God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
Throughout the last few months I have found myself returning to the words of Psalm 46 repeatedly. God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. The radical implications of these two verses are lost on the countless many who have succumbed to the theological fallacy, which arose around the time of the epochal shift in cultural mood known as the 18th century Enlightenment, that God, if he exists at all, is a very big 'thing' out there in the cosmos amongst all the other elements that make up our universe. Some learned commentators contend that that this 'reduction' of God to the proportions of this totality lies at the origins of modern atheism, and the modern misplaced antagonism of science and religion. For, if God is a feature of the universe, God can then be identified and quantified and placed. And because there is no scientific evidence for this 'thing', it doesn't exist and can be dismissed as reality in the world. But this would be to make what philosophers call a 'category mistake', to treat God as finite when he is in fact infinite, indeed, the very condition of the possibility of there being anything at all. God is the Creator, not part of creation; the maker and framer of the universe, not an aspect of it. As the Apostle Paul said, quoting some of the Greek philosophers on the Areopagus in Athens (cf Acts 17:24-28). "God is the One in whom we live and move and have our being". Only this kind of God can truly be our refuge and strength; only this kind of God can act to bring about a glorious future out of the apparent chaos and uncertainty of the present. To have faith is to orient ourselves trustfully towards the God who alone can make this so.
We continue to live in a time of uncertainty and anxiety. The world is in turmoil, the economy is in crisis, and people's lives are at risk. Many of those who were furloughed at the beginning of the lockdown are discovering whether they have jobs to go back to. Churches are closing, choirs are being disbanded, businesses are closing down. I am acutely aware that many of you, your families, your friends are facing unprecedented stresses and pressures.
How should you/we respond?
Part of the discipline of trusting God is learning how to 'be', that is, to cease striving to think through the problems with which we are beset, but to cultivate an attitude of trust, prayerfully handing over ourselves and our situation to God, who loves us and cares about us.
Secondly, to recognise that we are living in a period of radical change at many different levels, and to foster an attitude of 'attention', of 'discerning the signs of the times', and preparing for the new-shaped world that awaits us.
Thirdly, to take stock of what is truly important in the new situation, from matters of indifference.
As a church, one of our biggest challenges is to work out how we can remain connected together as a community, when we cannot met together physically. Another is how we can take advantage of new technological skills and equipment to meet virtually, deepen our understanding of our faith, and to nourish deepers spiritual lives. I am currently reading a fat tome called Teaching Online: A practical guide to help me contribute in new ways.
The Church is currently open for the purposes of individual, private prayer twice a week: Wednesdays from 10 am to 12 noon and Sundays from 12 noon to 2 pm.
We shall continue with the Sunday 10 am online services for the time being, but in addition, from the Sunday 13th September, we will offer a 'said' Eucharist in Church at 12 noon. This will last about half-an-hour. Social distancing and hygiene rules will apply. Further details about numbers and other matters will appear in the September newsletter and magazine.
With my best wishes and blessings