Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The weather has been so beautiful the last few days and this a gift from God which I am trying to enjoy. I made a trip to Skipton Castle and to Barden Tower yesterday…which was related to my work, and my new book project on the Lady Anne Clifford. But, I would not be honest if I didn’t admit that this was very much a matter of mixing business with pleasure. Earlier in the week I greeted the new and returning students, mainly through video, but I did meet my personal tutees in person. In every other year this would mean a nice meeting in my office where it would be all smiles and excitement. This week, there were four of us in a room meant for 30, we wore masks and sat away from each other. The students still sounded excited, and I hope they were smiling behind their masks. The campus was eerily quiet for induction week which is generally a pretty festive affair. I felt sad that even though my colleagues and I and the rest of the University of Huddersfield are trying our best to give our students the best learning experience we can, there feels like such a lack of connection with them. And of course connecting with people is one of the main reasons we took up this profession.
I’m guessing that many of you are feeling similar feelings of sadness as the new restrictions kick in, as the end - which we thought was in sight - the new normal that we could at least cope with - recedes from view. Yesterday the Nick, the Bishop of Leeds sent us one of his pastoral letters. I always enjoy receiving these because it makes me feel like he’s thinking of us, and he always has useful things to say. Yesterday his letter was particularly helpful for me given what I was feeling. He talked about the Exodus and how the Israelites left everything they knew for an unknown future, and how this unknown future didn’t arrive until forty years later. In the meantime, they had to depend on each other, and learn to live in patience - sometimes with more success than others. And this got me to thinking of the early Church as we are reading the Acts of the Apostles in morning prayer these days. They too, after the resurrection of Jesus stepped into the unknown. The Acts are a bit misleading in that Luke tells the story in a very brisk fashion, and so you can miss the fact that years can go by before the next event. For example, it was well over a decade after Paul had his life-changing meeting with Christ on the Damascus road, before he actually began the ministry he is best known for - his ministry to the Gentiles.
The Israelites, the early church, and frankly throughout the ages, living with the unknown - unable to be confident in any future planning, having to rely on each other, having to trust in each other and God was normal, as those of you who have journeyed in this world for some time know. Living with this uncertainty, this unknown, is a great challenge for those of us who have lived all our lives with people telling us to make goals, self-actualize, be all you can be, the future is what you make it. Sadly, we now know this culture of thinking we could determine the future is not completely accurate. And we also more forcefully than ever know what God told the Israelites, and what Jesus forcefully reiterated - our first call is to love God with our whole heart, and our second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. In loving God, we fear nothing, knowing we shelter in God’s love. No future can overwhelm us. In loving our neighbor, we place ourselves inside of God’s love, loving those whom God so loves. And this is the antidote - dare I say the vaccine - against the sadness and despair of the present time.
So I want to give everyone a challenge that will also be a joy. You’ve been so good at taking care of so many people during this crisis. Now, I challenge each of us to reach out to one more person - someone maybe we haven’t been that much in contact with, and give them some support by chatting with them, praying for them, and whatever else you think appropriate. I’ve even decided to make a slogan - because everyone else seems to have one: Each one, reach out to one. And lets especially think of someone that may not have the kind of faith we have, and thus finds this present time that much harder. Let us make this our Harvest offering, and help add just that much more light to this difficult time.
Revd Professor Jessica Malay
Almondbury with Farnley Tyas
Each one reach out to one