A new thought every now and then!
Member of the Inclusive Church network
Rev Annabel Barber, 28th April 2020
Two pictures for you this week. Both by the German artist Sieger Koerder. I find him an interesting artist. He was a frontline soldier during the Second World War, and was imprisoned in France. The images he painted always seem to evoke the memory of events from the Second World War, and the holocaust. His Jewish figures really do look as though they’ve been painted from Arabic life, rather than from a more European model. In this first one we see the two travellers walking to Emmaus. They are looking at the scriptures, or perhaps this is a map that they hope will show them the way. In the background you can see a hill, and a scene that really brings us back into the story of Good Friday. And under the hill there seems to be a cave, reminding us of the tomb that Jesus was laid in. There is very little of the resurrection in this picture, apart from a faint lightening of the sky in the east, a promise of dawn on the horizon. [Ged pointed out after the service that you can see Christ, as an almost shadowy figure with his arms open behind the two travellers. It’s interesting how we can see different things in the same painting. What do you see?]
The second picture describes that moment when the disciples realise who their companion has been. Bread is broken and wine poured out, and one of the two companions has his head bowed for the blessing. But notice that we can’t see Jesus. We know he is there, the light almost seems to shroud him. And there are other figures in the background. One of whom holds a candle, and we can see the difference between the light that Christ is bringing and the created candle light. There are scrolls and tablets on the table, and we can imagine the conversation that the two have been having with Jesus. Our gospel passage tells us that Jesus reminds them that the prophets declared that the Messiah would suffer and die, and that he then interprets the scriptures for them, so that they begin to understand the message that they have heard so many times. But it always strikes me that it isn’t in the explanation that they see Jesus, it isn’t when their intellectual curiosity has been satisfied. It is in the familiar, the everyday. We are reminded of the Eucharist, where bread is blessed, broken and given, and then, in that moment of understanding they no longer physically see Jesus before them, but they know the risen Christ.
Rev Annabel Barber, 16th April 2020
If you’ve been following the Church of England Daily readings you will have been reading about how the Jewish Passover or Seder began, and how this is described in the Old Testament. It was a very vivid way of remembering the events that lead up to the Jewish people returning from exile in Egypt to their promised land. It’s also one of the deep roots of Christianity and the meal that Jesus ate with his disciples before going to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane: the Last Supper. For the Jews, the Seder was a really important way of passing on their faith to their children. It involved the whole family eating a special meal together, and remembering how God had been with them at this really important time in their history.
We are going through a very important time for everyone right now! The whole world is having to cope with an event that is different from anything that has ever happened before. In many towns and villages people are working together to make sure that the vulnerable are cared for. Neighbours are getting shopping for each other, people are phoning each other just to catch up, the internet is strengthening community ties. We are all living in an extraordinary way. There are a lot of difficult things happening as well, our churches are locked, many people are grieving the loss of loved ones, the numbers of those without jobs or income are really worrying, and fear and anxiety are all around. But I wonder how we will remember this time, and what we will tell our children and grandchildren about it in the future? Will we be able to pass on the good lessons that we are having to learn? When we come out of the ‘lockdown’ we are currently in, we could choose to radically improve our society, to continue to remember who and what are really important to us. I hope we will find ways to carry this remembrance forward and change our world permanently for the better.
A prayer for our communities
Gracious God in community, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, help us to look after those who need our help and love. To care for the sick and vulnerable around us, to share what we have, and to acknowledge and celebrate those who courageously care for others. Lift our eyes to see those from other countries who are suffering, and help us to find ways to care for them. Draw our communities together, that the world may become a kinder place, where each person is valued. We ask this in Jesus’ name, remembering that he died for us and was raised from death to new life in you, Amen.
Rev Rachel Beck, 7th April 2020
A labyrinth is an ancient circular diagram found in many cultures around the world. It represents a spiritual journey in a physical form. The practice of walking a labyrinth as a physical meditation has been used in many religious traditions over the last four to five thousand years. Unlike a maze, which is a puzzle with many paths to choose, a labyrinth only has one path to the centre and back. You may have walked a labyrinth, maybe using the portable roll out mat labyrinth that the Diocese has, or maybe a labyrinth cut into a field somewhere, such as the one at Metheringham, Launde Abbey or somewhere else.
I have often walked the labyrinth at Mirfield, where I regularly go on retreat. When I was walking it last October, I was feeling slightly impatient to get to the middle, and was then struck by a feeling of liberation as I reminded myself that the focus was to take one step at a time, following the path, trusting that I would get to the middle in all good time. I realised that as I slowed down, I became more attentive to where I was placing my foot and what the ground looked like in that particular spot. I became more present, aware of the current moment. I realised sometimes I live life focusing ahead, being impatient to get to the ‘next thing’ and, therefore, missing out on the gift of the present moment. Walking the labyrinth helped me to slow down, to re-connect with God and with nature, and reminded me of the importance of staying attentive to the present, rather than worrying about the past or the future. In some ways we are all enforced to live this way at the moment; taking life one day at a time. It can, of course, feel very unsettling to feel that the future is unpredictable or uncertain, but focusing just on the current day can help to lessen that anxiety.
The other sense I had strongly while walking the labyrinth last October, was that Jesus was walking alongside me – just as he is all of us. This Holy Week as we reflect on and remember the awful events Jesus endured in that last week of his earthly life, we are reminded once again, that however difficult life may feel for us, Jesus understands. He is with us in the isolation, the loneliness and the fear, because he has experienced the worst of these emotions in his human form. We can find comfort and consolation in knowing that we are never alone, because Jesus walks beside us.
Today, whilst you may not be able to physically walk a labyrinth, perhaps you could find time to ‘walk’ a labyrinth with your finger (there is a template below, and more can be found here: https://labyrinthsociety.org/download-a-labyrinth ) Sitting in the place Revd Annabel suggested finding yesterday; a comfortable, relaxing space in your home where you can be quiet and still, take some deep breaths and centre yourself, praying that God will bless you through the metaphorical journey. Slowly move your finger along the path of the labyrinth. Take it at your own pace, trying not to rush, and stopping for a time if you have a question or a thought to put to God, all the while just focusing on the present moment. As you reach the centre, stop a while and listen – can you sense the presence of Jesus with you? Slowly trace your finger back along the path as you come back out from the centre of the labyrinth, and try to stay attentive to your feelings, your insights, and any images that strike you.
Rev Annabel Barber, 6th April 2020:
There seem to be a lot of places we can no longer go in these difficult days, I usually swim regularly and my body is missing the visits to the swimming pool. I love the long empty Lincolnshire beaches and walking these with Tolly the dog, another thing we're both missing at the moment. I imagine they’re even emptier than usual at the moment! In Holy Week one of the events I look forward to is meeting up with all the other priests from the Diocese in our beautiful Cathedral. Online just isn’t quite the same.
As we move through this Holy Week we remember Jesus being moved from place to place, and in our minds we go with him. From the upper room of the last supper to the Garden of Gethsemane, then on with the guards to the high priest Caiaphas’ house. Maybe we stand with Peter by the fire in the Courtyard and hear the cock crow. On Good Friday we will remember Jesus’ terrible journey from place to place carrying his cross. A journey that ends at Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.
It is good to be able to make this journey in our imaginations with Jesus. To have the time to quietly spend recalling these important places. And in this strange time of being set in one place, it has been good to feel very settled and safe at home.
Perhaps this Holy Week you could find a favourite place in your home to sit and think and pray each day. Bring together a few things that help you to recognise that this is a special place for meeting with God, possibly a few flowers in a glass, a candle, a cross, or a favourite picture. Preparing this place may help you focus on God as, with Christians from every place and time, we begin our journey through the places of Holy Week.