Reflection – Is your faith alive and kicking?
As we move towards the restrictions of the current situation being relaxed a little, I have begun to think of the things I have missed during lockdown.
Missing the family has obviously been the hardest to thing to deal with, but I’ve also missed being able to pop somewhere spontaneously. Chatting with someone in the street isn’t easy at a distance, there hasn’t been any visits to folks in their homes with the accompanying chat and the sharing of a cozy cuppa. I haven’t been able to watch the television with my mum-in-law or provide face to face support for the recently bereaved. In the supermarket the majority are concentrating on the produce or the arrows, at the petrol pump I’m wearing gloves and on the telephone conversations with brides-to-be aren’t ones of joyful excitement. Meetings are now via Zoom, worship is via the internet and church offerings are (hopefully) via standing order.
How things have changed. What have you missed during lockdown?
I have to say though that more time for longer conversations on the telephone and the opportunity to get to know many of you better has been the loveliest of gifts. Similarly not racing from A to B and from B to C every day has been calming and videoing some ‘Kitchen Assemblies’ for school Collective Worship has been lots of fun and satisfied my aspirations to be a Blue Peter presenter!
As human beings connecting, engaging and conversing with others in person is perhaps something that we have missed the most. Some people revel in a life of isolation but I suspect for most the loss of this element of life for an extended period of time will have had a profound effect no matter what your age.
We have a very short gospel reading today and it brings to a close this the tenth chapter of Matthew where Jesus has detailed the mission of his twelve disciples. Jesus has so far summoned them and sent them out with authority. They were to tell of the Good News and heal and cure freely and purely out of love. He has reminded them to shake off the negativity of others and move on, warned them that they will be persecuted for what they are trying to do because people will find it hard to believe what they say. Then he challenges them that in loving God the most, they will in turn love everyone else better.
Now today we come to the final three verses where their role is summed up nice and neatly for them. They are to connect (v40) and bless (v41) and do so even in the smallest of ways (v42). It is as simple as that.
Jesus is all about people, connecting with them where they are, geographically, emotionally, physically and spiritually. The disciples had journeyed with him and were working hard at their faith. He spoke to them in a way they could engage with and if they still didn’t understand he made it simpler for them (Matthew 13:11) asking them what they thought, often sowing a seed and then retreating into silence to give them thinking time. The crowds weren’t quite ready yet to hear with the depth that was given to the disciples. They were on the cusp of believing but still wilful and perhaps a little resistant of that which they didn’t understand. These were the ‘little ones’ to which Matthew refers (v41) those just setting out on their journey of faith of whom many would just gather to hear a jolly good story.
He would bless them with not only his words and stories but with his actions, healing, comforting, nurturing, challenging, encouraging and sometimes even scolding but using every action, even the smallest of gestures to bless (v42).
So what have we learned about connecting and blessing others during lockdown and how will we move forward?
We have utilized technology and also simple pen and paper. We used email, Zoom, Skype, the telephone, letters, photographs, Whatsapp, Facetime and Snapchat. Do we simply lay these things to one side and resume pre-lockdown patterns or do we continue to connect with and bless others by new and inventive means.
I miss standing outside our house on a Thursday evening and connecting with our neighbours all at the same time (even if it was at a distance) as we clapped for the NHS and Carers. I loved the fact that if we saw each during the week it became familiar to say ‘see you Thursday’.
Jesus is about relationship with people and with God. Through him we find our relationship with God becoming a lived out faith that is not left in the pews on a Sunday morning (so applicable during lockdown) but alive and kicking. A faith that is built on following his instructions to us his disciples, so what does he tell us to do?
He says… go on, off you go, go and connect with people, share with them God’s love through freely giving of yourselves. Love people as God loves you, bless them in faith filled ways:
Continue to pick up that phone or laptop.
Keep those eyes smiling above the face mask.
Pop that tin in the Food Bank.
Drop off that prescription.
Share that bargain sack of potatoes.
Give yourself and others permission to stop and rest.
Make sure your faith is alive and kicking.
‘The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.’
Julian of Norwich