This weekend Chris and I were due to head to Hampshire for a festival that we have enjoyed for many years. It would have begun on Thursday, I would have come home Saturday night to lead worship at Ansty Road and then headed back for the Sunday evening and come home early Monday morning. It’s been part of our routine for most of the years since we came to Coventry – although last year I missed it so as to conduct the wedding of Chris and Georgia (Happy Anniversary!). The festival organisers were hoping until about a month ago that they would be going ahead, and I was wondering if I could find a good enough internet connection to lead our Sunday service from there. But like so much, it has been cancelled and we stay at home with our tickets rolled over to 2021.
You will be marking your own occasions, rolling your own lives over to 2021. At the same time we continue to wonder when we can meet together in church. At Ansty Road we continue to look towards 18th October when the building work should be almost completed. But at the moment all of our furniture is in church and covered in dust, so we will have some cleaning to do as well as working out how many people we can allow inside. At St. Columba’s we have no plans to meet, but will let people know which churches are opening up when they decide to do so. Most churches will make decisions in September and will be guided by infection levels at that time as they are currently increasing within Coventry.
So, instead of sitting in a field listening to music, I will be here again and sharing worship with you on Zoom. It’s been good to see various people come and join us, if you’ve not yet managed to do so please try and join us. If you are uncertain about how it works and want a trial run, let me know and I will open the room and talk you through any problems.
Let me hear what God will speak,
for God will speak peace to the people,
to the faithful, to those who turn to God in their hearts.
Let me see God’s salvation at hand
that glory may dwell in our land.
In God steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
New every morning is the love
our wakening and uprising prove
through sleep and darkness safely brought,
restored to life and powers and thought.
New mercies each returning day
hover around us while we pray;
new perils past, new sins forgiven
new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.
Bible Genesis 37:1-28
Reflection We arrive at the story of Joseph. The lectionary invites us to read the beginning this week and the end next week. So you might like to read all the drama in-between through the week. It is a story that you may have heard as the triumph of a hated dreamer, sold into slavery, forging a successful career against all the odds. A rags to riches story so beloved of a culture that believes anyone who works hard enough can be whatever they want to be and regards failure as just desserts.
I’m going to invite you to read it in a different way, as the story of a braggart who believes he is born to rule and will stop at nothing to do so. It brings great personal glory to Joseph, but a life of slavery for the children of Israel. This is the story of Empire and how we respond to those who believe they are born to rule and the consequences of their ambition. For the brothers it creates conflict between and within each of them. They decide to confront the ambition of Joseph with violence, Reuben seeks to spare Joseph and Judah sees the opportunity to make a profit and rid themselves of Joseph’s dreams of ruling over them. Together they collaborate in lying to their father.
What are the compromises we make to live with Empire? Do we collaborate, challenge or toil for little reward? Are we consumers, chattels or targets to be monetised? Are we actors in our own destiny or characters in another’s dream? And where is God in this? At the end of Genesis humanity is falling into captivity and God is hardly heard until the the early chapters of Exodus. Despite that, faithful people will find ways to live faithfully, grace will be found in breaking the desire for retribution, hope will rest with a father’s tears mourning his son. Salvation waits on God’s word, we peer into the future.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before
and will make a path for God’s steps.
The trivial round, the common task
will furnish all we ought to ask.
Lord, help us, this and every day,
to live more nearly as we pray.
John Keble (1792-1866)