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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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