15 June 2020

A Moment to Reflect – 42

The photograph is of the Black Isle shrouded in layers of fog.

Sometimes life can seem like this-a journey through patchy fog.

In the past few weeks I’ve read comments from several of my colleagues about the challenges and opportunities of these strange times we are going through. Some have admitted to feeling very stressed and disorientated because as ministers we cannot minister in any of the ways we had for so long come to expect as normal. This is particularly true with regard to funerals—and I’ve had quite a few of those to conduct in recent weeks. It is also true with regard to preparing and leading worship which now has to be done in the virtual world. We’ve all had to try and find news of connecting.

However, one colleague did say to me in a message, “It is exciting finding new ways of doing church. An adventure!”

Of course, it is the global pandemic which has necessitated many of these changes and required some of us very quickly to learn new skills. But perhaps some of those changes would eventually have become necessary anyway as these prescient words from the late Rachel Held Evans* suggest. 

“As the shape of Christianity changes and our churches adapt to a new world, we have a choice: we can drive our hearses around bemoaning every augur of death, or we can trust that the same God who raised Jesus from the dead is busy making something new. As long as Christians are breaking the bread, and pouring the wine, as long as we are healing the sick and baptizing sinners, as long as we are preaching the Word and paying attention, the church lives, and Jesus said even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. We might as well trust him, since he knows a thing or two about the way out of the grave.” 
― Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church

13 June 2020

A Moment to Reflect -41

Two, or three, final pieces of (seemingly contradictory) ursine advice for now, but I’m sure we’ll return to the wisdom of Winnie-the-Pooh at a later date.

“I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I have been.” ― A. A. Milne

“Sometimes, when I’m going somewhere, I wait. And then somewhere comes to me.” ― A. A. Milne

I think what I like most about A. A. Milne’s storytelling (particularly through the character of Pooh) is his ability to state profound spiritual realities in simple but poetically rhythmic language. Nearly always, what Pooh says is blindingly obvious yet is exactly the kind of truth that we often fail to see, or forget, or ignore.

It is ‘blindingly obvious,’ for example, that if you want to get to somewhere else you have to leave where you are at the moment—and yet we all know that moving on, and leaving behind something with which we have grown so comfortable, is never easy. Walking away can be very hard. 

The current crises (epidemic and economic) have created times of great uncertainty. I guess most of us simply long to go back to everything as it was before: but that is almost certainly not going to happen. How do we move on?

And then we come to the apparent contradiction… although walking away is essential: so too are moments of waiting.

Only if you are absolutely sure of your destination (and your route) from the very beginning of your journey can you go on without stopping. Most of the time in the journey of life we have to stop periodically —to take our bearings, to pause and to look back on where we’ve been, and how far we’ve travelled. Occasionally then, in the very moment of resting, we realise that the ‘somewhere’ we were looking for has in fact come to us. [Especially if that ‘somewhere’ is joy or peace.]

If not, it is time to move on again, remembering yet another piece of Pooh’s travelling advice:

“I must go forward where I have never been instead of backwards where I have” ― A. A. Milne