Rector's Ramblings: June 14th 2020





      ‘Bubbles’ have been to the forefront this week. In our schools, children and staff are operating in bubbles that mustn’t touch or mix. As a single person, I can choose one other household to ‘bubble’ with but once chosen, I can’t have another bubble with anyone else. It brings back the horrors of standing in the playground wondering if you’d be chosen for the netball team.  Who do you choose?

   It struck me in today’s gospel that Jesus chose an interesting mix to be in his closest ‘bubble’. Look at the list of names. We have Simon Peter, who was impetuous and tended to speak first and think later; Andrew his brother. James and John, sons of Zebedee, were given the nickname by Jesus of ‘sons of thunder’ which must tell us something of their character. Those four were all fishermen. Philip was the first man Jesus told to follow him. He seems to have had a warm heart but to be rather pessimistic as to how things could be brought to be. Bartholomew (also known as Nathaniel) seems to have been a searcher of scripture; Thomas, known as the doubter, I always imagine to be a bit of an Eeyore character.  Then there is Matthew, the tax collector, who would have been classified as a collaborator with the Romans alongside Simon the Zealot who would have been a religious purist and out to oust the Romans. James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus who we know little of. And finally the strangest inclusion of all? Judas Iscariot. What a bubble to bring together at all. Let alone be a model of what it means to be the body of Christ.

    The bubbles we’re allowed to form now in Coronavirus times must be, by their nature, excluding bubbles  - for fear of spreading infection. The body of Christ, the church, is called to be an all including bubble, spreading infection, the infection of life to all – Jesus came to infect the world with life. No excluding and exclusive bubble here, and that is shown so clearly in the makeup of that first group of 12. That first bubble was given work to do, as are we.

  Going back to our gospel, we saw Jesus at work through all the towns and villages. Those people were no different from us today: they had the same hope and joys and they were living in turbulent times. Jesus looked at them and ‘had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ In today’s world we have, alongside the kindness being shown by one to another, outrage, blame, violence and the voice of those who have felt unheard for too long. Jesus looks on them and on us, not with the eyes of blame of judgment but as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

   Changing farming images, he then looked at them and us as a harvest field that was plentiful. He knew that in the hearts and minds of these people there was that deep longing for the real shepherd. As I believe there is today.

   Those first followers of Jesus learned over time how to love Jesus and others. They opened their hearts to the Holy Spirit who changed them. At first, as Jesus says: “you’re the answer to the prayer to send workers into the harvest field”, I’m sure they were terrified. Over time, they became bold as they allowed God to work through them and indeed most of them were martyred for Jesus in later years. The call of Jesus to us is to learn to love in the same way.

  Can we look out on our villages, our country and world and see sheep without a shepherd? Look on them with compassion and not join the blame game or the indifference game? Dare to know that there is a longing for something more than a market economy has offered? A longing for a deeper spiritual meaning? And reach out in love?

   The work that Jesus gave his first followers to do was ‘to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.’ Perhaps not something we feel is where we are now. What might we do? Well, Pope Francis talked about, on Pentecost Sunday, something which would be a good start: “Let us think about all those things we long for –comfort, encouragement, someone to care for us, someone to pray for us, someone to weep with us, and help us face our difficulties. Everything we long for others to do for us, let us do for them instead. Do we want to be heard? Let us first listen. Do we need encouragement? Let us give encouragement. Do we want to be comforted? Let us care for those who are alone and abandoned. Do we need hope for tomorrow? Let us give hope today. Let us radiate hope and the Lord will open new paths” (Have a look at the full homily at Surely we can do this?

  As followers of Christ today, we are faced with question about how we are to do the work Jesus gives us today. How do we use our buildings well? Not just for ourselves but for all. That has been our headache this week as we look to how we might begin re-opening the buildings. What to do we need to hold on to and what do we need to let go? What do we need to do and be in a different way? Where do we need a bigger vision than the walls of the building? We must not, above all, be bubbles that consciously, or unconsciously, exclude others from catching the contagion of life that Jesus offers.