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Together @ St. Mary's

"This is the work of God: that you believe in the one whom He has sent." (John Chapter 6 verses 29)

My dear friends,

As this coming Sunday is the last in Eastertide, I have recently been reminding myself of the resurrection passages in the Gospel and particularly enjoyed re-reading the story of when Jesus appeared on the beach in the early morning and cooked His disciples breakfast (John 21 v 1-14). You will recall the story. After Jesus’ cruel crucifixion, the disciples were worried that what had happened to Him would also happen to them. A few weeks ago we were invited to join them where they were locked in the upper room and were reminded that it was into that place of fear that the risen Christ became real to them and projected His peace into them, allowing them to live in a new way, in the strength of the Holy Spirit. But it was obviously a slow start as they assimilated this new life. Only in a Hollywood blockbuster would they have left the upper room immediately transformed, ready to transform the world. Theirs seems to have been a slower, more faltering process and perhaps this is something you and I can identify with as we are invited to allow our experience of the Risen Lord to feed into our expression of Him in our lives. They simply did not know in which direction to turn after their encounter with the Risen Jesus: they didn’t know where to go, they didn’t know what to say, they didn’t know what to do. So they simply returned to what they knew best, fishing. They joined the fishing community once again, from which they had been called away by Jesus and one night they set out from the shore for a catch. It was one of those nights, nothing went right. Try as they might, they caught nothing, not even a tiddler. Then, in the bleary light of pre-dawn, a blurred figure was seen walking along the shoreline, a right clever dick if ever there was one. "Why don’t you cast your nets on the other side of the boat mate? You are bound to catch a shoal then." Yes, right, that’s going to make all the difference isn’t it, what possible difference would that make? But, for whatever reason, something compelling in this man’s voice or because they had tried everything else, they do as He suggested and the nets almost break for the quantity of fish. Marvellous, though also wonderfully mischievous on Jesus’ part, don’t you think? Perhaps to make up for it, Jesus cooks some of the fish for them on a charcoal fire He has lit on the beach. You can just hear the hiss of the cooking flesh, see the smoke plume the air and smell the fragrant promise of a delicious breakfast. By then the sun is just peering over the horizon, turning the landscape to shimmering gold. And I mention this at a time when so many people are returning to work having been furloughed for months, or are preparing to return to work on May 17th when restrictions are relaxed further; as others face unemployment, redundancy, job insecurity; as some continue to work from home and others go back to offices, some reluctantly, others eagerly; as others remain at home having retired and yet others who have worked without a break all the way through the past 14 months are experiencing complete exhaustion.....because so many of us define our lives in terms of our work and because of that, have found the series of lockdowns particularly threatening and challenging. Work still dominates our culture, particularly for financial reasons, but so much of our identity and sense of purpose is caught up in it too. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" we ask young children. "Hello, this is Neville, he works in electronics...." we say at parties. This past year has forced us all, of working age or not of working age, those who have worked this past year or those who have been furloughed, to rethink our relationship with work, especially in relation to who we are, what we contribute to the community and our own sense of identity, purpose and self-worth. We may have thought about whether our work is stimulating, fulfilling, or whether it is just a means whereby we pay the mortgage. We may have reassessed our work/life balance, how we work most productively and creatively, how important to us are those with whom we spend our working lives, and how we now want to spend the rest of our working lives in the light of our realisations, if indeed we have the luxury of choice. I suppose the connection between the Biblical passage I mentioned earlier, of Jesus cooking breakfast on the beach for His disciples who return to work after having spent years living in a different way with Him, and the relaxing of the Covid rules around working practices, is this: like the disciples, for many of us, there has been an interruption in our usual living and working practices over this past year, or at least a different experience of it, intensification of it or cessation of it. Now that, like the disciples returning to their nets, some are returning to their offices, shops etc, how is that going to be for them? And for those of us in the vocational professions and other key workers who have continued to work and are weary: teachers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, drivers, supermarket workers, food suppliers, PPE producers, priests, they too are in need of an energy beyond that of their own making in order to cope with the demands of continuing to work, and of not knowing what the future implications of the pandemic are going to be. How do we return to work, continue to work, look for work, deal with not having work, and learn from what we have experienced about work and about not working, this past year? How do those bursting with energy and enthusiasm for work, do so in a way which is sensitive to those who have worked tirelessly and without respite over the last year and are exhausted? Energy levels among the population have probably never been more different than they are at present in society and we have to respect each other in dealing with this in our own different ways. The experience of the virus, of shielding, of lockdown, of not socialising, of illness, of grieving, has been different for us all and we need to be sensitive to where each of us is on this spectrum, as much as we have been in relation to risk. I am also aware of people in our community who, having had a chance, the first real chance in the whole of their working lives, to reassess their lives specifically in relation to work, no longer wish to spend their energy, their intellect, their time on something they now assess as not sufficiently meaningful - those who have had the chance to consider whether they have an appropriately healthy work/life balance for the good of their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families and primary relationships. Caught up as we are in a culture which inculcates us with a belief that "I work, therefore I am", how, given the insights, revelations, realisations we have gained over this past year of reflection and re-evaluation, do we proceed from here in a meaningful, conscious and creative way? Well, perhaps by knowing that the Risen Christ is as present with us now as He was 2,000 years ago on that breakfast barbecue beach, and is with us every bit as much as He was with those first disciples who were reassessing the direction of their lives and taking their first stumbling steps into their future in the life of the Spirit. Like them, we too, whatever our situation, are invited to offer to Him all that we will be engaged in during the course of each day, to be prepared to "set down (our) nets on the other side of the boat" or the equivalent, as we are prompted by Him to work in different ways, perhaps for different results and different rewards. As we are invited to see our worth as well as our work in a different way, through the lens of what really, ultimately matters from a God given, God inspired perspective. We may even be asked to leave our nets if so bidden and fish in different ways, different waters and for different harvests. But if it is our creator God who directs us to do so, then we can be sure it is for constructive and well as for creative reasons we are asked so to do. Surely the main thing is to know that the Risen Christ is with us, wherever we are, however we spend our lives, and to entrust ourselves, our preoccupations, our concerns, our energies, our lack of energy, to Him, for the breath of His Spirit can animate even the most unpromising of us. The main thing I take from the passage I began by writing about today is this: that without Christ we are never going to be as productive, successful or creative as we are with Him as the motivating and inspiring agent of our lives. Without Christ our nets too may remain empty. We may do the job, we may earn the money, we may remain in employment, but is what we do hollow and of nothing worth? With Christ, we are promised, whatever is it, however seemingly menial or humble our task, that which is given to Him, like a few loaves and a few fish, can be transformed. He will use whatever is given to Him gloriously and fruitfully. His Spirit can redefine what meaningful work can be and what fulfilment we can derive from doing it. Brother Lawrence teaches us this. Living in communion with the ever-creative Christ can make us similarly creative and prompt us to contribute to the experience, expression and extension of the building of His Kingdom. Whoever we are, however we spend our lives, let us all offer ourselves, our work, our relationships, our opportunities, our activities, to Christ, that His Spirit may fill, direct, animate and inspire us to live with the essence of His Risen Life living in and through us. For just as surely as His first disciples, we too are called to help transform the world and bring healing and hope to all people. With blessings and best wishes Jeff





ZOOM AND MORE

Please join us this Sunday for our Zoom service at 9.30am by clicking on the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 or in person in church at 6pm, by booking on: servicebooking@stmarytwick.org.uk We shall also be opening the church for Private Prayer 10am-11am on Wednesdays. The readings this Sunday are: Acts Chapter 10 verses 44-end and John Chapter 15 verses 9-17. The Collect: Risen Lord Jesus, By the lakeside you renewed your call To your disciples to help your Church Obey your command to love And to draw all nations into union with you. Help us to hear that call anew and to Obey it in all we are and do and say. This we ask through the same, Jesus Christ Our Lord Who lives and reigns With you and the Holy Spirit One God, now and for ever. AMEN.


Last week as we commemorated St George, Patron Saint of the English, we thought about a land of shopkeepers. Today, in order to balance things, I thought that I should talk about the Celts! The Celts who populated these islands centuries ago measured their lives in winters and in candles, rather than in air miles and possessions. The Celtic world was in a sense a very different world from the one in which we now live, although of course creation has not changed that much. It is our relationship with it, our interaction with it, our respect for it, which may have changed. The sun still rises, sets; fields still yield crops as food; fire still burns bright in the darkness of the night; water still replenishes the soil and refreshes us. But things undoubtedly have changed. Those who inhabited these islands two thousand years ago relied upon the sequence of the seasons; now we can import produce at any time of the year, or cultivate crops in ways other than by dependence on the sun and the rain. People then had closer contact with the food chains which sustained them; now all that is done for us and we are several steps removed. What comes to our table does so from many parts of the world and may have travelled more extensively than we, or those we know, will ever have done in our long lives, in order to provide a little flavour to a brief moment of our existence and then be forgotten. Light pollution robs us of our sense of what deep darkness really feels like, which was so absolute for those who lived here before us. Now complete darkness is more of a concept for us than a visual reality. Our clothes, worn, cast aside as fashions, tastes, dimensions change, not mended, cherished, recycled, upcycled, as much as perhaps they should be. We have progressed far - have we progressed at all? There have been huge developments - how have we actually developed? Things are much easier for us now - life seems so complicated. We have become so sophisticated - where is our natural ability to be men and women of the Spirit? Science has allowed us to manipulate creation for the benefit of all - why is there still so much inequality of health, of life chances, of food supplies, of clean water, in the human family? It is far too easy for us to look at the past as a place of golden wonder, harmony and balance and to see the present in the harsher light of strife and conflict, complexity and difficulty. I suspect that humanity in essence has not changed much, we are still capable of cruelty or kindness, artistry or harm, delight or destruction. There are still people animated by selfless compassion, there are still people motivated by selfish greed. Everything changes, nothing changes. It is with a sense of gratitude beyond my abilities of expression, that I contemplate the activities of those who have created the vaccines to defeat, or at least seek to control, the effects of Covid 19. Science, whose previously cold, clinical, sometimes cruel, capacity we have often been made aware of, comes to us now as a friend: reaching out to us in our pain, in our fear, in our despair, in our suffering and offering healing, reassurance and hope. I am in awe at not just what has been achieved, but the speed at which it has been delivered. Was it not within a year of the first recorded death in this country of Covid 19, of Peter Attwood, 84 from Chatham in Kent, on 30th January 2020 , that 90 year old Margaret Keenan was the first person in the UK to be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, in the University Hospital in Coventry at 6.31am on 8th December 2020. Marvellous. And since then apparently all the vulnerable categories and all those over the age of 50 have received their first vaccination, or at least been offered a vaccination, and now many of those in their 40`s too. (I am writing this at the end of April 2021, and this is of course in the UK, as distinct from people in other parts of our wounded, hurting planet.) It is an extraordinary moment of medical intervention and achievement and with this, it is as if the whole nation has been injected with hope: * Hope that the most vulnerable be protected, * Hope that children can return to school and be prepared for full and fulfilling lives, * Hope that those dependent on going back to work in offices, factories and shops may do so safely and help regenerate and revitalise our economy. * Hope that families can meet up again freely and even remember the things they found difficult about each other previously, what luxury! * Hope that friends can hug, new partners meet, marriages take place with friends and family there to support. * Hope that we can once more go to the Pub, eat in a Restaurant, visit the Theatre, hear live Music. We will hopefully have emerged from a time of Pandemic, though we will still need to be mindful of it. We will be able to take up where we left off, but I wonder how many of us will do so in the same way as before. We will be able to reclaim areas of our lives, but how many of us will have a slightly different attitude towards the unquestioning joy of living? We will be able to enjoy travelling once again and I for one will not take that privilege for granted in the future. The Covid crisis has challenged us, checked us, changed us. I hope that we have all taken advantage of the opportunity to learn from it, to reflect on what really, lastingly matters and no longer to waste our time, our energy, our love on things which do not contribute to either our own wellbeing or the wellbeing of others. There is much to regret, there are many to grieve over. There is much to give thanks for, there are many to feel grateful to. I have changed, and I have stayed the same. If I am honest, I have learned much about myself in ways I might never otherwise have done, about what and who makes me feel fulfilled, happy, laugh; what I would prefer to concentrate on, what feeds me and what I would love to relinquish, as I have seen that it isn’t of any great worth at all; what new language I have learned and would like to continue to use and what is no longer true to my tongue. Time will tell if we have learned any lessons, or whether there will be a cultural forgetting as we all surge forward to the shops, run to restaurants, pounce on pubs and 2020/2021 will become a blur, assimilated but no longer claiming our attention, subsumed in the rush to return to that elusive state of mind: normality. Our daytime lives may well return to what they once were, but I wonder, in the early morning, when we wake and try to recall who we are and what our priorities and expectations are of the day, or as we return to our beds and have the chance to remember before sleep what we have been deprived of this past year, what we have feared, our relationships with our bodies, our lack of relationship with other people’s bodies, the disturbing reality of our humanity and the colder sense of our mortality, will we then tune in to those deeper impulses, those deeper, darker moments of this past year and will we then recall with any sense of gratitude and awe what light may have penetrated the darkness we have inhabited? A light which has perhaps ignited the landscape where our restless souls roam untamed, unchecked, so that we fear no longer. A light which has illumined our path so we can find a way forward, warming the chill of loneliness with the strong sense of Another, who has lovingly reached out to us and sustained us with their presence. We are no different after all in that sense from the Celts of old who longed for the sun to rise, for crops to grow, for water to be clean and clear. God yesterday, today, tomorrow, always: looking at our slowly turning world, reaching out to us with compassionate tenderness, hoping that even for a moment we would look up from our preoccupation with ourselves and our own small lives, to see Him as He truly is, the One who is Love. With blessings and best wishes Jeff





ZOOM AND MORE

Please join us this Sunday for our Zoom service at 9.30am by clicking on the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 or in person in church at 6pm, by booking on: servicebooking@stmarytwick.org.uk The readings for this Sunday are: Acts Chapter 8 verses 26-end and John Chapter 15 verses 1-8.


The Collect: Almighty God, Who, through your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Have overcome death and opened for us The gate of life eternal: Grant that, as by your grace going before us You put into our minds good desires, So by your continual help We may bring them to good effect; Through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord, Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN.





APCM Sermon. Huge apologies to all those of you who joined us for the Zoom Service last Sunday. I had thought it would be appropriate to have part of the service from church, especially as it was our APCM and as we were celebrating the new space we have in church and reflecting on how God may be inviting us to use it for the congregation and community as we emerge from the pandemic and start the slow business of recovery. If any of you would like to see and hear it with fewer technical problems, here it is, just click the following link: https://youtu.be/kLxxMj27hJQ <https://youtu.be/kLxxMj27hJQ> With blessings and best wishes, Jeff