A Moment of Bravery

I was feeling brave this morning.  So brave, in fact, that I tackled a job I have been putting off for a very long while – my filing tray!

I was shocked just how much rubbish I was holding on to.  I found minutes of meetings, sets of accounts, budget plans and proposals.  Schedules for work and targets to be achieved.  What did I do with all this valuable information? 

I shredded the lot!!!

The reason why I took such a drastic step is quite simple.  Due to recent events, none of it applies any more.  It is all out of date and irrelevant now. 

Budgets will have to be reset.  Accounts will now look very different.  Proposals and targets will have to be thought through afresh.  Schedules for work, have long since passed. 

But, not everything in my filing tray got shredded. 

I found some publications that contained information that I now need.  At the time I received them, I couldn’t see the point and just put them out of the way to be filed.  Now their usefulness is apparent.

I found a “thank you” card.  A mark of appreciation from somebody who I had been able to help.  I always hold onto them.  At low moments, I often flick through them to help me find perspective.

One interesting thing I found was a copy of our Church values.  We had been considering these as a fellowship and looking at how we could embody them more fully.  Then, the situation had forced them to be put on hold. 

WELCOME

  Worship God ‘Worship in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24)
Encourage each other ‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Love everyone ‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God’ (1 John 4:7) ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you’ (John 15:12) ’Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins’ (1 Peter 4:8)
Continue to grow ‘But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 3:18)
Openness with God and each other ‘Love must be sincere’ (Romans 12:9) ‘Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body’ (Ephesians 4:25) ‘Do not lie. Do not deceive one another’ (Leviticus 19:11b)
Message of hope to share ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation to everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16) ‘I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ’ (Philemon v6)
Enable and equip to serve God ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men’ (Colossians 3:23) ‘May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen’ (Hebrews 13:20-21)

As lockdown eases further, as “new normal” is revealed, it strikes me that, we have the perfect opportunity to begin again. 

To start afresh

To revisit what God’s agenda is for His Church.  Some things, perhaps, are no longer relevant to where we find ourselves now.  Somethings, however, need to be re-visited and undergird where we are heading in this new day.

I Cannot Take Any More!

There was a meme I spotted on a social media platform recently that said;

Let’s just put up the Christmas tree now forget about the rest of this year

I know the feeling. 

I think 2020 will be a year that will be remembered more for the challenges and difficulties it has presented, than for anything else. Covid 19, trouble on the streets and heartache throughout the world have made news broadcasts difficult to watch.  Like many others, I have found the guidance to be confusing and contradictory.  Often, when I think I have understood what is happening, changes are brought in. 

We are still only half way through the year!!!!

From a Church point of view, I am worried. 

There are the obvious things like finances that are a worry but, there are the hidden worries too.  The “what if’s”.  There are the dangers of comparing ourselves with others.  “Church X is doing Y, should we be doing Y?”  If they open on that date, should we?  Are the hand sanitizers where they should be?  Is the risk assessment in place?

Then, to make my joy complete, there have been a number of discussions between Church leaders about “what the new normal will look like.”  There are some interesting ideas out there as to what Church could look like as we emerge from Coronavirus.  I am trying hard to be enthusiastic, I really am, but I am finding it all a little overwhelming.

To be absolutely honest I am scared.  How do you navigate through this new world where the roadmaps of the past are well and truly obsolete? 

So, I reached the point, the other day, when I felt physically, emotionally and spiritually drained and just found myself thinking “I cannot take much more of this.”  As I cried out to God, I felt that God planted an image and a passage from the Bible into my heart.

The picture was of a storm at sea.  Threatening dark clouds.  Foaming and powerful waves took up most of the picture, it was a huge storm.  At the very bottom of the picture was a small boat battling against the waves but, looking as though it could sink at any second.

As I saw that picture in my mind, I thought about the passage in Mark 5 vs. 35 – 41 when the disciples were caught in a storm.  They woke Jesus and said “don’t you care?”  This is how Jesus responded;

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 

(Mark 5 vs. 39 – NRSV)

I sat for moment with these words.

Peace, be still

As the worries and thoughts popped into my mind, I repeated

Peace, be still

As the stress and anxiety reared its head

Peace, be still

As the list of all that had to be done, nagged at me

Peace, be still

And there was calm

I Am ANGRY

I am angry

I said as much to my Spiritual Director yesterday.  I feel a deep sense of anger at the moment.

I am angry at the chaos, confusion and fear I see around me in our nation at the moment.  I am angry with the lack of compassion, humanity and understanding shown by many in authority.  I am angry that members of the Black community, across the world, face systematic injustice.  I am angry at scenes of violence and frustration have erupted on our streets.  I am angry because there are people being hurt on all sides.

I am angry with myself because, I do not and cannot fully understand.  I am a white heterosexual male.  I have always sought to treat all people as equal but, I have never faced prejudice because of my skin colour, sexuality or gender.

I am angry with myself because, I feel powerless and helpless.

I am angry.

Deeply angry

Anger, of course, can be a good.  It produces the energy to create change.  It can be a force for good.  It can get things done.  Equally, anger can be bad when it produces more heat than light.  Anger can be a blaze that can, so easily, get out of control.  It can become destructive and consuming.

It was into my email inbox this morning that one of my daily devotionals dropped that provided me with a “aha!” moment.  Richard Rohr offered a piece entitled “Contemplation and Racism” and it focussed on Contemplating Anger.  In the piece Barbara Holmes suggests that we need to have a “theology of anger” and, she writes;

First, a theology of anger invites us to wake up from the hypnotic influences of unrelenting oppression so that individuals and communities can shake off the shackles of denial, resignation, and nihilism. . . . Second, a theology of anger can help us to construct healthy boundaries. Finally, the healthy expression of righteous anger can translate communal despair into compassionate action and justice-seeking. . . . The question is whether or not we will recognize our wounds and the source of our anger so that we can heal ourselves and others, and awaken to our potential to embody the beloved community. . . .

(Barbara Holmes – Richard Rohr Meditation: Contemplating Anger 9/6/2020)

Just reading this, helped to defuse some of my anger.  It helped me to start to think of some constructive ways that I can commit myself to work for God’s justice within the community where I have been called to serve.

It reminded me of a song I haven’t sung for many years, written by John Bell;

Jesus Christ is raging
Raging in the streets
Where injustice spirals
And real hope retreats
Listen Lord Jesus
I am angry too
In the Kingdom’s causes
Let me rage with You

(John Bell and Graham Maule)

Don’t let anger consume you instead, seek to allow righteous anger to be a force for change and for good in our world

May your kingdom come, O Lord

May your will be done

Disruption – welcome or not?

I don’t know about you but, I certainly didn’t see it coming.

I was looking forward to 2020.  I had big plans for the year. I had holiday, work and study plans in place. We had plans to celebrate my better half’s “special” birthday. 2019 had not been the best of years for us as a family and, I figured, that 2020 would have made up for it.

If only I had known!

Now, my plans are out of the window.  Holidays have been cancelled, my 3 month Sabbatical is postponed and, somehow, a Zoom birthday party just isn’t the same.  I am not moaning.  I know there are many more people who have lost far more than we have. I know there are people who are mourning the loss of loved ones.

Coronavirus has created massive disruption to our way of life. 

The mess that this disruption has caused, will take a long time and lot more heartache to sort out.  It will be sometime before we can get back to some sort of normality.

The disruption of Coronavirus has been very unwelcome. 

During this time of lockdown, I have frequently, turned to the words of Psalm 46.  They paint a picture of a world that is in turmoil;

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46 vs. 2 – 3)

I turned to these words again this morning as I came to a time of prayer.  As I did so, I began to think that whilst disruption may be unsettling and unwelcome it is sometimes necessary in order to create something new.

Yesterday, I watched the news as the statue of Edward Colston was toppled from its plinth and dumped in water at Bristol docks.  Colston had been a controversial figure in Bristol and British history.  In his home city, the statue was erected to celebrate his generosity.  The inscription stated that the statue was

Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city 

Behind this philanthropic face lay something that was and is absolutely abhorrent, the slave trade.  His wealth came from the slave trade.

I know there are some who view this act as one of vandalism (the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, described the action as “utterly disgraceful).  Others see this as an act that highlights the injustices that continue to be faced by members of the Black community.

I will leave you to decide which side of the fence you sit upon, please do not state your opinions – I don’t want my thoughts turned into political ping pong!  You will have, also, missed the point of what I am trying to say.

Maybe out of the disruption of Covid 19 and the disruption on our streets yesterday, something good can come.

Maybe our eyes will be opened to the imbalance of our society and we can do something to address it.

Maybe we will see, what is described as, “modern day slavery” and work for freedom – yes, it is still happening in this country and throughout the world

Maybe we will appreciate those who we now see are the key workers

Maybe we will work on the relationship we have with the planet we live on

Maybe……

Just maybe, we will give God the room to speak into our world and let His values, His love and His justice speak

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46 vs. 10)