Newsletter from our Team Rector, Reverend Peter Reiss, for Sunday 22 January 2023
For quite a few 2023 has started with real challenges, challenges of health, either for self or for a loved one; for some it has brought grief and the irrecoverable loss through the death of a loved one.
The weather has moved between the very wet and the cold, making getting around that bit more hazardous for those less strong on their feet. For many it has not been a good start to the year.
On the bigger stage the people of Ukraine remain caught up in a brutal war and the threat of a second wave of attacks. On the national stage, nurses, civil servants, teachers, railway and train staff, ambulance drivers. postal workers and others are striking as they up the pressure for their demands for what they believe to be a fair wage. The government is either being strong or intransigent depending on your viewpoint, but it is clear disruption will continue in the coming weeks. Climate change and global warming are going to cause greater disruptions and damage.
I suspect many of us feel quite helpless in all this political turbulence; we may have a view but it won’t change the situation; we are not sitting round the table; we might be commenting on some social media, whether the old fashioned version over a drink with friends, or the modern version where the altercations get more heated.
Some will know that the Bishops have presented their way forward around gay marriage, with proposals that are likely to be roundly attacked by all sides – too much change in the eyes of the traditionalist and nothing like enough in the eyes of those wanting inclusion. Again church members will feel strangely helpless – we can comment but can we contribute?
What all this has in common is that we navigate life – for some with its significant health challenges, for all of us at some points with the pain of grief – but the currents and tides that we have to navigate are bigger than we can control. We have lots of choices – [there are many who have far fewer choices] – but we are also caught up in these much bigger issues. Individuals can mobilise, as the Unions did and do – they can create a critical mass and make a difference, though they may not get everything they want.
We have put away our Christmas decorations – it is good to celebrate festivals, especially in the cold dark periods of the year – but they come to an end. But I hope we have not put away Jesus, but remember that he lived in a world where the powerful currents and tides impacted on the lives of ordinary people, where ordinary people often struggled to keep going. He shared that life and our world. God himself living with the way the world is and how it impacted him, affected him and restricted. It is in this world and through this world that we discover God and God’s promises, but our inclination is so often to try and escape this world in one way or another, become more private and uninvolved, get richer and more self-sufficient, keep busy with whatever, whether pleasures or business.
God’s pace is frustratingly slow at times, and we would so like problems to be sorted, both our own ones and the big ones. The disciples were no different- “Are you the one?” “Is it now that you will do this?” and Jesus patiently tried to teach them. It is not easy to travel through the present, concerned for others, some of whom are in such difficulty and pain; it is not easy to cope with what seems to be all-encompassing darkness; it is not easy to trust that God can and will keep safe what seems to be being destroyed; maybe we need to learn that God’s time is ok, and that God’s grace is sufficient. It is taking me a lifetime to learn it!