Stuart's Thought for the Day 

Pause for Thought

Almost a year now since the word ‘pandemic’ started to resonate throughVideo Service everyone’s general vocabulary. ‘Lockdown’, ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ soon followed it into everyday use. We’re almost unfamiliar now with the routines of travel, and ‘journeying’ doesn’t extend far beyond the Pharmacy or wherever we take our daily walk. I’m hearing of a few people who’ve booked time away in the sudden post-roadmap rush, but many of us are still rather wary of making seemingly risky plans. Today Heather and I were reminded of a journey we made 8 years ago and would love to revisit – but more of that in a moment. Whether you’re thinking of journeys past or looking forward to future travel, take a few minutes now to reflect on that as we light our candles and settle down with a drink in God’s presence.

One Way Ticket

Jesus started to teach that the ‘Complete Person’ would have to endure great suffering, be rejected by various religious groups and be killed, then be raised from death again after three days. Jesus was quite clear, but Peter took him aside and contradicted him crossly. Jesus turned to face his other friends too and said, “Peter get away from me, you’re a bad influence! You get your ideas from other people, not from God.” Then Jesus called his friends and the crowd together and told them, “If you want to be my followers, forget about yourselves, shoulder your cross, and follow the way I do things. Those who try to save their lives will lose them, while those who lose their lives for me while sharing the Good News will make their lives complete. What’s the use of having everything if you’re never true to yourself? You can’t put a price on that.” (Mark 8:31-37)

12 years ago Heather and I first met the Bishop (later Archbishop) of Keewatin and his wife. Another colleague nominated to look after them during the 2008 Lambeth Conference had had to drop out, so we welcomed them to Epsom instead. It was the start of a friendship with David and Penny that continues to this day despite the distance between us. In 2012 we were able to visit the Diocese of Keewatin ourselves (if you’ve never heard of it, it’s in the middle of Canada) and one of many places we visited was Emmanuel Church in Ignace, a small ex-mining community 5 hours east of Winnipeg on the Trans-Canada Highway. We did much travelling that week, but learned so much too, and friendships begun then have continued ever since. Thus it was that we joined the Christian community and their priest Jeanne in Ignace this afternoon for their 10.00 am Zoom service – at 4.00 pm GMT!

We won’t forget arriving at Winnipeg in a blizzard in the first winter storm on 4 October! Despite the hospitality of our wonderful hosts (the freshly smoked trout in Ignace was unforgettable!) real travelling always makes demands on our energy and time. We have a few accounts of Jesus enjoying hospitality, but his journey to Jerusalem was more than challenging. He knew it would take him to a certain death sentence and tried to explain this to Peter and his other close friends, but they weren’t having it and became quite stroppy at the thought of their Lord and Teacher putting himself at risk of such a fate. Heading to Jerusalem made no sense from their point of view, and they struggled to see how it could be central to the whole purpose of Jesus’ mission. Jesus’ riposte to Peter may seem harsh to us, though of course he wasn’t suggesting his close friend had been possessed in some evil way. Rather, he recognised how easily even the most well-intentioned remark could deflect him from the mission God had given him to bring about salvation for all people. Peter was seeing things with solely human eyes, swayed by secular thinking instead of understanding God’s purposes.

As we journey on towards the end of this lockdown and beyond, we can be sure it won’t be easy. Voices all around will try to shift us this way or that, and maybe ask niggling questions about where God fits into this picture. Everything may feel rather strange as we start to gather again after such a long period of feeling isolated and forgetting about our calling and mission could prove too easy. But looking after number one is never God’s way (though for sure you should have your vaccination!). Following the way of Jesus as we live out our faith every day in our community takes priority over all else, however demanding the journey might seem. And we‘ll always be enriched by wherever it takes us and whoever we encounter.

Take some time to reflect on your journey, not only places you’ve seen but experiences of God’s love en route. What have you learned as you’ve made your way to today? Thank God for all those who’ve been part of that and pray that we’ll continue to be a blessing to others whose journey we share.

Prayer for today

Loving God, when we fell tempted to prioritise creature comforts,
when we pull back from the risks we see on the path ahead,
when we find the cross we carry unbearably heavy,
help us to remember that you have been there too,
and will strengthen us to keep going

and stay committed to your way. Amen


Pause for Thought:

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