Someone – a Minister, of course! – said “The Sundays, they do come with an awful regularity…” Well so do Wednesdays, all of a sudden, for me!
We will all take different things from the news, and our sense of where we, our families and friends, our congregations and communities, our society, might be will be different for each one of us.
For me, this week, it’s been the sense of a change, of the beginnings of the easing of lockdown, of the return of a sense of movement – and also the anxiety that things could easily and suddenly start going backwards, and in saying that, I’m not trying to ”rain on the parade”.
There are new, good things, but things are not straightforward. Things are not straightforward, but there are new, good things. That’s where I am, in my head, this week, and I wonder if you are too?
I offer this reflection hoping that we are all in a roughly similar place.
Here we are as a Presbytery, virtual but vibrant, and very, very real! And we know that it’s the same with our congregations, despite the real anxieties of the times. And, as Douglas identified, it’s good, each week, to sit together in the moment we have been brought to by events, and by God, and simply open our minds and souls to the reality in which we find ourselves.
I’m not able to live-stream at 12 tomorrow; I have a funeral on the mainland. I intend to video and upload this prayer so that you can use it – or not! – at 12 tomorrow, or at any time. Let me know – and keep letting me know – what’s useful.
And again, thank you for your prayers. You have mine.
Yours in the adventure of Christ,
We lean, Lord, on the patterns
of scripture, and of faith:
repeating patterns, though never the same;
as old as your dealings with your people;
as fresh and new as our experience today;
framing our faith, grounding our trust,
equipping us to be your people in the world.
You are the God of the Exodus –
but before they could be brought out
to the freedom which is your gift,
your people had to be shown
that you had been listening, hearing,
with them, all along.
They had to meet you afresh;
they had to re-learn who they were.
Have we done this?
You are the God who overthrew
Your people’s bitter exile,
But they had to be reminded,
By the waters of Babylon,
Powerless and overawed by their captivity and smallness,
How all things are in your hands.
Have we grasped this?
You are the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead,
But before they could begin to grasp this,
The disciples had to have their old assumptions shattered,
To relinquish old, cramped, comfortable understandings,
Too small, like Jesus’ grave
To contain the Risen Christ.
They had to let go, in order to receive.
Can we do this?
In this pause, just before things might change,
Help us to reflect on what we have been taught,
On what we take with us on our journey from here,
And what we must leave behind.
We have come this week to a moment:
Stage One – soon, we hope, Stage Two…
Are we slowly beginning to emerge, Lord?
Dates and times and promises
may fluctuate, and advance, and retreat;
“What if the R-number increases?”
“What if we were thrown back into lockdown?”
Jesus, we remember, taught the disciples,
outside Caesarea Philippi:
hope is difficult for our human family,
because we corrupt it into wishing, and dreaming, and specifying closely,
what we want, and when we want it.
Wishes, and longings, and impatience
meld dangerously into a counterfeit of hope.
It’s simple things we all long for.
Offering and accepting an invitation into a home,
the unthinkingly proffered hand to shake not recoiled from,
withdrawn in fluster and embarrassment;
the simple ability to drive round and check properly
on those we love.
We pray these things come quickly,
but more than that, that they come when it is safe they should.
For all, and for all among us, who shield, –
disappointed, even distraught at the postponing, of that safe day,
when careful, joyful emergence back into the outside world
becomes possible, we pray.
Let it come soon.
We pray – and this is hard, Lord –
for those tempted to push the envelope,
to go right up to, and sometimes flagrantly beyond,
those hard, challenging boundaries that have kept us safe.
Temper our anger and indignation
at their folly and yes, their self-centredness,
with Christ’s compassion;
they know not what they do.
Their actions appal us;
Their selfishness endangers us all;
their frustration is ours.
Lord, bring light, restraint, care and consideration for others.
We pray especially for those who have to cope with,
And deal with, and police such selfishness.
We remember especially the police, this week.
We pray for all those who sustain the life of society.
It’s usually so helpful – but sometimes too easy–
to list them before you in prayer.
Today, instead we seek the Spirit’s leading;
Surprise us, as we enfold all those who help, and sustain,
and work through this crisis, to serve others.
Let us discover in prayer some of those we have, inevitably, we know,
I would suggest that we keep a brief silence at this point, and pray, individually and silently, for those who care for others, serve society, and work to overcome the pandemic.
We know that we shall be brought through.
We have seen the deep patterns of Scripture.
We pray for our congregations, whose business is hope,
hope in a world where hope is at a premium;
for office-bearers and devoted members,
who balance hope with responsibility and anxiety,
we pray for our Church, and for the whole Church, in all her traditions.
Help us to witness to our neighbours and communities
the hope that hopes where we do not know the day or the hour,
but knows that the day will come.
And as Jesus taught us, we say – and know that others will be saying –