The privilege of the weekly message falls to me this week as our wonderful Becky enjoys some well-deserved holiday and rest. It’s great to be able to connect with you in this way, to put some thoughts and prayers on paper. Most of us, I think, have been able to connect during lockdown; whether via zoom coffee, a comment on Facebook, an email or text – I’ve even bumped into a few of you when we were allowed out! But if we haven’t properly connected in a while, I have been praying for you and look forward to being able to connect with more people as we gather once again.
I wonder how easy or hard you’ve found connecting with God recently. My answer would be something of both.
I reflect back to before lockdown and notice how much my rhythms and routine have changed when it’s come to my relationship with God. I would be lying if I didn’t admit how hard I’ve found this. Change for most people is challenging and as we know lockdown certainly brought its fair share of change! However, usually in times of change I have my usual, ‘normal’ routines with God that sustain me, keep me afloat and that consistency brings a sense of comfort and familiarity.
I realised how important actually talking with people is for my faith, hearing worries or joys, grief or confusion allows me to see God at work in everyone’s life which encourages me hugely. Not having Friday Morning Prayer, Café Connect or coffee after a Sunday service with you took a bit hit to my own faith. For a while, I felt a little lost, anchor-less as I’ve had to go back to basics and find out a new rhythm with God. – I wonder if this resonates with anyone else?
Something I have found hugely sustaining during this time is the prayer app, Lectio 365 (download it if you haven’t!) Based on the Lectio Divina, The 24/7 Prayer Movement have created a daily devotional to listen to, as well as reading along if you like. It is without apology that most of what I bring to this weekly message is influenced, even directly nicked!, from the devotions I have listened to. There has been something about listening that has been very important for me at this time. Slowing down, pausing and simply listening.
As I said, these months have brought change, brutal change for many. In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Frodo the hobbit says to the wizard Gandalf
“I wish it need not have happened in my time”, said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
Surely, we can all resonate with this. In fact, I had this exact conversation with Becky not only a few weeks ago. We both voiced a similar feeling- ‘if I had a choice, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to be a vicar at a time during a global pandemic, have to close our beautiful church for probably the first time in its history- I would be happy for those after us to deal with this!’ And yet, we also said, ‘but here we are, so we carry on moving forward with God.’
There’s something in what Frodo says that echoes with many voices of the Bible and every Christian since that says ‘God, why me, why now?!’ Sometimes there are unhappy circumstances in our lives that we need to start accepting rather than fighting. And moreover, as Gandalf puts it, what opportunities are there for me to serve God this month, here and now within the constraints of my predicaments?
In the Genesis creation story, on the sixth day, God says ‘it is very good!’ The word for good in Hebrew can also be translated as beautiful. I love this image, God stepping back, admiring everything created and says, ‘wow, it is very beautiful.’ God looked at the sky, the ocean, the trees and even me and you and said, ‘beautiful!’. Amidst all the change, the challenges, the hurt, pain, joy that this time may have brought to us, God reminds us to step back at least once a week and simply admire and enjoy whatever we have made. And maybe even sometimes we could say, ‘it’s beautiful!’ as an act of worship.
Beauty can be found in ashes and as we begin to return to a new normal, school, work, gathering in the church I pray that you will be able to step back at least once a week, admire parts or even all of your life and say ‘it’s beautiful!’, even if it does look a little chaotic and messy.
With love and prayers,