All around us lockdown is being eased. Chris and I have taken the opportunity for our daughter to come and stay for the weekends and last Sunday we went over to Leicester to sit in the garden with our son and his partner. It was lovely to see them all. My brother has been able to visit Mum and Dad in the garden of their care home, but we are only allowed 15 minute slots, so I’m not going to drive there for such a short visit. When you go out and about it’s clear that people are returning to old routines, and that some are carrying on as if nothing has happened and the virus has gone away. Chris has been back full time at school, even though they only have Year 6 and essential workers’ children in the building and so our routine has returned to a pre-Covid one. I hope though you have also been able to see a few more people, get out and about a little bit, but still taking care. The virus has not gone away, even if hospitals have a better idea of how to treat it and how to manage its presence in our communities.
You will have seen that from 4 July we are permitted to open churches again. But the regulations and guidelines make it difficult to do so and may not be the church you want to return to. We are looking at what we need to do, and how we can make our buildings safe places to be. I’m learning more than I want to know about sanitising and door control. I see that some churches are in a rush to return, they seem to come from a view that some places are more holy than others and that churches are the most holy of all. We come from a tradition where our buildings are Meeting Houses where the community come together, but that prayer spaces and holy places can be found anywhere. It was one of the things the early church had to get to grips with, denied access to the temple and to synagogues, they made the most of the homes they had – I think we have learnt to better understand those communities over the last few months.
So we will continue using zoom for the moment. You can log in each Sunday from 10:15am. The service will start about 10:30am
This Sunday will be a Communion Service. I ask you to provide your own bread and wine/juice, and then serve yourselves at the appropriate time. Again, there has been a bit of debate about whether this is proper communion. It may not be Communion as you have known it, but it will be a time to remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and to let the Holy Spirit work through the airwaves.
Prayers & Reflection for 28 June 2020
In the name of God we bring all that we are
As followers of Jesus, we offer our wealth, gifts and skills
Welcomed by the Spirit, we give thanks for the goodness of creation.
May all that we offer be used to bring goodness, grace and love.
Have faith in God my heart
Trust and be unafraid;
God will fulfil in every part
Each promise God has made.
Bible Genesis 22:1-18
Reflection We jump forward to the next chapter and by perhaps 12 years or so. Isaac is still a boy but growing fast and we have yet another awful story. So many questions within it. Has God forgotten that Abraham has another son, now long since sent into the wilderness? Did God really expect Abraham to sacrifice his son? Was Abraham really prepared to go through with it? Did Isaac know what was happening and did he trust his father and God to give him life? Does God really test us in this way?
How you answer these questions, or the new questions they raise for you, might say as much about your concept of God as it does about this story. Some see it as a proclamation that child sacrifice is not acceptable to God. Some see within it a great story of faith (see Romans 4). Some see a confirmation of the covenant promises made between Abraham and God coming to fruition. I used to write a column in the church magazine called Notes from Moriah, as I felt at that time that God had called me towards ministry, tested that call and then released me to something else. The full call to ministry would come some years later. Some are less positive about this narrative. They see child abuse and wonder at the God who can even hint at such a thing. And Wilfred Owen used it to highlight the sacrifices made by the young in times of war:-
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
How do you read it? What questions does it raise for you? Do you recognise God? Do you recognise Abraham or Issac or the missing Sarah? Do you recognise yourself?
The story finishes with the claim that “God will provide.” That is the promise I hold to as we try to work out how we move out of lockdown into whatever the future may hold. But I don’t want to sacrifice anyone as we do so and I’m looking for a new landscape where all the children of God can know the blessings of a fruitful life.
We come to this table and embrace our world, all that is good and all that is broken, all that gives life and all that brings death, all that we celebrate and all we hold in despair.
In the beginning you crafted creation, coloured the imagination, birthed each generation and declared it good. We give thanks for all you have declared good.
In a word you inspired people of faith, sparked adventures, excited prophets, poets and wise teachers, to create new beginnings. We give thanks for new beginnings
Have faith in God, my mind
although your light burns low;
God’s mercy holds a wiser plan
than you can fully know.
Bryan A Rees (1911-83)