Sunday Reflection – 9/1/21

Dear Church Family

Greetings from Carol and I. We hope your are surviving after the first week of lockdown 3.

What a week it has been and what distressing scenes from Washington! We also hold so many families in our thoughts and prayers as the virus claims so many lives.

There have been positives to balance out the trauma. The vaccines are coming. Some of you may get yours very soon. Why don’t you let us know and we can rejoice together. We have had the splendid news of an award from CAMRA to The Air Hostess. It is a timely reminder that the God given and wonderful gift of community is alive and well in our village. Community is alive, and so is church (even though we can’t meet physically). Our bishop continues to provide good leadership in these exception times. I have just received an excellent pastoral letter (sent to all clergy) from him and was thrilled that he mentioned the bible passage that I am reflecting on today. It was a wonderful confirmation that it was the right choice. I was also asked by our Archdeacon Phil Williams to pass on good wishes and assurance of prayers to the congregation. Phil and I have known each other for 25 years and it was good to have an hour with him ‘via zoom’ as a follow up for my biannual review.

If you haven’t been following the bishop’s Start the Day, I commend it, the latest issue is available on the following link. He and Sarah braved the elements and did it outside!

Attached is a poster from our school asking if we can donate any old or unused laptops for children to use for home schooling. We have such a machine and will take it along. If you can help in this way please do consider it. I was made aware of this by Laura Ford whom many of us know. Her husband David is an intensive care nurse at QMC and is under immense pressure. Please pray for him and others like him that are holding the front line for us.

Carol and I have been using the same daily bible reading notes/software for the past 6 years. These are produced by Scripture Union and have been helpful. We know a number of you use them. With our New Years Resolution to seek fresh energy in our daily readings we decided on a change. We now use a variant of Holy Trinity Brompton’s ‘Bible in One Year’ studies. We find it very helpful and it is available to all via the HTB website. One reading earlier this week struck us very powerfully and I have used for this week’s reflection. It Comes from Psalm 3.

(Psa 3:3)  But you, GOD, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high;

(Psa 3:4)  With all my might I shout up to GOD, His answers thunder from the holy mountain.

(Psa 3:5)  I stretch myself out. I sleep. Then I’m up again—rested, tall and steady,

Carol, who was one of those clinically extremely vulnerable people shielding last Spring, has been told by GOV.UK to do so again, as this new variant wave rages through our nation. It does something to your head (your way of thinking) when the world sees you as vulnerable. One of the horrible things about these endless months of pandemic has been the way that every situation and every encounter carries that feeling of vulnerability. A condition in which you feel the whole world is out to get you is clinically defined as ‘paranoia’ yet that has become the norm (especially for the 2.3 million people like Carol).

Psalm 3 was written at a time when King David was in hiding because the threat to his life from King Saul was very real. He was hiding in a cave with just a group of his most trusted supporters. He felt himself to be attacked on every side and that was an accurate perception. The wonderful truth of the Psalm is that he also considered himself to be shielded on every side. That shielding is also available to us by the gift of the Holy Spirit. The shielding is not a talisman nor are we surrounded by a supernatural forcefield. David might have been caught and executed. Any one of us may contract the virus. David still set his human soldiers to guard the cave. We still take all the protective measures we can and are advised to do.  However the protection for David was over his relationship with his God.

St. Paul said ‘If God is for us who can be against us’. All the bad stuff is still there. What gets transformed is how we address the enemies that surround us.

Sometimes our heads droop. When I had to send out the message that gathered worship was suspended ‘again’, my head sagged. When Carol and I watched the mob smash the windows and furniture of The Capitol Building, our heads sagged. When I peer at a grandchild, I have never held, through a window, my head sags. Over the past week we have seen many concerns expressed for the mental health of so many in our nation. Almost every day we see an interviewee break down and weep about the closure of their business or the death of a relative or their twelfth consecutive long hour shift in intensive care. Our heads droop, of course they do. My niece is a medical keyworker in London. She has also lost two close relatives in the past year. She contacted me recently to ask if it normal to feel low and sad. In my reply to her I said actually it would be illogical and abnormal not to feel like that.

However, for the believer, that is not where it ends. Our God grounds our feet and lifts our heads. Christian people always win in the long term. Overwhelming victory and eternal life lie ahead for all of us. For David he emerged from hiding and took up his rightful place as Israel’s greatest king. God willing, for us, better times lie ahead. The vaccine and our vigilance will overcome the virus, we will be able to cuddle our grandchildren again. The winter will pass, the Spring will come, then the Summer. However now, in the midst of very real trials, we can allow God (through Christ and by The Holy Spirit) to lift our heads. We can arise rested, tall and steady.

May God bless and keep you all.

Alan Howe