Rector's Ramblings: June 21st 2020

 

 

 

    I am very aware of tiredness, in myself, in our staff team, and in many other folk. This has all been going on a long time now and there is no real end in sight. If these ramblings are more rambling than most, you know the reason. I couldn’t get my head round what to say and make it make sense.

   I was struck in today’s New Testament reading (Matthew 10:24-39 – have a look) about Jesus’ saying 3 times in just these few verses ‘do not be afraid’. Most of us are experiencing fear and anxiety at some level right now. Fear and anxiety thrive on uncertainty. Now there is good advice out there to help with those feelings of fear and anxiety.

   Things such as: have a routine but then every so often refresh and renew the routine; focus on a project, read a book that you’ve been meaning to read for ages; decide each day know which 3 things that you will definitely do and achieve; have short worry time of say 15 minutes when you write out all your fears and worries and then pop the writing under a cross symbolising placing it in God’s hands. For me, the most important has been not to focus on those happenings over which I have no control, but to put my efforts where I can have an influence. Some of this advice may help you as you read this today. I hope it does.

     Back to Jesus who approaches it differently.  Jesus has just warned his disciples that there is plenty for them to be afraid of: the authorities will be out to get them and then says ‘do not be afraid’. He says to us ‘do not be afraid’ as we face times when there is plenty to be afraid of. He doesn’t then say, as we might expect, ‘because God will look after you.’  Instead, his advice seems to run like this:

   Firstly, ‘The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.’ In essence I read this as saying: the reality of the world is that life can and will be tough. I, Jesus, have been through it and if I am not exempt, then you will not be exempt. Accept the reality of the world and people as imperfect, forgive the imperfections and do not be afraid of them. It is as it is. I am with you in it all.

    Secondly, don’t be afraid as ‘there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed’. I hit a struggle with this. Surely for our private thoughts to be made public is a good reason to be afraid? ‘If people only knew what I was really like....’ is one of our great fears. Jesus seems to be saying that what will come to light, amidst all of our faults and failings, our blindness and obstinacy, is our loyalty, faith, perseverance and more. I find this hard but I wonder if Jesus is saying “I can see the good in you more than you can see it in yourself. All will be well.” How humbling that is – we are loved by God as we are more than we love ourselves.

  Next:  ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna).’ Hmm, tricky again. One minute Jesus says ‘do not be afraid’ and then ‘be afraid’ Now the word translated as ‘hell’ is ‘Gehenna’. Gehenna was the rubbish dump on the edge of Jerusalem where fires constantly smouldered. There is something more important that our body – our soul, the heart of us. Jesus is saying there is an evil force in our world and that evil is our enemy and we must be wary of this enemy. The people of light are never more at risk than when lured to fight darkness by using more darkness. That is the road straight to the garbage dump for our soul. Beware of the temptation, say, to choose to go to war as a way to bring freedom; beware of the temptation to retaliate, to malign in return for someone maligning us and so forth. There is a force of darkness and evil who would tempt us to dark ways. Watch out – be afraid of that force. Fighting darkness with darkness turns us dark inside.

   Finally, the lovely image which outweighs his warning: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” This is about the most striking promise of how beloved we are. God loves and cherishes us, each one of us, and we are never lost in the mass of humanity. Sparrows were the cheapest bird for a poor man’s table. There were sold as a package: two for the price of a penny and you got the third one free. The Father cares and knows each of the sparrows, how much more he cares and knows you. He even knows the number of hairs on your head. Don’t be afraid.

     There is something to think about when we are afraid: you are worth much more than many sparrows. Rest assured that God cares and knows about the details of your life with all of its temptations and dangers. Threats are around us but the strength of the one who cares for us is greater. This is different from the advice you will find all too easy in books and on Google searches. It’s different from simply saying ‘God will look after you’ How will we let it speak to us? I’m not there with these words of Jesus yet and you may see others things in what he said

    Jesus goes on and invites us to place our love for him higher than our love for anyone and anything else. Jesus doesn’t want to be one of many love interests. Tough? Am I called to love him more than my child or partner? At one level yes. When we choose Jesus first, something strange becomes true – we come to love others the best we can as well. We love each other best when we love Jesus most. Let’s ask him to enable us to make him No 1 in our lives that we might love better, and that we can trust his promise that we do not need to be afraid.