Thought for the Week May 9th 2021

Don’t faint Steve has used a lectionary reading again.

This week one lectionary reading really stood out to me, normally I would gravitate towards the Gospel reading, I like to hear what Jesus had to say, but this week it’s the Old Testament reading from Isaiah (Is 55: 1-11). I particularly like the heading given to this passage in The Revised Standard Version of the Bible ‘An Invitation to Abundant Life.’ In others you can find headings such as ‘The compassion of the Lord’ and ‘Invitation to the thirsty.’ The thing I like about ‘An Invitation to Abundant Life’ is twofold. Firstly the fact that it’s an ‘invitation,’ an invitation to all. It’s true that in Old Testament times the Nation and People of Israel were (and still are) considered to be the ‘chosen’ people, but chosen for what? There are many clues in the Old Testament pointing to them being chosen as the people from whom the saviour of the whole world would be born, a prophecy borne out in the events of the New Testament. Secondly is the thought of ‘Abundant life. I wonder if this invitation in Isaiah was in Jesus mind when he referred to himself as the Good Shepherd and said ‘I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.’ (John 10:10)

As we start to see restrictions being lifted and opportunities for people to start meeting together, for many there is great excitement. Larger churches with the space for social distancing are already meeting, and soon, at our little chapel in Cooksmill Green, we hope we’ll be able to do the same (Weather permitting maybe outside sooner rather than later). This period will be a golden opportunity for churches to invite individuals and communities to come back into church, give thanks and to hear Jesus’ invitation to abundant life. But, and it’s a big but, that can only be the start.

The invitation to come back into church is only the beginning. Jesus was very clear, his invitation was not just for us to come in but also for us to go out. I mentioned last week the people who will be anxious and afraid as restrictions lift and life starts to return to some sort of normality. We’ve heard in this last week about the rise in deaths due to alcohol, and whilst many of those alcohol problems may have started long before lockdown, there’s no doubt in my mind the problem will have been exacerbated. We also know that mental wellbeing is a topic at the forefront of many people’s minds. Lifting of restriction is also only the beginning.
Whilst many people came to see Jesus with their problems, often he would come across them while he was out and about on his travels. But he wouldn’t just meet them geographically, he met them in their physical, mental and spiritual condition, he had compassion for their needs and gently led them to a better place. The important thing is he met them where they were and he loved them.

If you are one who is full of anxiety and fearful of the future, I pray you will feel the peace of God in your heart, that you will be met and loved where you are and be given the courage and strength to face the future with hope and start to experience ‘life in all its fullness.’

If we’re blessed enough to be one of the confident ones, already full of hope, ready, as soon as we can, to do the things we love to do, it’s vital we understand and respect those who don’t share that same confidence. Each individual has had to face this pandemic in different ways, living in different circumstances and under different influences. We cannot presume to know how they feel, or suggest they should think or act the same way we do. If we know or meet someone like this, we must meet them where they are, respectfully and in a manner in which they will feel safe and secure. Listen, that’s where Jesus often started. We never know, by listening, how much we might learn about a person – and how much we might learn about ourselves! Then seeking God’s wisdom maybe we can all walk together towards ‘life in all its fullness.’

When we look at all the problems facing individuals, communities and nations, and not just the pandemic related ones, it can all seem terribly daunting, we sometimes say ‘what can we do?’ As I’ve said on many occasions none of us can do everything, our physical, psychological and financial capacity will limit or enhance what we’re able to do, but we can all do something. Whatever we do, however great, or however small, when it is done in love it’s priceless.

40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

I realise I’m speaking to the converted among many of you, but it’s always good to remind ourselves, we can do little of it if we remain stuck behind the four walls of our homes or churches. As St. Francis put it we need to go out and spread the gospel and if necessary use words

Stay safe, and may God give us all confidence, wisdom, strength, hope and life in abundance. Amen.

Heavenly Father
We thank you and praise you
For all the wonderful gifts in life you give us,
Forgive us when we choose to ignore those gifts
And focus only on the bad.

Help us to help those
Who, for whatever reason,
Are trapped in the difficulties, worries
And concerns of life that hide
Your good gifts from them.
Help them to break free from
The shackles of anxiety.
And lead us all, we pray,
To the life you would have us live.
Life in all its abundance.