This hi-viz belongs to one of my daughters – a bit small for me! They often wear them when they ride along the pavement on their bikes.
They don’t call it a hi-viz though They know it helps keep them safe and so they have always called it a life jacket.
What do you have that keeps you safe?
Of course we’re familiar with face coverings, keeping distance from one another, we have speed limits and breaks on bikes and cars. We are surrounded by things that are there to keep us safe.
As Christians, sometimes we talk about Jesus saving us. We call Jesus the Saviour of the World. Saviour – literally means someone who saves someone else from danger. Jesus is, in many ways, a life jacket for us, for me, for you, for all the world.
In John 12:46-47 we read Jesus say:
‘I have come as light to the world, so that everyone who believes in me will not be in darkness, I came, not to judge the world, but to save the world’
I have come as light to the world: A bit like a fluorescent jacket, Jesus offers light. Jesus light is not for a limited group people Jesus has written down on a list – Jesus says this light is for all the world – whoever believes will not be in darkness There’s no limit to who can be saved by Jesus’ light – simply believe Jesus is who he says he is – the light of the world, the son of God.
Know the Jesus is not here to judge – but save I would look prettyridiculousif I went out trying to wear this wouldn’t I – I may get a few judgmental looks!
Well we’re reminded here that Jesus doesn’t judge us, and Jesus doesn’t judge you – Jesus doesn’t look at us and criticise us – Jesus came because of God’s love for the world, tosave the world.
And if you’re watching this from the world – then my friend that includes you!
If you want to know more about Jesus do get in touch via social media, email, old fashioned telephone – we would love to talk with you.
Throughout August I will be encouraging us to reflect on things we have learn and are learning through lockdown about self, God and being Christian community.
On the 1st September 2016 we moved to Queens Foundation, Birmingham where I was to begin my training. As we’d only got a small, 2nd floor flat for the 4 of us, college had offered us a garage, and, at first, we parked the car in it.
On the 2nd September 2016 we took a trip to the supermarket. We got back, unloaded and I shut the garage door – it was quite stiff to shut, but I kept pushing, thinking, I must get some WD40 for that… until I realised I never locked the car…or shut the boot. I went to re-open the garage door to discover that the boot and garage door were now hitting each other – I couldn’t open the garage door beyond a few inches.
I spent about an hour trying to work out how to solve the puzzle. In that time, I met various other students and members of college staff, their first introduction to me was seeing a stranger trying to break into a garage…thinking back I’m not surprised those conversations started with some suspicious looks.
Eventually, I managed to reach through the top gap of the garage door get some rope tied to the car boot, then reach through the bottom gap and pull it down to get the garage door open. The car boot had a few scratches, but at least I’d got access.
Before lockdown, my experience of church communities is that our default way of people accessing ‘church’ was by attending a church building. Within these buildings we hold services of worship, community drop-in’s and coffee mornings, prayer groups and bible studies, toddler groups and quiz nights.
As lockdown came in access to all these things was stopped. Our buildings we’re locked as part of the nationwide effort to reduce physical gathering and push down the spread of COVID-19.
So during lockdown, our default way of accessing ‘church’ – by gathering in a church building – was suddenly blocked from us – just like my car was when I foolishly shut the garage door.
This led to two things – firstly – creativity. Utilising post, email, phone, blog posts, YouTube, video and telephone conferencing and more. Creatively developing lots of different ways for people to engage with church without the building. – to be a scattered church
Secondly – it led to greater self-responsibility. What do I mean?
Well I mean that because accessing ‘church’ has not been about gathering in a building, individuals have had much more responsibility themselves as scattered church for nurturing their faith and relationship with God. The format moved from what could perhaps slightly crassly be described a passive attendance to active engagement. People had their own space and freedom to choose how to engage, how to be church.
Not only that, but people who for one reason or other were much more cut off from the worshiping community, for example living in care homes, working on Sundays or caring for relatives, feel they are included and connected to the worshiping and spiritual life of the church community in ways they never did before.
In the gospels we read the familiar story of people bringing children to Jesus for him to bless them. The disciples try to stop it – children, it seemed didn’t matter. But Jesus rebukes them and says let them come to me – the kingdom of God belongs to them too.
It is a passage that’s often used within infant baptism, that vulnerable, innocent children are welcomed by Jesus.
But I wonder, if we take a step back from the story itself, and see it in light of Jesus wider ministry, healing the blind and crippled, spending time with tax collectors and zealots, the excluded and the vulnerable, this passage may take on even more meaning for us.
I wonder if this passage might challenge us as worshipping communities to reflect ourselves on where we might, intentionally, or un-intentionally, be excluding people from being a greater part of the community.
Developing an attitude of access
Lockdown has forced me to look differently at our church communities and makes me wonder if we may have fallen into the trap of letting buildings become too central to our common life together. It makes me wonder how passive we’ve allowed that life to become – and how it unhelpfully and unfairly excludes those who for one reason or other, cannot access it.
But it’s also show me that there are simple ways to begin to redress that balance and build a more accessible and inclusive community. That there are ways access can be achieved for those who are excluded – in part by having a little less focus on buildings, and a little more on discerning how best to connect with people where they are, not where they are not, with our focus on the kingdom of God.
And it’s also shown me the fruit that is borne when individuals have more active self-responsibility for their worshiping and spiritual life.
What may all this mean for the future?
I sense a strong challenge from God – challenging us to not build up ours walls in a way that they keep people out, but to build up one another in a way that allows us to bring people in.
What walls may we need to allow God to break down so that we can grow into a more inclusive and active community that keeps the kingdom of God at the centre?
Throughout August I will be encouraging us to reflect on things we have learn and are learning through lockdown about self, God and being Christian community.
Who are you connected to?
At the start of lockdown, I spent a lot of time on the phone.
Many people in my churches have been shielding, or choosing to isolate, and lots are not on the internet, and so from the start I could see regular phone calls were going to be incredibly valuable during lockdown.
We reorganised the church pastoral system to ensure everyone would have at least 1 assigned regular contact and encouraged everyone to regularly call each other to share fellowship, friendship and maintain relationship.
The hands down thing that has I call people now, people say they have valued most is the phone calls they have been receiving from each other.
People have shared that lockdown has offered the opportunity to get know each other better.
People who live on their own have shared how the phone calls have helped break up their day and left them feeling less alone, that they feel valued, loved, thought about.
That it has not only helped maintain relationships, but that they have grown and deepened.
What has this meant I have learnt?
I think it has shown me just how essential relationships are for human well-being. We need one another. God has created us to be in relationship with one another. Human interaction is in our DNA.
But why has it taken lockdown to get to know each other better?
In Luke’s gospel we find a story of Jesus and his companions, visiting sisters Mary and Martha.
Mary sits as Jesus feet listening to all he has to say. Martha is busy doing – organising the hospitality necessary for Jesus and his companions, fretting that Mary is not helping her.
She stops, and says to Jesus – don’t you care that my sister is leaving me to do all the work on my own?
Jesus says to her, Martha my child, you are so distracted by many things, but there is only need for one thing.
Jesus doesn’t criticise Martha for wanting to be hospitable.
But he does suggest that Martha may be letting the doing get in the way of what really matters.
(To read the story in full, take a look at Luke chapter 10)
I wonder if the absence of meetings and events has meant that the distraction of doing has been removed, and suddenly we’ve discovered new ways of being with one another. Where we can be interested in one another without the distraction of the next task that needs doing or event that needs planning.
And I’ve heard testimony to the same with people’s relationships with God.
Not being busy doing has meant people have been able to spend more time focused on the one thing that matters – their relationship with God.
Now what might this mean we learn from lockdown?
The value and importance of relationship – with God and with one another.
What does that mean for the future as we begin to emerge from lockdown?
I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have face-to-face activities and events.
But I do find God’s Spirit challenging me to reflect on what may need to change, what we may need to do differently, to keep relationship with God and one another as the one thing that matters.
What ways of being together can we discoverthat do not tie us up in so much doing that we can’t be?
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;he restores my soul. He leads me in right pathsfor his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:1-3, NRSV
At zoom family church last week, we thought about stories in the Bible about animals. Donkeys, foxes, sheep, goats, pigs, ox, frogs, locusts and more.
Then we thought about shepherds and sheep. Along with playing hide and seek the sheep in each of our homes, puzzles, games and songs, we watched a video clip which I found enlightening and challenged some of my assumptions about the meaning of Psalm 23.
The video clip is set in the wilderness, mid barr, also known as Green Pastures. Whenever I read Psalm 23, I would picture one particular field of lush green grass on my grandparents farm – the field we always knew as Meadow.
But, it seemed obvious once the video had pointed it out, that there was not such lush green grass at the time Psalm 23 was written. The Green pastures of the Psalms are the not lush green fields Cornish meadow of my grandparents.
Green pastures were brown, rocky, wilderness hillsides. Yet they were places where some moisture was present, enough to allow small tufts of grass to grow up from the edges of rocks with seeds and moisture are both caught. To graze in green pastures, shepherd and sheep are always on the move, a tuft here, a tuft there. Seeking food for the day, and finding just enough.
To graze in green pastures is not to sit down in one spot, forever, with every bite of sustenance we need at our fingertips. Life as a disciple is not a bed of roses where everything is sorted for us from the comfort of our homes without us having to do anything.
To graze in green pastures, is to keep moving, searching for the more that could be growing behind the next rock. To be a disciple is to learn that God will provide for todays needs, and to trust in God for enough for tomorrow.
‘give us today our daily bread’
The Lords Prayer
I find that all gives helpful meaning to ‘give us today our daily bread’. There were no supermarket shelves stacked with Hovis and Kingsmill! Bread making was a daily activity of providing enough for the now, and trusting for tomorrow.
I find this a helpful encouragement to me to keep journeying. That being a disciples is not about having everything sorted, a banqueting table before us or the answers to all of life’s questions.
It is to keep trusting, and through trusting to keep journeying and searching, because I never know what God has in store for me behind the next rock.
What about you? What do you think? How do you respond to the suggestion that green pastures may not be the image western society has often assumed?
Please watch the clip and reflect for yourself, and comment with your reflections below.
For this week’s reflections I talk about how Flying Ant Day as a signpost to God as creator of all that is – creation’s symphony .
Our garden was transformed for an hour or so this week.
Across Bognor, Felpham and Yapton, any maybe other places too, it was ‘Flying Ant Day’.
I saw one post commenting it was good that at least one thing planned for 2020 had actually gone ahead!
As you can see, our garden and patio were crawling with Ants. Every corner of the garden seemed to be covered!
It wasn’t long before social media was populated with posts from across the area commenting on the ants swarming, and according to one post, the swarms were even picked up by satellites.
But why does this phenomenon happen? How do thousands of ants, in separate nests and colonies across a geographical area all decide to fly at the same time?
There’s probably a scientific answer, to do with the inbuilt nature and DNA of an ant which means they all fly when certain atmospheric conditions are met.
Or something like that. I don’t know the science, maybe you do and it would be great to hear, do comment below!
But even if the science does give an explanation of how this phenomenon happens, Does it really tell us why? Where does the science come from? Why does the science mean it happens in this way?
For me, science is a great to way to understand how things happen and work. But for the why – science isn’t where I look. I look to God. Who I believe is the source of life and breathe, Is the reason we live and move and have our being. And through God being the source of all life, all creation is connected to God.
Colossians 1 speaks about the connectedness of creation, and Eugene Peterson puts it this way:
We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment.
Colossians 1:15-17, The Message
So whether it be ants on flying at day, The beauty of a flower blooming, The crispy taste of a fresh apple, the wonder of new birth… Know that by the nature of our being, We are connected to the source of all life, The creator, God.
And through that connection to the creator, all creation is connected to one another, We are part of God’s amazing symphony, Creations’ Symphony Which comes together to sing to the awesome, amazing, mind-blowing and intricate design of creation, reminding us that God is creator, that God is the why of all that is, and leaves us “lost in wonder, love and praise”.
Sunday Reflections from Rev Dan: Sunday 5th July 2020.
Over the last fortnight…the same verse of the Bible has kept coming up all over the place for me.
Now when this happens for me, I always know God is saying something. The Bible is so huge – 66 books, 1189 chapters, over 31,000 verses. So, for the same little bit to keep popping up in the space of a fortnight…
That’s no coincidence – it’s a God-incidence.
Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
I think there is something attractive and comforting about this verse because it can easily be seen to speak into our current living. The former ‘old normal’ that we remember cannot simply resume or return, and so we prepare for a new thing as we begin to embrace a ‘new normal’.
But that may be being slightly too simplistic. The journey from old normal to new normal is not a simple transaction. It is not a straight swap. It is not the same as my journey one day this week to change from one pair of shorts to another because the button popped off…
Embracing whatever this new normal will become is a journey in itself. And I think we are merely at the very beginning of new normal’s formation. It is going to take time to explore and experience. Some of us may be excited and desperate to step out, others may be taking very tentative steps, and others, not wanting to take a step at all.
When we look at the story behind those two verses in Isaiah 43, we see a similar journey. After being exiled and in Babylon for some time, the prospect of ‘returning’ to Israel was a scary and uncertain prospect. Many of those who were fit and young now would have been born in exile, so Babylon may well have felt like home, even though not their true home of course. To leave Babylon would break something of the limited security and familiarity they had.
For some of us, there may also be a sense of uncertainty about breaking security. As hard as it has been, living in lockdown and not leaving our homes except when essential, 100+ days on there is also a sense of coming to terms with it. Life has adjusted as we live in our own Babylon, and the idea of leaving the safety and security of home and entering what we may perceive as a dangerous wilderness where much is not as we remember it, may not feel as attractive to us as we wish it did.
For others of us, we may be really excited. We may see now as a time when there is potential for real change, where we can embrace new ideas and new ways of being, and really contribute towards the shape of our communities and their direction of travel. That through lockdown we will have been forced to learn new ways of being church, community and nation and we see real potential for this experience to transform the future.
Ok, so I’ve created an unfair contrast there. You may find it helpful, but I imagine at least some of us will identify with aspects of both of those characterisations but wouldn’t’ put ourselves in either. It may be more helpful to see these as points on a spectrum, a spectrum within which we swing our pendulum, feeling different about it all day by day.
But what this verse does remind us is that for those in exile, the memory of Israel was just that, a memory. What was had gone, their ancestors had died, they were the next generation and the former things were just that, former things. If unchecked, they could become an idealized world that overshadowed the reality of the present, and emerging future. A future within which God was doing a new thing that was already beginning to spring forth.
Hope was not just a possibility. It could be perceived, experienced and known.
It is that reality that we must hold on to. We must not let our memories of the old normal become an idealized past which holds us back from the future. A future in which God is already springing forth and making the way in the wilderness, even in the wilderness of risk assessments!
Today some churches will be opening their doors again, though many are not. Some of that is, I think out of fear. And some of that fear may be irrational, but much is totally rational. Coronavirus has not gone away.
Some of the ‘not yet’ is because of the practical fact that we have only had a week since the government guidance finally arrived and there is still time needed to process and implement it.
But some runs deeper. The reality of what is emerging as the ‘new normal’ means we have to carefully think through what the purpose of a church building is now. The church building was a key tool in facilitating gathering as community, worshiping together as one people, being united as the body of Christ. But it is just those things, when physically together to share fellowship, sing at the tops of our lungs and share stories with one another face to face, that coronavirus also seeks to exploit.
So just as the exiled were anxious, required God’s reassurance, and needed time to be ready for the next steps on the journey, so we need that time too. Time to work out who we are and what we are for. To ask God to aid us in working out how we use the resources we have to the best of our ability to continue to proclaim the gospel message of love and salvation. To continue being God’s chosen people in the emerging new normal.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?