Today we return to 'in place' Sunday worship together, albeit with significant restrictions. With what spirit do we come?
There is a mixture of great joy at reconnecting with one another in person and with much of what is familiar. There are also continuing and fresh anxieties, not least learning to manage within COVID-19 restrictions - notably only having 17 places available in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit (due to the current Queensland 4 square metres indoor space requirement for each person), so that we have another 'pod' of people worshiping together in Old Bishopsbourne with others in the Chapel itself (see our COVID-19 Safe Plan here). We also bring griefs and gifts of the greater 'lockdown' period and a renewed awareness of our human fragility and need for solidarity. Above all, we come together more closely today with a deeper sense of our need to travel onward with the God who creates, redeems and gives renewed life. Penny's reflection today - see here - is a fitting one: drawing us into the mission of Jesus, which is a love for all, particularly for and with the oppressed, and a vision of fresh joy and strength. May the God who is in the midst of all trials and sufferings, bring healing, justice, and new life to all.
We can be so certain we’re right. We can believe and insist on all sorts of things, if there are a few people around encouraging us. There are groups of people that sincerely believe the Earth is actually flat. How did it come to the Flat Earth society being a thing in 2018? The patent evidence of science is swept away by willful ignorance, and for what purpose? To not be wrong, to be sure of being right?...
The Ten Commandments! - such a foreboding name. In fact, it's not a very good name for them. The Hebrew means: The Ten Words, The Decalogue. It is the revealed Word of God.
A little bit of context: the Israelites have been in the wilderness for three months after being freed from slavery in Egypt. During that time God has provided them with fresh drinking water, and sustained them with manna and quails to eat. Now on the day of the third month, God asks Moses to get everyone ready to encounter God at the foot of Mt Sinai. God will come in a cloud and speak to Moses so that everyone can hear and trust him.
We can understand from this context that the decalogue was addressed to the people as a whole psyche, and each individual is addressed as well. The community has responsibility as a whole, and the individual has responsibility. In fact, there is an ancient Jewish myth that these words were offered to the entire world at the same time and was interpreted into all languages of the earth. And that Israel is the only nation to accept it. This myth illustrates that the Words are universal in application.
I’ve been thinking - am I the salt of the earth? Or am I salting the earth?
In Matthew, the author records that Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth. The flavour and depth of our communities. The salt of the earth is such an evocative, grounding call, isn’t it?
And yet, salt can be so destructive. Salinity hinders plant growth, causes corrosion, and erodes masonry. From ancient times into the 19th century, there are stories of conquered lands being sowed with salt to make them unusable for agriculture and building, and to force their people out. Whether a historical fact, or symbolic curse, the practice of salting the earth speaks to a power to hinder, stunt and corrode..
In our journey through Lent into Easter we meet in many places, the desert, the wilderness, by wells of water, in temples, on the cross, in the tomb. We explore a myriad of environments telling dramatic encounters between heaven and earth. We explore a tapestry of God moments: moments of heaven breaking loose into the world. Culminating in the ultimate event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ...
Are you longing for more space in your life, just to be, just to listen to your deepest self and the call of the mysterious depths of life? If so, then our new monthly gathering Sanctus may be just what you are looking for. You do not need to hold any particular belief and you certainly do not have to fit into any human-made 'box' ! (all are welcome just as we are, whatever our age, background, sexual or gender identity, or giftedness)
The name 'Sanctus' just means 'holy' and the idea is to set aside some 'holy ground' to sit with God and listen. Initially we are planning a gathering that will happen once a month on the last Saturday of the month. The first one will be on
Saturday April 29 at 5pm
at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, St Francis College,
233, Milton Road, Milton.
So what will happen and what could you expect?
At the heart of this gathering will be reflection and silence. That interval of silence will be supported by gentle music and chant, words from Scripture and from the world's great spiritual teachers, and a brief, thoughtful reflection. We aim to create a space of hospitality for all, in which we can be real with one another and with the reality many call 'God'. The contemplative gathering will be for about forty-five minutes, after which you are welcome to sit longer in the peaceful atmosphere, or join us in an adjoining space for some light refreshments and a chance to enjoy the company of others.
Sanctus is for those seeking simplicity, depth, and stillness.
We look forward to welcoming you as our community grows.
If you would like to know more
please call the Revd. Penny Jones on 0477444095 firstname.lastname@example.org
Gungor's song 'Beautiful Things' is a wonderful modern anthem for Ash Wednesday. For it is possible to regard this key date in the Christian calendar as a gloomy day, overly obsessed with sin. death, and other aspects of human finitude. It is certainly a time for facing up to ourselves and our world, our limitations, failings and lack of ultimate control. Yet this should only be in order to be re-charged with faith, hope and love, through the grace of God. For Ash Wednesday is about renewing our participation in God's love in solidarity with others. In the midst of our personal and wider struggles, it is a message not to despair but to take fresh heart. As Gungor put it:
All this pain
I wonder if I'll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change, at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come out from this ground, at all?
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found, in you...
I have come across people who really dread the Christian season of Lent. They have experienced it as a dreary time of deprivation and dull hymns. Yet it can be a wonderful time of renewal and opportunity.
The first question when it comes to Lent is ' shall I let something go or take something on?'. Either can be effective. The purpose is to do something that helps to focus our attention and turn us God-ward. So whether it is remembering not to eat meat or chocolate, or remembering to find five minutes in a day to spend time in silence, the outcome is the same.
Great things to let go can be excess time spent on social media, TV or even email as well as more traditional abstinences from sugar or alcohol. Making a little space in our day can enable opportunity for more creative ways to interact with God and God's world.
So think about committing to taking a walk in nature each day, with God as your companion. You might like then to ask questions, such as 'what is God bringing to my attention in the things I see and hear?'. Or perhaps you might like to spend some focused time in such pursuits as reading, painting or gardening. The important thing is the intent. Remember this is time set aside to be more attentive to God.
Other activities that can bring Lent to life include interacting with others in a study group or out in the community, tidying up some waste ground or helping a refugee child to read. For remember that the idea of Lent is not just to mark the forty days in a focused way. It is also about creating habits and relationships that continue after Lent and become part of every day. So for example if you try to focus your attention every time you pass through a doorway and remember that Christ walks with you when you do that, hopefully you will always have that sense of Christ's accompanying in future.
So talk with God about what will be life giving for you and breathe new life into your spiritual journey. Use your imagination and realise that anything pretty much can be used as a doorway to the divine. And talk to others about what you intend to do, so that they can hold you accountable and encourage you. One way to do that is to take part in a Lent group. We will have two in the parish, to be held at St. Francis College, one on a Wednesday from 1.30-3pm and the other on a Thursday 7-8.30pm. The material will be the same, so if you miss a session on Wednesday you can catch up on Thursday. See you there!
Jo Inkpin, Penny Jones, Jeni Nix, Peter Jeffery, Ann Edwards, Elizabeth McConnell