Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:4-7 (NRSV)
First - THANK YOU all for the gift of a sabbatical. Thank you that while I was away you stepped up in new ways to love, support, cover tasks, care for the staff and each other, shepherd, navigate challenging news cycles, work on relationships… and most of all the ways you provided a consistent, stable, worshipping presence in South Arlington over these last two months.
I am so grateful for each of you. And I'd love to know what you’ve been up to these last two months… or what’s coming up in the near future? Changes in your living or work situations? Changes in your faith or habits? Would you let me know? Can we go for a walk or have a physically distanced cup of tea? Or just meet on zoom? Drop me a WhatsApp or text and let’s make a date! Or will you also consider writing a lenten reflection that we can publish on this blog?
We are approaching the one year mark for when the pandemic changed our lives. I remember the weekend of March 6 so well. The endless discussions about what was going to happen next, how long it would last, would we gather in person for Easter? Oh my - we had no idea! And over this last year we have each known depths of sadness as we have watched the world, our neighbors and those we love struggle with the reality of life and death in a pandemic-struck world. We have mourned. And we have prayed.
But as a community we have moved through this last year with resolve and faith and trust in our good Father. We have seen the world roiling and rolling as it has faced extraordinary challenges of many kinds. We too have faced many challenges, and we as your leadership have responded with as much wisdom as we could muster between us to every new circumstance. I have no doubt that we would not always make the same decisions that we made at the time with hindsight - however, these are the ways God grows us by inviting us into the unknown and asking the Holy Spirit to guide us.
Whilst on Sabbatical, to be honest I did not have a huge amount of reflection time! Being in lockdown in London for most of the time we were in a 1000sq ft home with one bathroom and 6 people - one a newborn. But I did have quiet time in the night to pray, and those verses from Philippians provided such a helpful stabilising place for me. I eventually wove them into my Lenten practices as well. Paul recognises our tendency to worry and gives a pretty straightforward solution.
Recipe for rejoicing
Take your worries.
Tell God - maybe ask him for a solution, you can even make suggestions.
Assume God heard you.
Then let go.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Find space to be at peace and to rejoice in the moment.
1.This is not magical thinking, our problems don’t vanish, but it allows us to release them and remember that in this very moment God is with us and he is in control.
2. If you want a beautiful example of David using this recipe read Psalm 28
Rejoice is such a strong word: as I pondered this passage over the last 2 months I remembered all the hardships Paul (and David) faced. You all know what it’s felt like to be deprived of contact with family, friends, normal behaviours over this last year. You all know the fear the virus has brought with it. You all know the political environment we have been in. Yet Paul reminds us ‘rejoice’ and ‘be gentle’ and ‘don’t worry’. For me this has meant every time I head towards anxiety - I am challenged to stop. Pause. Relinquish control. Rejoice.
Now - tbh - the reason this has become a lenten discipline is because I find it hard. I am a huge night-time worrier. And actually day-time too. Leave me alone for a few minutes and I can easily spiral into a series of catastrophic thinking cycles. My capacity to worry about each of you, my spiritual family and all my biological family is pretty enormous. Almost a speciality. But one of the notable features of anxiety is it is almost always about another time - the future (or even the past): it is rarely about this very moment. Now. The present. I love this quote from Corrie ten Boom, ‘Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.’
And so - working to be present to this moment. The now. The very second I am in immediately reduces the anxiety. The reminder that God is with us right now is huge. The only requirement is to offer all things to him and then to let go and rejoice.
Being with our family over the last two months reminded us that we will do everything we can to preserve those bonds of love. And that’s what our community is as well - family, bound together in our common love of Christ and we will do everything we can to keep the bonds of peace.
So this week, why not think about a way to reach out to a member of our church family with a gesture of love? With a reminder that you see them. Ask them how they are and then pray for them and rejoice at the ways that God is working in their lives.
In other news:
Want to be baptised on Easter Sunday? Email me today!
Want to become a member on March 21? Fill out this form today!
Want to join our volunteer rota? Email me ...
Want to pray more for others? Join our Tuesday and Thursday noonday prayer times
Want to catch up? Drop me an email or WhatsApp and let’s go for a walk or grab a zoom coffee….
With a joyful heart,