Trinity 4a 2020

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’

The last three months have been a time of great weariness; a time of bearing enormous burdens for all of us. The grief over the loss of so many lives to the coronavirus is a hard weight to bear in our families, in our communities, in our nation, in our world, in our churches. The loss of jobs and livelihoods is devastating. The inability to meet face to face, to congregate, to embrace, to comfort, and to console in person is nothing but a loss – a deep, aching loss. The shutting down of so much and the staying inside for so long has been a test of endurance.

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’

Yet, in this time of crisis – life has continued to be lived; new experiences have occurred; new understandings have continued to shape us; new, and unexpected fruit has appeared and been harvested.

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’

The pandemic has, indeed, exposed truths about ourselves that are hard to face. Inequalities in health care. Disparities in educational opportunities.  Those we call key workers actually receive the lowest pay for their key-work. The persistent and pervasive fear and dangers of racism, prejudice and persecution lying close under the surface in our society. It has also exposed truths about the church: some that are hard to face; certain truths that we needed to know and understand about the way we live as Christians.  We have learnt, through experience, that as disciples of Christ, we do not simply go to church – we ARE the CHURCH.  We need to focus more on the work of the church; a renewed commitment placed on the mission of the church to reach out to the poor, the sick, and the needy in the wider community and occupy ourselves far less with what goes on inside the church. Let’s have fewer committees, meetings and resolutions – and more devotional prayer; worship and community outreach.

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’

Certain truths revealed have been good and positive – we have learnt to pray for seven whole days not one in seven.  I have been humbled and moved and hugely uplifted by the strong sense of loving care that characterises the Holy Trinity family.  I have had more requests for prayer for individuals and situations than ever before in 20 years of ministry.  I have been thankful each time I have been contacted and told the outcome of prayer.  The encouragement and support that has been shared in our church community has revealed a people alive with the resurrection love of Christ – and all when no single one of us could worship together on a Sunday.

A sacramental relationship with Christ is vital; and we have painfully missed the experience of attending Mass in our spiritual home and receiving the Body of Christ in Communion with Jesus and one another as have Christian people in this holy place for over a thousand years.  But absence makes the heart grow fonder – as they say.

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’

As the months of Coronavirus – which have by no means ended – have taught us: we have come to appreciate our NHS workers, our teachers and key-workers; we have experienced kindness, understanding and encouragement from our neighbours and friends. The Gospels don’t give us much insight into the interior lives and feelings of Jesus and the disciples, but we do witness a lot of doing. Jesus moves and acts in public spaces, healing, teaching, feeding, proclaiming, forgiving, including and loving. The Gospel is not about the private life of Jesus, it is about the politics of Jesus.  And as followers of Jesus, we have been aware that it is our task to continue Jesus’ work of standing up for justice; for speaking up for the oppressed, who cannot speak for themselves; for tending the sick and the anxious, supporting the vulnerable.

That is why we are a eucharistic people: a people called to give life to others, as we are given life by the very gift of God’s own love to us as revealed, and given, to us in Jesus.  At this time of Corona virus, Covid-19, when we have been called upon, by necessity, to fast from what normally feeds us; from attending worship together and receiving sacramental nourishment in the Body and Blood of Christ— we have found ourselves re-evaluating the importance of those things.  As with the first Anglo-Catholic members of the Church of England, our predecessors of 160 years ago, here in Horfield, we realise why we value the Mass so much and the strength and grace we receive through holy “communion”.  It is all about being a visible body of God’s love together, which gives us the power and strength to go out from worship in the church building to serve God’s people by being the hands, feet and voices of Christ in our neighbourhoods.  Those early Anglo-Catholics re-introduced the term “Mass” for a reason; it means “to be sent out”.  “Mass”, “mission” - to be sent out, is what we do as disciples and followers of Jesus.  In these challenging times, we are learning to be sent out in new and challenging ways.  We have discovered that we can still be one body in union with Christ, even when we can’t step outside of our front doors; how we can still connect and communicate, and care for and support each other.  All those years of attending Mass certainly has an effect on us; we become what we eat. And we continue to proclaim what it means to be the Body of Christ in the world as we show and receive love, support and encouragement together. As we are transformed by God’s love, so may we transform the world around us by sharing in that love.

Some recent words of Pope Francis:

Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves.  Living for others is a rule of nature.  We are all born to help each other.  No matter how difficult it is…  Life is good when you are happy, but it is much better when others are happy because of you. 

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’

Amen.

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