“Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new;
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and, in the renewal of our lives, make known your heavenly glory ..”
This is from the Collect – the prayer set for this week – and seems very apposite to our times, these difficult times, when we are not able to live life in its fulness, when we are restricted and separated in so many ways. Our world feels impoverished by the current circumstances; some (too many) deeply impoverished and poorer still because of the restrictions, struggling for food, money to pay for heating and / or rent. Whatever our politics, we will have been shocked by pictures of inadequate food parcels going to needy families in our own country, and hopefully we can respond not least by supporting those charities which are doing more to help, like our wonderful Urban Outreach.
And many of us feel our living is impoverished, as we are restricted in what we can do and much more fundamentally who we can meet; and our churches remain closed for worship. Too many are ill, and many more are anxious, fearful or grieving, and lonely. Even if we have material things we can be impoverished in heart and soul – we are made to be social creatures. Some of us are struggling more and more, but may not feel we can admit it (~lookingwithin).
And the challenge for us is to continue to make ourselves available to the renewing grace of God, so that we can make known God’s glory in our lives. As parishes and a Team we congratulate and celebrate with Chris and Dave Bagley in the award of MBEs for their work with Urban Outreach- two people who embody #facingoutwards, making known God’s glory in their practical acts of kindness. But how wonderful if they could retire with their work done and no longer needed!
We pray that we will know that inner transformation in us, as we are filled with the riches of God’s grace (#facingup); imagine ourselves as being filled with fresh sparkling water, replenished. We pray that we will then allow this water, those riches, to cascade out from us, in acts of love and hope, in phone-calls, and messages, and in gifts and giving, and in our encouragement and support. As we are transformed, so that transformation also affects others for their good.
A different and simple image – the solar-powered light; let us make sure we are focused on the light and receiving the light, so we can then shine out the light for others. Our twin tasks are to absorb the energy and to then share the light. Without the first we can’t do the second for very long; without the second we are failing to do our job – “Let your light so shine ..” The light is needed for the darker places. Again we see the dynamic of #facingup, #lookingwithin and #facingoutwards: let’s keep this dynamic and not let it get stuck on any one place.
Our world this week is also teetering still further towards the edge. Again, whatever our particular politics, we should be deeply concerned at what is happening, in America, in China, Nigeria, Iran, Yemen and too many other places, and the lukewarm reactions and responses from other governments. How do we pray in such massive issues, and for what exactly do we pray? As we read the gospels we realise Jesus spoke clearly and strongly against unjust leaders and injustice, as did the prophets, like Amos, Micah and Isaiah. We can and should feel angry, and we probably can and should do some more; we know, however, world politics is messy, and compromised, and there are no easy answers. Prayer is part of the answer – a key part – but not the whole answer. Jesus set aside time to pray, but also to act and engage, both with the needy and against the powerful. We can support good initiatives and we can challenge what is wrong; we can put appropriate pressure on business leaders and MPs to prioritise issues of justice.
When we are not sure how to pray – what words to use – we can express our emotions, and the Spirit groans with us (Romans 8), we don’t have to find the exact words. We can pray, simply and repeatedly, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, and we can pray for those who suffer the most, for the families, the individuals who struggle, who are hurt, who are hungry and who grieve, as we pray for God’s Kingdom, and the making known of his heavenly glory. Prayer will also change us, so be prepared.