Rector's Ramblings: Trinity Sunday June 7th 2020

 

 

 

The Easter season is behind us and we start ‘ordinary’ time (as it is called in the church) right after Pentecost last Sunday. Ordinary time runs right through to Advent Sunday on 29th November, and is heralded by Trinity Sunday, with its focus on God who is creator, redeemer and sustainer, a God who values us beyond our imaginings. The colour for this season is green, speaking of hope and growth. It is ‘ordinary’ time as it’s not the great festivals of Christmas and Easter. It is the time when we follow the teachings and actions of Jesus in his ‘ordinary’ ministry, deepening our faith in the ‘ordinary’.

     ‘Ordinary’ can sound boring; something to be avoided in our search for life to be exciting, outstanding, different. Who would want to be ‘ordinary’? Yet, if we’re honest, most of life is pretty ordinary. Perhaps in this extra-ordinary times, we actually long for the ordinary?

  We are not sure exactly when our church buildings will re-open either for private prayer or public worship. Nevertheless we start to prepare. Risk assessments are starting (as they have had to be done in schools): how to deal with the requirements for social distancing, no physical touch beyond single households, sanitizing, not being able to use books and more. I doubt all will return to Sunday church in the building once the go ahead is given as they might feel too vulnerable to be safe to do so.

   One thing I do know is that how we worship together will look and feel different. We have lots to think about: can we run physical services and the audio input for the same Sundays? Undoubtedly we will for a time. Services in church will need to adapt to what’s allowed (which we don’t know yet exactly). The sense is that things will not get back to ‘normal’ this year. We have a long trudge ahead of us.

   It will probably seem more ordinary than we would wish. The services may not be what we would choose but that is the approach of the consumer. Coming together in worship is about offering ourselves in service to God. It’s why they are called ‘services’. Doing this for love of Jesus, rather than to suit our own tastes, is the work of ‘ordinary’ time.

  Who came into my mind as I was pondering? Brother Lawrence who wrote the ‘Practice of the Presence of God’ and who lived in the tumult of 17th century France. He was born into a peasant family and went into the army. Injury forced him to leave and he then failed in work as a footman. Following an amazing experience of God, he went into the monastery as a lay brother, not a monk. A monastery servant. The Abbot saw him as nothing but a ‘great clodhopping fool’ and he was consigned to work as a kitchen skivvy. He loathed those kitchens with the heat, the bustle, shouting and endless greasy pots. It was sheer misery to him and not the glorious religious life he had hoped for.

   He began to ask God for help before each of the unpleasant tasks that made up his day. When he had finished cleaning the grate or scouring the pots, he would thank God for his help. Soon he was beginning to picture God standing next to him while he worked, enjoying each small action because Lawrence was doing it for love of God. Every action became an expression of love and worship. Lawrence wrote: "Men invent means and methods of coming at God's love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God's presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?” The issue was not the sacredness or worldly status of the task but the motivation behind it. "Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God." Brother Lawrence retreated to a place in his heart where the love of God made every detail of his life of surpassing value. "I began to live as if there were no one save God and me in the world." Together, God and Brother Lawrence cooked meals, ran errands, scrubbed pots, and endured the scorn of the world.

  I’ve grown tired of being on the computer instead of meeting and being with real people. At times, a more housebound life can feel less ‘useful’. Brother Lawrence reminds me that I can do each task for love of Jesus – asking him for his help as I start, thanking him as I finish and knowing he is with me in all of it. Loving me in it as I learn to love him more.

  I think Brother Lawrence’s wisdom might stand us all in good stead for the long haul ahead. Can we approach things in his way of doing it all for love of God? Whether services are as we would have chosen or liked? Whether life feels frustrating and too ordinary?  Ordinary faith in the ordinary might prove more lasting than the excitement of festival time.

  This ordinary time is the time for us to grow in our love and service of Jesus in the ordinary. There to find the joy of the Lord in the ordinary everyday actions and life that we all live. Will we do our ‘common business’ wholly for love of him? May it be so.