"Well! we are surely in a time of ‘Disorientation’ now."

RAMBLING RECTOR

Church buildings are once again closed for public worship, with limited opening for Private Prayer. I will continue to send a short reflection, for those of you who must continue to ‘shield’. It will be based on the Sunday readings.

 

 

SUNDAY 29 November 2020          

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

 

Isaiah chapter 64 verses 1 to 9

1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains would tremble before you!
As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
    and cause the nations to quake before you!
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry.
    How then can we be saved?
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
    and have given us over to our sins.

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord;
    do not remember our sins for ever.
Oh, look upon us we pray, for we are all your people.

 

Mark chapter 13 verses 24 to the end

24 ‘But in those days, following that distress,

‘“the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

26 ‘At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

28 ‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert ! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 ‘Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”’

 

 

Reflection

Many of you have been receiving (on email or by WhatsApp message) the daily Psalm that Rev Matt has been sending out for us during Lockdown 2.  Appropriate for the difficult times we have been living through, many of these have been chosen from the group of writings called the Psalms of Lament, writings that seem to cry out to God from a place of grief and pain, but with an underlying conviction that God can and will bring comfort. The psalmist brings his prayer to God from within his pain.

 

Walter Brueggemann, in an insightful little book called Spirituality of the Psalms offers an understanding of the themes of the one hundred and fifty Psalms as of ‘Orientation’, of ‘Disorientation’ and of ‘New Orientation’, reflecting the seasons of human life when adverse circumstances shake us out of times when life is settled and secure and move us into a new understanding.  The Psalms of Lament are these ‘Psalms of Disorientation’. Brueggemann is concerned that the Church that just goes on ‘singing happy songs’ in the face of raw reality is failing to acknowledge the truth of the human experience. In doing so, we deny the growth that is possible through difficult times, and we are prevented from reaching ‘a new coherence made present to us just when we thought all was lost.’

 

Our passage from Isaiah today follows this pattern of lament and of disorientation, that idea of waiting in the darkness, longing for the dawn that will (in God’s good time) break into our distress. It is an idea echoed in our passage from the Gospel of Mark.

 

Well! we are surely in a time of ‘Disorientation’ now.  It might seem as if this year has been one long grieving period, a time of bewilderment and confusion.  Bad times like that give us a hint at the despair and desperation experienced by the generation that Isaiah speaks to. The people may have returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon, but life was still hard. And God seemed to be far away.

 

There used to be an assumption in our modern world that everything can be managed, every circumstance controlled, every negative circumstance somehow ‘cured’. The pandemic, and our failure to contain it, has shaken us out of that complacency.  But we can continue to look for the signs of God at work.

 

Our own faith journey can also reflect this pattern of Orientation, Disorientation and Reorientation.  The times when God seems far away, sometimes indicate that he is closer than we could have imagined. Like those who lamented in Jerusalem, we, too, may have times we feel cut off from God and his blessing. Yet, there is always hope, and within our sense of helplessness and within our waiting, always something to learn. I leave you with the words of John Dalrymple who writes “Without (this) sense of inner inadequacy, we might become possessive about how we were doing, and think that we could manage without grace, on our own.”


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