|Pen and Ink Reflections||
I think Jesus had had a rough few days and was not feeling the best. By the time we reach the eleventh chapter of Matthew’s gospel they had taught extensively about the kingdom, healed many and called disciples. But Jesus is feeling that they just can’t win – if they try to be an ascetic like John they’ll say, ‘he has a demon’; and, as it is they are accusing Jesus of being a ‘glutton and a drunkard’. So, Jesus is not feeling over happy, and from that place of discouragement he reproaches the cities that will not welcome them. It is perhaps a comfort to realise that even Jesus can have a bad day. For Jesus, the embodiment of God, experienced the full range of our human emotions and was not afraid of them...
Today a significant event in my work and social calendar was cancelled due to concerns over COVID19. It is I am sure an experience shared by many of you. Mingled with disappointment, regret and some anxiety about the consequences of this decision down the track, came a different emotion – relief. Not just relief that a decision had been reached and that the safety of myself and others was being helped; but relief also that suddenly in what is normally a packed diary a space, a ‘sabbath rest’ had appeared.
It is very easy in this circumstance for other things simply to rush in to fill the space – a sense of obligation to contact those affected by virtual means; a sudden urge to cleanse the entire house with disinfectant; an earnest searching after other means of communication, like writing this article?!
Yet the quiet voice in my soul says something different - that this extraordinary time is about being not doing; about rediscovering who we are and what is truly important. Our world and church have become extraordinarily activist. We fill our agendas with often frenzied activity. The balance of action and contemplation has tipped decidedly in favour of action. So perhaps this period of enforced inactivity may go some way to redressing that balance.
Sometimes a space where there was supposed to be activity can feel intimidating. It is not easy to move from helter skelter business to stillness and silence in one step. So, if you are wanting to use this time with grace, but uncertain how to begin, I am suggesting adopting the technique created by Sybil MacBeth called ‘Praying In Colour'. If you Google you will find the essential steps readily enough. Essentially it uses doodling and colouring as a way to get still and listen to God. While the hand is occupied, the mind can come to stillness. And if we all hold our world, and those affected by COVID19 tenderly before God in this time, we will surely come through this crisis with a deeper faith and a greater intimacy with God and with one another.
In this time of distress, may you still find blessing; in this time of anxiety, seek gratitude; and in this time of enforced sabbath, sing (and draw) praise to God.
reflection by Penny Jones, 17 March 2020
Some of you know that this week Jo and I have been lucky enough to have our three grandchildren to stay, aged six weeks, eleven weeks and two. It has been, to say the least, a lively household. I mentioned to one of my daughters the theme for tonight, and she jokingly said, ‘That’s excellent – I’ll bring the children along then shall I?!’ You can all relax, because she was joking. But it set me to thinking, what do rest and stillness really mean for us, for they have to mean more than just ‘me’ time, away from the busyness of our ‘real’ life...