From the Minister’s desk:
We live in ever-changing times – as I write we are in day two of lockdown and the request from the UK Government to stay at home and stay safe has been received on my Smart Phone. I have been taking Jack for a longish walk as late as possible in the morning in the hope that he is tired enough not to keep asking for another in the evening. It is very hard to resist his sad eyes and when he lifts up on his hind legs and paws me with his front one, he usually melts my heart but from now on I will just have to be stronger (!)
Our first church service online went well, 24 people joined us from Shaftesbury/Tisbury/Sturminster (someone even from France), I felt it had a real sense of community. As we all get used to this new technology and way of worshipping, I hope and pray it will be a great source of hope and strength in times such as these.
The lectionary reading for this week is very appropriate; we will be looking at John 11: 1-45 (the raising of Lazarus) on Sunday during our online worship and asking how it speaks to us in this current crisis.
Verses 33 – 35 are deeply profound for the days that we are living in: “When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said: “where have you laid him?” They said to him “Lord, come and see”. Jesus began to weep. “
I am told that the phrases ‘greatly disturbed in spirit’ and ‘deeply moved’ don’t express the emotion of the original Greek. The words used describe anger like a bull snorting. Does that startle us? That Jesus is angry? What is the subject of his anger? It is not Mary and Martha or those who mourn, why should it be? He is not angry with God, no, he is angry with death itself, the ultimate consequence of our turning away from God was to lose Eternal Life, and God is angry at our suffering.
Alongside Jesus’ anger comes weeping and this again is puzzling. He had told the disciples from the start that Lazarus would be raised and bring glory to God, so why did he spend those moments grieving his friend’s loss? I believe that in that very moment we see the heart of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit grieving over a world that is lost to the powers of darkness. This was not how the world was meant to be. God created a world that was good, where there was no pain and suffering, where people lived in constant communion with God. The consequences of our turning from God is that God’s beautiful world is broken, and God grieves that his beloved creation, including humankind suffer in this way.
When we ask, as some will: where is God in this current crisis?” I believe that the answer is that he is with us and within us every step of the way, full of compassion, grieving for this broken world and angry about the pain, suffering, grief and loss we are facing.
But there is much more, Jesus was not simply a visual expression of the sorrow and anger of God, he was also the solution. He revealed a truth to Martha that can bring light, hope and assurance into our lives at any time of suffering. When Jesus said “I am the Resurrection and the Life” he was not only revealing to Martha that he is God (something which Martha acknowledges), he is saying that through him the world will be redeemed and restored. Jesus’ death and resurrection brings with it the promise of the resurrection of the whole world, there will be no more death and suffering and pain for all who believe and put their trust in him.
There is a sentence in a song that I have been playing a lot over the past few weeks (Casting Crowns = Just be Held) which says:
“If your eyes are on the storm you’ll wonder if I love you still, but if your eyes are on the cross, you’ll know I always have and always will.”
I pray that all the people of the world will be assured of God’s everlasting unconditional love that culminated in Jesus suffering and dying, paying the consequences for our sins so that we might have the assurance of everlasting life.
Stay home, stay safe, but most importantly stay enfolded in the loving arms of God who will hold you firm in the eye of the storm.
Your friend and minister