Maybe this week is the week when we should put in lots of pictures of puppies and kittens and videos of gurgling babies – humans are almost hard-wired to smile at such. And it is really important that we try and lift our spirits, and lift the spirits of others, kindly and well, not in some manic demanding way.
Encouragement and feeling supported – two things that help make us more human. And if they do us good, how can we help support and encourage others?
This Sunday we would be celebrating Candlemas, or the Presentation of Christ, together in our churches, albeit a few days early. The actual day is Feb 2nd which is 40 days from the birth of Jesus and traditionally signals the end of the longer Christmas and Epiphany period. We would change the ‘colours’ in church back to green for ‘ordinary time’ just for a couple of weeks before Lent starts and the church goes purple. The liturgical seasons remind us of the passing of time and the rhythm of the year, and so does nature, as we begin to see bulbs sprouting – yet to see a hardy snow-drop in flower! God has given us the short cycle of the day, and the longer cycle of the year to help us with time. When we can’t mark the occasions as we would like, then time can seem to merge and lose its rhythm and that can be disconcerting and depressing. We are actually creatures of considerable habit, who have preferred patterns, daily, weekly, yearly, and it is now nearly a year of disruption because of covid.
This Sunday the reading includes three generations of people – the prayerful old man and woman, Simeon and Anna, who have been waiting patiently, trusting God that they would see the one who would be the glory of Israel. I am in awe of their ongoing prayerfulness and faith.
And there are the parents with their baby, bringing the baby, as the Law required, busy parents, with a young baby, but wanting to do as God requires. Again I am in awe of their faith and commitment and it is lovely that their paths cross – the older people who don’t seem to have family themselves now, and the young parents with the baby.
And although we can’t be in our church buildings – we can’t present anything or even go there to pray – we can hold each other, younger and older in our prayers and we can remind ourselves of the church family and thank God for them. Online this week the service has contributions from all generations which reflects this
And I hope we can feel encouraged and supported, encouraging and supporting, whether younger or older. Yes we have to navigate so many further trials, home-schooling puts huge demands on homes, and our teachers continue working so hard; for some isolation is beginning to hurt; for some the Brexit paperwork is proving a further head-ache or disappointment, or there are other things which add pressure to work; health workers are facing ever more challenges; some have to live with ongoing pain with hospital appointments delayed or cancelled; none of these will be sorted overnight. Simeon and Anna were patient faithful people who had seen so much and been through so much. They encourage me to be prayerful, focused on God, and hopeful. And Mary and Joseph encourage me in their faith and commitment. And yes I would still like to hear a baby gurgling and see some cute puppies, but I also want to make space to rest in God and focus on Jesus for that is where a deeper peace will be found, and where our hope is anchored.
Church buildings – We continue to monitor the situation and whether / when we might open our churches for Public Worship, and how we can plan for the coming weeks. We will keep everyone updated, but for now the churches remain closed – and that is a great sadness even though we know it is the right decision.
Lent – We will be running a Lent Course on Prayer: different approaches to prayer; different ways of praying; resources to help us pray; we hope it will excite, encourage and resource us as individuals and as churches. It will be available online and we will distribute it to those who are not on-line. There will be family resources and lots of ideas and help. Look out for more information next week.
Ash Wednesday – We do not (yet) know if we will be able to mark the start of Lent together, though we suspect not (sadly). There is a suggestion that people who would like to, could have a short service to pray at home with (or without) imposition of ashes. Please could you let the clergy know if this is something you would like so we can provide what you could use by way of liturgy. Many may feel they should mark it rather differently given the situation and our isolation.