We have heard about the gradual lifting of lockdown and the mention that churches will be able to open for worship with restrictions and all measures in place (no singing). The Methodist Conference is meeting from this weekend and will issue a statement regarding this in the near future. There will be no rushing back to how things were, just a gradual phasing in of what is felt appropriate and safe. Careful consideration will have to be taken to comply with risk assessments and whether we have the personnel to make sure everything happens safely. We also have to consider the things that we have learnt during lockdown and how they are going to affect what we do and what we are. There is a lot of learning here and I still go back to one of the first phrases I heard when lockdown first began, “build back better”.
Also, we are mindful of the world situation where Covid numbers are still rising rapidly in some parts and where lockdown has eased in some places there are second spikes of infections. The risks are still very real and it is essential to follow the guidelines. I for one, though, will be pleased to have family members join me in my flat…even just for a meal!
We know that some things will continue for the foreseeable future, worshipping on zoom, worshipping at home material and the good and encouraging information sent out weekly.
In the end I can see we will have another phrase I have found helpful and adapted from another sphere, “blended worship”, the Church offering a variety of ways people can access worship both inside and outside the church. If you have had any thoughts for this, please let me know.
We continue to work to put things in place for the life and work of the new Circuit. Most of all we pray that this will be a positive coming together and that we will make the most of this opportunity to let go of those things that hold us back and make room for those things that will bring us closer to how God wants us to be.
We continue to pray for one another, especially for those whose days are difficult, and who are struggling for whatever reason. May each know the blessing and strength God holds out for us.
Please contact me if there is anything.
I read last week that it was “National Picnic Week”. I wonder whether this caught your attention or whether it passed you by. It was interesting to think about picnics during lockdown, they seem to have gained quite a bit of popularity. Because it has been harder to have people in your home for meals...people have carefully met for a picnic in the garden, in the park...or at some other local spot.
I read that “The only real rule of a picnic is to tidy up when you leave”. I have good memories of both family and Church picnics, the sense of sharing, relaxing, different ages coming together, games to play, conversation and maybe dodging the odd shower. When Jesus shared a picnic with about 5000 people on a hillside all shared together. There must have been plenty for everyone as there were 12 basketfuls left over.
Matthew 14:20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
Prayer: Thank you loving God for times of picnics, sharing in garden, park or city bench. Thank you for conversation, for refreshment and for rest and play. Thank you for the picture we have that you want everyone’s picnic basket to be full and overflowing. Amen.
Tuesday: The Comma
I heard someone on a Radio 4 “Prayer for the Day” talk about the “comma”. It seemed an unusual topic for prayer time. We were reminded that a comma can make all the difference – compare for example: “I like eating, my family and my pets’ compared to no comma, ‘I like eating my family and my pets’.”
We notice how the comma changes the whole meaning of what is being said! Punctuation and commas help give meaning to what is being said; help us understand the content and the thoughts. We can also see how something so small can have such a big influence, preventing misunderstanding and confusion.
Punctuation and commas also give room to pause, draw breath, and give time for reflection and thought. We can think about our lives and the way we respond to things. We might realise that in order for us to see what is going on, to understand more clearly and to have time to reflect… we might benefit from a comma or two.
Ecclesiastes 3:7 A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.
Prayer: Loving God, help me to recognise those moments when it would be good to draw breath, to take stock, to give myself a comma. May I know the help of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
Wednesday: Ruth Again
We come to the final chapter of Ruth and see the final part of the story. Ruth the outsider finds a new life, a hope restored, a marriage to Boaz and the birth of a baby, a grandson for Naomi, called Obed. The book of Ruth has so many different layers to it, so many issues that amazingly still relate to our world...there are many things that we may find obscure and puzzling but we hold on to some big themes – land, poverty, belonging, migrants, the place of the outsider and the oppressed and the chance to start again. We have also the genealogy which begins to take us to the line of Jesus. Obed was the father of Jesse and Jesse was the father of David, from Bethlehem....we see from this line that Jesus is not traced through wealthy and the powerful but rather through the vulnerable and the not so respectable.
Ruth 4:16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for all we can learn from ancient texts and stores ...you can speak into our situation today. Amen.
Thursday: Dry-Stone wall
On a regular walk I noticed that preparations were being made to build a new dry-stone wall. Stones old and new of all different sizes and shapes had been carefully laid in rows and some preparation work had begun. It looked like a challenging task and, in my mind, needed someone with a great deal of skill and expertise to build it, considering no cement was being used, certainly not in the early stages. On looking at an easy guide to how to build a dry-stone wall, I noticed preparation was important, digging a trench, and building the wall in layers using the large and small stones together to bring about strength and stability. Coping stones can be place at the top. I love to see a dry-stone wall, and how they mark out fields, garden walls and other boundaries. It can remind us of our life together. We are better together; all can have a place and part to play. It may seem and look fragile, but with care and attention it can stand all kinds of weathers and situations.
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
Prayer: We are all different, Loving God, you can hold us together, accept us for who we are and help us to work and be a growing living Church. Amen.
Friday: Holiday Destinations
Holidays are a bit up in the air this year, with the gradual lifting of lockdown some summer holidays may be able to be taken. People enjoy all kinds of different holidays, from my favourite – a nice cottage so can I do lots of walks, visit little places and go to coffee shops – to a beach holiday in the sun, cruises to some far-off place, wild camping and far off trekking…
There is also the more popular phrase we hear, “staycation”, staying at home for holidays. Holidays give us the chance for a change of routine; to explore and experience something out of our culture; to rest, and to have time for things we may not usually have time for. If we have a staycation there is still the possibility, even in the easing of lockdown, to plan a different programme, give time for a developing an interest, reading a new book…and so to speak playing…
Genesis 2: 2-3 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
Prayer: For days of rest and for days of work we give thanks, help us to find that time and space for both, help us to take time to enjoy ourselves. Amen.
I heard a virologist being interviewed by an exceptionally skilled and deeply intelligent journalist. The virologist shared some of her work with viruses and how they had speedily got to work on the emerging coronavirus, Covid 19. It was humbling to listen, not just to what they said but their wholehearted commitment to their work, to discover as much as they could for the good of others. Their level of knowledge and understanding heartened me and made me feel how indebted we are to scientists, researchers, and those who are willing to put their life work for the good of others. I actually understood very little but feel very grateful for those working in all these areas.
Proverbs 18:15 An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
Prayer: Lord, I pray for all those involved in research, scientists, and other disciplines which work for the good of others. May they know strength during these days. Amen.
Lord, calm my
thoughts as I prepare to worship, open my heart to welcome you in, help me in this place to know your blessing, lift my heart if it feels downcast, and help me to know that whether I worship alone or with family, I am part of the great company of those who sing your praise and acknowledge you as Lord. Amen.
All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this
Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you,
There is no greater thing
You're my all, you're the best
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord
Now my heart's desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness
Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die.
For prayers of thanks.... focus on the picture, what feeling does it
evoke in you as you think about prayer of praise and thanks....is there a feeling of wonder, beauty, stillness, rest, God’s majesty and presence in the glory of creation.....
Offer your own prayer of praise and thanks in response to the picture.
Thank be to God for his goodness, his everlasting loving kindness and his gracious presence.
This is the final week for Bible Month and today we look to two small snippets from the final chapter in the book of Ruth, which we have been following in June. If possible, read the whole of chapter 4. The two snippets help us to reach into the deeper meaning of Ruth and see how they connect to some of the ongoing themes for the Gospel and our faith for today.
Reflection one: 13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. The Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “blessed be the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age.
We see that Ruth secures a future. We may be a long way from the culture and practice of the ancient world but for Ruth, who came to Bethlehem with nothing, her life is now restored. For Naomi, who announced when she came to Bethlehem that she would call herself Mari, which means bitter because of how life had dealt with her, we see also that she has been on a journey from despair, grief and brokenness to one of security, blessing and hope for the future. Now she is called Naomi again. This is the story of two women, but it sets a theme for what God wants for all people, and reflects for us something of that the life of Jesus offers. We give thanks that in this pattern we too can find our way and our hope. We also notice another familiar theme which the book of Ruth contains, that of blessing. In chapter one we noticed how Boaz greets people with a blessing when he comes to the fields to see his workers. Naomi offers a blessing for Boaz who has lived as the Lord required and now here in chapter 4 the blessing and praise are offered to God for all that has been done. The acknowledgement that God is the one to be honoured and the one from whom all blessings flow.
Reflection two: 16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Naomi has joy in her later years, she has Ruth for her companion and a grandchild for her hope and her comfort. But we see there is more here. We see something quite important, the line of the genealogy leading us to the birth of Jesus. It is interesting to ponder this for a moment...God has chosen to work not through the great, the powerful and the wealthy but rather through the lines of people who were once migrants, who had no home and who felt alone in the world. It might even lead us to Bethlehem, the house of David and the manger. God is consistent here in being fully with those who are downtrodden and on the outside. How do we continue this line and make known God’s presence?
Loving God, we give thanks for the message of Ruth, it holds Gospel themes, it points us to the life of Christ. It reminds us that what seems lost and hopeless can be redeemed, it reminds us that hope can be made real, it reminds us that you stand by those who have no voice, who are forgotten and on the outside.
We pray and remember those who know these situations – bring your love and hope.
We pray and remember those who are downcast, overburdened and weary – bring your rest and comfort.
We pray for those who still stand by the poor, still work for the lonely, who still give hope to the hopeless – bring your strength day by day.
For those who know illness, who are affected by Covid, who have lost their loved ones – may each be surrounded and held in your loving kindness. Amen.
Make me a channel of Your peace
Where there is hatred, let me bring Your love
Where there is injury, Your pardon Lord
And where there's doubt, true faith in You
Make me a channel of Your peace
Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there's sadness, ever joy
Oh Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul
Make me a channel of Your peace
It is pardoning that we are pardoned
In giving to all men that we receive
And in dying that we're born to eternal life
Oh Master, grant that I…
May the Lord be with us in the days ahead, may the Lord bless us in the days ahead, may we bring blessings to others in the days ahead and may we, day by day, bless the Lord.
Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee… it is a blessing.