Dear Church Family
Greetings from Carol and I at the end of another lockdown week that has seen momentous things. Like us, you would have been relieved that the transition of power in America went ahead without the horrific scenes of two weeks ago. Much was said by the incoming presidential team that brought encouragement. President Biden anticipated the COVID death toll would reach half a million next month and we share the solemn response as our own death total approaches six figures. Helping America tackle COVID will be the president’s first priority.
At tough times like this we are grateful for all messages of hope. Let me share three with you, two public and one personal.
The first comes from 22 year old Amanda Gorman’s (America’s Youth Poet Laurette) poem spoken at The inauguration. It is entitled ‘The Hill we Climb’
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called ‘our country’ our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful. When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.
This accords so strongly with what we learned as a church from the 2019 Lent Course. The lesson that we receive God’s blessings first and foremost to be a blessing to others.
The second message is from Bishop Paul and Sarah. This week they focus on Psalm 22. It is a Psalm of Lament that describes how crushed King David feels at all the things that surrounded him. There are many in our nation that feel like that today. Some of the reports from overstretched hospitals have been harrowing, with individuals deeply disturbed by the human stories attached to the grim daily statistics. Bishop Paul’s commentary tackles these head on. He and Sarah are holding many situations in their daily prayers. Then the commentary introduces the musicians from Trinity Church, singing ‘Christ Alone: Cornerstone’. This powerful hymn invites Christ into our weakness with a message of strength. It did us good and we hope it helps you today.
The third message I would like to share came to me from Harry, a Tollerton Beaver Scout and member of Messy Church, accompanied by some artwork from his sister Niamh. It was posted through our door (following COVID guidelines). We have mounted it and given it pride of place in the Rectory.
The message reads
Be strong now because
Things will get better
It might be stormy now
But it can’t rain forever
Since receiving it I have heard that people close to me have begun to receive the vaccine, among them my son Matthew (a hospital worker), Marian Sawicka (our fellow church member), and my brother in law Dave (an over 70 in Southend). The light at the end of the tunnel is real light and not a train coming the other way! However, there is still far to go before anything like normality is established.
Our bible reading this morning came from Matthew 13 44-46
(Matthew 13:44) “God’s kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidently found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic—what a find!—and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field.
(45) “Or, God’s kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls.
(46) Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it.
If ever there was a time to sort out what really matters and what does not it is now. I have just been listening to a testimony from the inspiring Joni Erikson Tada. She became a quadriplegic in a diving accident 50 years ago. Overcoming difficulties all her life, she has become a gifted artist and an inspirational Christian speaker. She epitomises the adage ‘You only find out that Christ is all you need when Christ is all you have’. Now in 2021 she has contracted COVID 19. She truly thought this would mark the end of her earthly story and was ready to meet the Lord she has loved and served. However, even COVID has not taken her (though she has been much weakened by it).
Nicky Gumbel says this about this passage,
‘Some people are desperately searching and then find Jesus. Others, like me, almost stumble into finding him. But once you have found the treasure it is worth giving up everything else.
In between the parable of the weeds and the parable of the net, Jesus tells two very short parables about discovering the kingdom (vv.44–46). The only difference between the two is that in one case the person was actively searching (v.45) and in the other he seemed to stumble across it (v.44). In both, there is something of enormous value (‘treasure’ v.44, ‘fine pearls’ v.45). In both cases it was worth selling everything to get it (vv.44,46).
This is where true ‘joy’ (v.44), real ‘treasure’ (v.44) and ‘great value’ (v.46) are to be found. The kingdom of heaven is all about knowing the King. It is all about Jesus and how you respond to him. How everyone responds to Jesus really matters both for this life and beyond.’
There is no better use of the gift of this time of forced inactivity than deepening our relationship with Jesus. We have been told, repeatedly, over the past 10 months that exercise is vital for physical health and wellbeing. I certainly agree with that and Carol and I have found ways, like jogging round the lounge, playing table tennis and dusting off our old Nintendo fitness console. In addition to this we also need to mind our spiritual health by finding resources that suit us (starting of course with the bible). Then there is prayer. ‘Oh what peace we often forfeit. Oh what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.’ All these things roll off the tongue but, believe us, we know they are hard to do.
May God give you His strength and may you hear His voice speaking into you lives.