Third Sunday after Trinity
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
This week we are opening All Hallows for private prayer and contemplation. This is a momentous event for our church in this time. I think of those times in the past when during plague and war, All Hallows was forced to close, and I feel a special communion with my sisters and brothers of those times who yearned to pray in that place and to be able to worship together. Eventually the plague or the war time passed away, and these brothers and sisters of ours were again able to enter into these spaces consecrated by centuries of worship to pray and praise God. So today, Friday 26 of June 2020, our parish of All Hallows and Farnley Tyas enters into this blessing.
And it is a blessing. But let us not forget, it is one of many blessings we have experienced during our plague time, our pandemic. During this time we have had the blessing of community - in the care you have taken of each other. During this time we have had the blessing of prayer - finding new ways to be with God: in our homes, through praying with each other remotely, through our conscious effort to bring God into these difficult times in ways we might never have tried before. During this time we may have found ourselves lamenting rather than praising God, but that is also a part of our relationship with God - who takes our fears, our burdens, our concerns upon God’s self and who is always willing to shelter us both in our times of joy and times of despair.
And at the centre of it all is our Lord Jesus Christ. As Christians we know that God spoke and continues to speak through our Lord. All we can know of God we have been shown through Jesus. Tom Wright, in his new book God and the Pandemic puts it most succinctly ‘The New Testament insists that we put Jesus at the centre of the picture and work outwards from there’ (19). We are Jesus’s people, and now as we face the new challenges the ‘opening up’ of our communities brings to us, we must keep our face firmly turned towards our Lord, who will guide us. Make no mistake, the pandemic is not ‘over’. It is just as dangerous, and requires of us new sacrifices if we are to do what Christ expects us to do, just a quick reminder from Matthew 22: 37-40:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
We best show our love of God when we love each other, and God’s love for us helps us to overcome our prejudices and our weaknesses, in order to love others. In a pandemic love takes a very practical form. Events in recent weeks in other countries and our own make clear what this love looks like, and what it does not.
We are all sick of worrying about virus transmission. And many of us are beginning to tell ourselves dangerous lies - like its not that easy to transmit, its not really in our area, its not that dangerous, more people are harmed by social distancing measures than by the virus, and on and on. Ask those who have lost loved ones, ask those who have lost jobs, ask those who have been isolated alone for months and they will tell you these lies are not only painful, but they can cause and have caused severe distress and death. Let us set aside our very human desire for things to be comfortable again - the way we like them - and put our love for others first as we are expected to do as Christ-centred people. The ‘opening up’ of our society is going to be more challenging and difficult than the shut-down, and as Christ centred people we know what we are called to do.
It may be embarrassing to wear a mask, but we can sacrifice a little of our self-image to save the lives and livelihoods of others. It may seem churlish not to bend the rules a little at social gatherings, but we can take a little social criticism to save the lives and livelihoods of other; it may be that we lose a little pleasure by not flocking to beaches and celebrating football wins in the streets; but we can sacrifice some momentary pleasure to save the lives and livelihoods of others. Care and Caution in what we do now, will save lives and ironically, we’ll enjoy all those pleasures we miss more quickly if we avoid the self-centred course now.
Some of you may think I’m being a bit gloomy here. But we’ve seen the results in other countries where people have shown loving restraint and where they have shown self-indulgence. The disturbing news coming out of the U.S. should be enough of a warning to us all.
Again, as Tom Wright reminds us, we are Kingdom people, we are a people who look to Christ. So let us go into this next phase of our national recovery with restraint, good judgement, and a willingness to sacrifice to protect others. That is putting Christ at the centre of it all.
We are now beginning the conversation of how we start worshipping together. This worship will be different, but joyful none the less. Please watch the web-site for up to date details.
We again aim to open up All Hallows for private prayer on Friday 3 July 3.30-4.30 so long as everything today goes well. Again, watch the website and the notice boards.
This week we will have Sunday Eucharist via Zoom at 10.30. There are also a number of online resources for worship which will also be circulated as usual.
Revd Professor Jessica Malay
Almondbury with Farnley Tyas