This Sunday I had planned to recognise and thank those who have served on the Church Council and also to commission the new members. But then the lockdown has happened and I have had to change course. We will have this event when we are able to gather again at the church because it is important that we acknowledge and thank those who give of their time and energy in the service of the church. We are grateful for their contribution.
Over the last few days talk back radio has given people the opportunity to vent their frustration, fears and anger over the lockdown. Most of the people I heard understood and accepted the fact that we need to take this step as a State, but expressed deep concerns about the need for better quarantine facilities, requiring people to wear masks on public transport etc and easier QR codes that would encourage people to use them more often and so help with contact tracing. One person calling in was angry about the way some people in positions of authority were quick to point blame rather than accept that we all have a responsibility to keep our community safe by the way we act.
When we see what is happening in other places like India we can be grateful for the way our state government has acted. Nevertheless, just the thought of further lockdowns can feel like a dark cloud has once more covered the warmth of the sun. In the midst of such gloom the ancient words of the Psalmist sound a note of abiding hope: The Lord is my light and my salvation…One of the gifts of our Christian spiritual tradition is the practice of holding a verse like this in our minds and hearts. It’s a very short verse at the beginning of Psalm 27 but it lifts our spirits. One practice is to say the first part of that verse as you breathe in, and the second part as you breathe out. If you do try this I’d love to hear how you find it. The other dimension is that it helps us memorise the verse so it stays with us longer.
The Lord is my light and my salvation…………breathing in
whom shall I fear?…………………………………………breathing out
The Lord is the stronghold of my life,………….breathing in
of whom then shall I fear?……………………………breathing out
One of our readings for Sunday is taken from the book of Isaiah. It tells of Isaiah going into the Temple to pray. I imagine walking into Lincoln Cathedral in England where I studied many years ago, and sitting down in the nave to pray. It’s while Isaiah is praying that he is given a vision of God that is so powerful that it changes the whole course of his life, and his record of that encounter with God continues to reverberate today in the lives of those who read that passage. I imagine Isaiah coming into the temple on a dark day, overwhelmed by the troubles of his time. He needs to bring this darkness into the light of God and when he does it changes everything. The concerns he brings into the Temple remain, but he has changed – he has been transformed by his encounter with God to become a voice of hope and light in the darkness of his age.
Read Isaiah 6:1-8 for yourself. In his vision of God Isaiah stretches language to try and describe the utter mystery of God, but inevitably our ability to convey that mystery is woefully inadequate, so remember that and try not to take it too literally. Instead focus on the impact this vision had on Isaiah, both his deep sense of unworthiness in the presence of such utter goodness and love, and at the same time a profound sense of call, of cleansing, of empowering, of wanting to honour God in a life of service. Isaiah’s vision of God and corresponding call to work in partnership with God empowered him to act in a life-giving way for his people.