Rector's Ramblings: July 5th 2020




 Have a read of today’s gospel and you’ll see why I am going to talk about games today: Jesus uses a picture of children at play. Listen to Morning Prayer if you are able as I talk there about another image from the idea of games.

   Games. Do you like playing games? I was never that keen on sport (not fit enough) but give me Boggle or Scrabble and I’m away. What are your favourite games? Next question: how are you with winning and losing? Always a tricky one. I prefer to win (suspect that won’t surprise you). However, I am OK with losing so long as I’m not losing all the time. Then I get frustrated and cross and want to throw in the towel and sulk.

  I suspect the most difficult game we are called to play is the waiting game. It’s a game that has been to the forefront for all of us these last 3 ½ months: waiting for those statistics to see if there is an improvement; waiting to hear what we will be allowed to do and when; waiting to see if the virus revives its strength as lockdown is eased. Waiting and more waiting. How has that been for you? This game that has been forced on us?

   Are you good at waiting? Or do you get agitated when you choose the wrong queue at the checkout? When you miss that green light on the ubiquitous road works and have to sit for ages while 3 more lines of traffic take their turn?

   The waiting game is a challenging game for us. We live in a world which values activity and action over passivity. We are supposed to achieve, win, fix it. As Christians, how we play the waiting game is important. We are kept waiting as much as anyone. How do we wait? What does the waiting game involve? Christian waiting is a corrective to the public presupposition that human dignity is bound up with human activity, with initiating and creating and achieving and earning.

    There isn’t a box with instructions on the lid so I’ll suggest a few things. Firstly, we are called to wait on the Lord. Waiting time is about learning that we are dependent on the Lord and that we are not self-sufficient as we like to believe. Waiting time is that slow journey where we learn more trust and patience (which Rick has written about elsewhere). There is a lovely scene in the film Evan Almighty, where a modern Mrs Noah has become exasperated by her husband building the ark outside their home and wishes she had more patience. Now Mrs Noah happens to be mentioning this to God who is sitting next to her in a burger bar (in the disguise of Morgan Freeman) where he is working! And God suggests that if we ask for patience surely we would be given situations in which to practise patience. Don’t you sometimes wish you hadn’t asked the question? But I am sure the answer is worth mulling over and as we look back there may well have been many opportunities where the waiting time has helped us to learn to trust, to learn we are not independent of our world or God. If we ask to learn greater trust, God may give us the chance to practise?

  Waiting on the Lord involves learning to rest in him as the Lord our shepherd (Psalm 23) who is always there to nurture and to care and to lead us. It’s learning to let go of our own agendas and way of seeing things and praying that our will may become more aligned with God’s will.

   Waiting involves remembering that God himself waits and is patient. If it were not so, we would be in trouble. He waits so long for us to turn to him, to learn from him. He doesn’t give up on the waiting game. Thank God. It’s intriguing that the gospels show a marked change from activity to passivity at the point where Jesus was ‘handed over’. Early on in the gospels, Jesus is active but come to Holy Week and we are told he is ‘handed over’. From then on everything is done to him, yet somehow he is the one in control. That is mystery to us.

   We are creators with God, but also we wait with the God who waits. It has been the experience of many that when we wait we become more receptive to the world in its vastness and delicacy, beauty and squalor, good and evil. We become more receptive to others as we are not judging or seeking to dominate. Somehow waiting does not diminish us. We stand beside God. I am not saying I understand what I have just written in its entirety but I nibble at the edges of understanding. I invite you to do the same, even though it is so contrary to the way our world is run.

   Secondly, the waiting game isn’t like standing in a queue and waiting passively for our needs to be served. It’s a time to be alert to how God is calling us to serve. One hint of what this may look like is in today’s collect: “draw us into harmony with your will, that we may find all things restored in him, our Saviour Jesus Christ”

  Being in harmony with his will involves working towards that society that Jesus came to found. A society where all are welcome and valued, whatever role they have and whoever they are. Where there isn’t hierarchy, where there aren’t winners and losers. The waiting game is for us about enabling that to come to be, in small and big ways wherever we can; about not playing the blame game or the ‘I’m the king of the castle’ game; or the ‘I won’t play with you if I don’t get my way’ game; or the many other games we play to build ourselves up at the expense of others.

  We wait right now for so many things including the step by step re-opening for church buildings and the discerning of what we are called to do and be as Jesus’ followers today (not yesterday). Ponder this waiting game which aligns us in so many ways with the dignity of a God who waits. Let us be faithful in our daily living to our Lord as we wait. The future is as yet unknown and unclear and that is how it will be for a good while yet, I believe.  

   May you know God’s blessing as we wait.