I’m writing this whilst we watch a programme about Paramedics during Covid-19. It highlights the difficulties faced by people who have had to continue working through the lockdown. They have been under pressure, worried for their own health and the health of their own families whilst caring for the whole community. I can also see the thrill of it, and with the work I have done I understand that sense of wanting to be at the heart of things. I think that is what I have found strangest about the last few months. We had to close down our work at St. Columba’s which had allowed me to be at the centre of community action. Instead, I’ve been working away at home and aware that I’ve been out of touch with much of what is happening in large parts of the community. It doesn’t look like we will be able to continue work at St. Columba’s again, and we still wait to see if we begin new work at Ball Hill and how we can shape life at Ansty Road once we return to the building. So even as others are getting back to work, I’m still feeling disorientated and struggling to know what plans to make for now and the future.
I’m aware that similar changes are happening for some of you. Things that have been at the heart of your life have already been lost. Some of you are caring for people who are very ill, or dealing with illness yourselves. Even if you are beginning to meet up with family and friends again, it’s under different circumstances, with restrictions in place and uncertainty about every plan made.
Please look out for one another, give people a ring, join us in praying for one another and for our world. We have all been affected by this time, and the long term impact will not be known for a long time.
The funeral of Eddie Jones will be next Wednesday (29th). Obviously we can not make the general invitation that we would normally do, so please pray for his family. It will be the first funeral I have taken through this period – so another new experience.
Eternal God, you are with us this day in the fullness of your love.
In the love of one for another we see your will for all creation
In the tenderness of love’s embrace we remember your love once made flesh for us.
Put peace into each other’s hands
and like a treasure hold it,
protect it like a candle flame,
with tenderness fold it.
Put peace into each other’s hands
with loving expectation;
be gentle in your words and ways,
in touch with God’s creation.
Bible Genesis 29:15-28
Reflection Jacob has arrived at Haran, and we have once again been to the well so that he can check out the local women. He meets his cousin Rachel and is instantly smitten. This passage picks up the story whilst he is living in Laban’s house and we could focus on these two tricksters trying to outsmart one another, but let’s ignore them for a while and look to the sisters Leah and Rachel. From the encounter at the well we know that Rachel works with her father’s sheep and is welcoming to this stranger. But now we see them described by their looks, the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. (NRSV). In other translations Leah’s eyes are weak, didn’t sparkle, nice, tender and Rachel has a good figure, stunning, well favoured. As the story goes on their relationship will be defined by the children they produce. Is this really the only way a woman has value?
We also see the nature of biblical marriage. One man married to two sisters, later with their handmaidens providing surrogate children. It’s very different to our idea of conventional marriage. Yet it is consistent. Throughout the Bible and Christian history the people of God have followed the customs and traditions of their culture. Sometimes there are adjustments, and always, an expectation of faithfulness within those customs. But, our concepts of marriage are constantly shifting and many will have seen that within their own lifetimes. Leah and Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah will eventually create a new family together. There will be tensions between them rivalry and jealousy will be ever present. But so is co-operation, the expectation of providence and the following of God’s call.
God calls us into a new family. Sometimes it’s a strange family with difficult relationships and challenging behaviour. But at our best we can care for one another, we can welcome new people into the family, we can adapt to new environments and we continue to be faithful to God’s call. It’s a lovely place to be.
May God who is light shine in your darkness
May God who is love be the love between you.
May God who is life be your life everlasting.
As at communion, shape your hands
into a waiting cradle;
the gift of Christ receive, revere,
hunted round the table.
Put Christ into each other’s hands,
he is love deepest measure;
in love make peace, give peace a chance
and share it like a treasure.
Fred Kaan (1929- 2009)