Third Sunday of Epiphany
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
In talking with friends and family these days one of the complaints I most often hear in this time of Covid and lockdown is that it feels like ‘ground-hog’ day, referring to that well-known Bill Murray film in which a single day keeps repeating itself until the lead character, Phil, played by Murray realizes that all the things that we think we want are ephemeral. He is inspired by love to dedicate each repeated day to good works and in so doing transforms his own life and the life of his community. He is of course rewarded for this in true Hollywood fashion (especially in the 90s) of winning his love, the character played by Andie McDowell, and a new day begins.
This idea of a repeating day and a new day was in my mind during my morning prayers for the past week. I often use the Book of Common prayer for my morning prayer because being a 17th century scholar, I do love the language. And I also quite often use (or join in online) with morning prayer in Common Worship. In the BCP, in one of the daily collects we are invited to give thanks to God ‘who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day’ and to ask that ‘our doings may be ordered by thy governance to do always what is righteous in thy sight’. In Common Worship we are to ‘rejoice in the gift of this new day’ where the light of God’s presence ‘sets our hearts on fire with love’ for God. And as I was thinking about that I considered that in the Lord’s prayer, the one prayer that we received directly from God through our Lord Jesus Christ, is framed entirely in relation to one day, ‘gives us this day’ our sustenance, enhance this day our ability to forgive and accept forgiveness, protect us this day, help us to work for the coming of God’s Kingdom on this Earth.
And of course, in Matthew 28, just a few lines down from the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus explains further that God knows our needs and that we should not worry about tomorrow. This focus on each day I think is particularly relevant for us now. One of the most difficult aspects of the pandemic for me is that my usual habit of ‘future planning’ and spending a great deal of my emotional and mental time in the future, has become a futile exercise. I have to admit I have no idea what the future will bring in my day to day earthly life. And so, I wake up each morning and my thoughts are for this day. I pray in my morning prayers for this day. I have begun to see more clearly that each day is a gift from God, and have begun to give more attention to the question, ‘what am I going to do with this gift of today’?
We know that God is with us in this, that the Holy Spirit sustains us and that we are through Christ’s death and resurrection already living in an eternity that must, if we truly accept our eternal life, mean that each day is a very precious gem because it isn’t just a repeat of the same old thing, but an opportunity to live our eternal life in a way that brings joy to others and glory to God.
During the storm this week I didn’t go out of the house at all, but on Friday I walked in the sunshine down to a nearby reservoir where I saw so many different kinds of ducks, and other waterfowl. A cheeky little robin in the forest nearly hopped on my boot as I stood very still. The clouds were really a riot of beautiful shapes in the sky. And once the stars came out the night was as beautiful as the day. I was reminded powerfully of this gift of each day. We were made to joy in each day, not to complain about it.
It is very hard right now, but each day is a gift. And if you are feeling this is very difficult to believe, try like Phil in Groundhog day to think of how to cheer someone else, how to use your prayers to lighten the burden of others, look out your windows at the clouds, the stars, the many rainbows we are blessed with in this part of the world; the birds, the little snowdrops coming up, anything to help you live in the joy of this new day and then turn that joy outward into the world.
I don’t underestimate how hard this is and that is why it is so important that we continually pray for one another. And at this time I would like to thank all of you for praying for me. I have felt your prayers surrounding me in love, which has helped me to greet each day more joyfully than I may otherwise have been able to do after receiving news of the death of one of my younger sister Rebecca last week. If ever you doubt that your prayers for individuals are effective, let me tell you that they most certainly are. And in times of trouble they are most effective as I can give witness to.
So let us all greet today and each day as the new day that God has given us, and ask thank God for continually taking our hand and leading us in this and every new day.
God’s Blessing upon you and all you love on this new day, and each and every day.
Revd Professor Jessica Malay
Almondbury with Farnley Tyas