Monthly Archives: June 2020

Open for Private Prayer

From Monday 15th June 2020, St. Mary’s Church will be open for private prayer daily from 9:00 – 5:00 pm. We ask that all visitors respect strict social distancing and maintain good hand hygiene.

We rejoice that St. Mary’s can again welcome those who come to seek the Lord or just want a quiet place to be still and reflect.

Prayer sheets will be available and we ask that people take these home or dispose of them in the bin provided. They must not be put back in the pile.

Reflecting with Martha and Mary – 9th June 2020

One of our bible readings for Morning Prayer this morning was Luke 10: 38 – 42. It is the story of Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

It is a lovely story, and one of my favourites, but it has also been a reading that has troubled us all at different times, challenging as it does, our priorities between doing the tasks that our lives demand and spending time with God. I know it has the ability to make me feel guilty – I am someone who is an activist rather than a reflector. I find it much easier to get on with the tasks at hand than it is to spend time in quiet prayer or contemplation and I am profoundly envious of those who have a natural inclination for meditation and are able to spend time easily in God’s presence.

Of course this was even more so in a Middle-eastern household such as the one Jesus visited in this passage. There was almost a sacred duty of hospitality demanded of the family. The arrival of Jesus, with his friends and disciples, would have put a strain on the household but Martha knew it was her duty to feed and care for them. The indications are, gleaned from other gospels stories, the family wasn’t poor so Martha may well have had a servant to assist her but it was the duty of all the women of the household to tend the needs of the visitors. Mary should have been by her sister’s side, grinding the corn for bread or preparing food in other ways. To Martha, Mary was showing a lack of care to much loved guests by not helping to serve them. Martha may also have really worried about the reputation her sister would get if she was seen to be a person spending time with men, rather than doing the tasks demanded. So she approached Jesus and asked him to intervene.  Did Martha really expect her much loved friend Jesus to respond in the way that any other man of the time would have done? Martha understood, much more fully than even many of Jesus’ male followers, who he was but she was distracted and flustered so she turned to Jesus for back up.

But of course, although Jesus was a man of his time and culture, he was also the Son of God who knew that in the kingdom of God there is a profoundly different concept of hospitality. In God’s kingdom we are all welcome and all equal in his love. In his kingdom we all feed on his word and share his generosity. All gifts come from God and in his kingdom all are celebrated.  When Jesus entered the house in Bethany the kingdom of God was at hand. So Martha’s gift of hospitality was precious but so too was Mary’s gift of listening and learning. Mary’s radical action of sitting with the men by Jesus wasn’t shocking or lazy. It was a sign that she was in the kingdom – welcomed and equal. The invitation was to Martha to join into this understanding of God’s hospitality and welcome.

The challenge for us is to also live by kingdom values and not allow ourselves to behave just as society would want. We are to conform not to this world but to the God’s kingdom, which is at hand and of which we are citizens, now and forever.

Somewhere between Pentecost and Trinity with Psalm 139

Last Sunday was, as you know, Pentecost. The imagery of Pentecost was even more powerful this year, in our context of social isolation, than usual for as we read from the Acts of the Apostles we heard how the Holy Spirit came into the locked upper room and brought God’s power and fire into the lives of the 120 or so believers who were gathered there. We needed the reminder that there are no doors that are locked against the Holy Spirit, no restrictions of the presence of God’s power.

The archbishop of Canterbury, in his Pentecost service, used as one of his readings a passage from Psalm 139.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

I strongly recommend you re-read the whole of the psalm again.

I have loved this psalm for as long as I have known it. It was a guide and reassurance in the days when I was back-packing around Europe on my own, it was strength in dark days when depression could leave me feeling profoundly isolated and now it is the promise that no one – however isolated by lock down, shielding or illness – is separated from God’s presence. The whole psalm celebrates the uniqueness of each person and reminds us that everyone in the world – whoever or whatever they are – are part of God’s loving creation. (A message we need particularly at this time as we are challenged by what is happening in America at present.) It speaks of God’s Spirit seeking and finding us but I believe it also speaks of Christ reaching out and holding us. Jesus is the eternal light that no darkness can ever overcome. So this psalm is not only a wonderful reminder of the presence of God’s Spirit at Pentecost but it also leads us forwards to the celebration of God as Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Trinity is the mystery that is our God – one yet three – and this psalm helps us glimpse a little of what that means. God the creator, utterly involved in his creation and loving it completely; God the Son, the light that shatters darkness and the love that draws us into an everlasting relationship with the Father; and God the Holy Spirit who searches for us and guides us, where ever we go.

Although lock down is easing and many of us are now able to enjoy a little time with friends and family, with great care, it stills feels as if the way forward is hidden from us.  So Psalm 139 is a perfect psalm for this time. It teaches us to trust in our God who knows our path and is there before and behinds us; who is our light even in the darkest time and in whom there is no darkness; and whose Spirit will be with us – now and always. So let us trust him to lead us in the way everlasting.