Dear Church Family.
Carol and I hope you are all well and keeping warm. Our outside thermometer showed minus 7 this week. We continue to do life from the Rectory, but the wonderful news is that we have both received our first vaccination! Technology has helped us work rest and play this week. The whole family joined in with a zoom quiz night and every household provided a round, with even the older grandchildren adding questions. On the work front, I attended a half day diocesan training course and on another occasion was one of 50 attendees at deanery synod. The speaker was the diocesan chief executive who talked about how to conduct strategic planning against the backdrop of the pandemic.
A follow up on the church family news that our warden Ruth has joined the ranks of grandparents, we now have a name and another photo of gorgeous little Lily Jacqueline.
There have been many pictures of pretty snowscapes this past week and you will not have failed to notice some awe inspiring sunrises and sunsets. Bishop Paul and Sarah (ever game) even produced their ‘Start the Day’ thought, yesterday, outside in the snow. As ever, they shared really helpful insights.
As you will be aware LENT begins in a few days with Ash Wednesday on the 17th. I will produce and circulate a short reflection to help focus our thoughts.
The latest documentary offering from David Attenborough declares that the natural world was perfect. As Christians we acknowledge that God made it like that and declared it to be ‘good’ on page one of our scriptures.
I was heartened this week to learn that Dr Francis Collins, renowned geneticist, Director of the National Institutes for Health and recipient of the 2020 Templeton Prize is a leader in the scientific response to COVID-19 and also a committed Christian. After being part of a team of 2000 that helped map the 2,000,000,000 elements that make up the human genome he declared ‘I cannot see how nature could have created itself. Only a supernatural force that is outside of space and time could have done that.’
King David in the Psalms made the same point with more earthy force and emphasis.
(Psalm 53:1) A maskil of David. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.
The existence of God is one of those crystal clear facts that we can rest assured of. The Old and New Testaments are clear on that. The Apostle Paul speaks with the same voice as David. The Message translates it beautifully: –
(Romans 1:20) By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse.
The modern scientist, the 1st Century apostles and the 12th Century BC King all agree that the power of God is awesome. The truth of God’s existence is undeniable but there is so much we do not understand.
As I mentioned last week, Carol and I have been working through the book of Job. Job trusted God but had no way of understanding what was going on around him. What we have all lived through this past 10 months has been mind blowing and troubling. A friend on Facebook posted a sobering statistic. If we held a minute of silence for everyone in the UK that has died as a result of Coronavirus we would need to stay silent for 77 days!
Job struggled to understand the problem of suffering on the personal level. His friends ‘Job’s Comforters’ made a terrible job helping him make sense of it. The truth he came to discover as the book approaches its end is that there were things he would never know. What he did learn is that there are some things only God the creator and father knows. There are things the disciples of Jesus did not know and, even more amazing, there are things that Jesus (God’s Son) did not know. For example he did not know the time day or hour when he would return.
In Job’s supernatural dialogue with God he is lovingly challenged as God asks him questions about creation and the world he cannot possibly answer.
(Job 38:1) And now, finally, GOD answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said:
(Job 38:2) “Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about?
(Job 38:3) Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers.
(Job 38:4) Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much!
(Job 38:5) Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that! Who came up with the blueprints and measurements?
These are just a few of the 49 questions that God posed to Job. They are asked gently and God lovingly leads him to climax of the book where he declares, in effect’. ‘I’ll just keep silent and trust you’
(Job 42:1) Job answered GOD:
(Job 42:2) “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
(Job 42:3) You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head.
(Job 42:4) You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’
(Job 42:5) I admit I once lived by rumours of you; now I have it all first hand—from my own eyes and ears!
(Job 42:6) I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumour.”
May one result of the past months be that we experience God face to face. We will not have the answers but we have learned more about trusting Him.
May God Bless you and keep you.