealed to the two disciples who had on that first Easter Day travelled the dusty road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Here, Caravaggio depicts the moment of recognition. It’s a wonderful story and a powerful reminder that often the Jesus in our midst goes unrecognised.
Take a few moments to look at and into the painting. What do you see?
Maybe you, like me, noticed that the clothing of the group is not that of First Century Palestine, but maybe that of 17th Century Italy; the artist’s own time and place. Food for thought?
I’m also struck by the way in which Caravaggio has left a space at the front of the table. A place for you and for me. It is almost as if the gap is inviting us in. And is it Jesus who has become the host?
In these times of ‘lockdown’ when worship in church buildings is not possible, we have missed the blessing of sharing in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. But be sure that when, having walked the dusty road through the pandemic, we return, there is a place at the table waiting for us. And until then, whether eating alone, or with a companion, we can take heart that the Risen Jesus is with us.
In these difficult times, when sharing bread and wine around the table in church is not possible, I look forward to a time when we can once again meet for communion with each other and with you. I thank you that there will be a place waiting for me.
Today help me to recognise the Risen Jesus who, in and through the Holy Spirit, meets with me in everyday things and places – even as I, in my home, sit at my own table.