We are gradually seeing around the world that restrictions to limit the spread of Covid-19 are being relaxed as Governments try and open up their economies again and return our lives to something of normality, whilst maintaining social distancing and restricting more infections and deaths amongst us. Some, of course, have been impacted by the lockdown and do not want things to return to a pre-virus normality. The community spirit, different working practices, less travel, appreciation and stewardship of what we have and recognition of the amazing work of key people in caring for us is something that some would wish to remain. How are you feeling?
You may of course be impacted by the increasing recognition of justice for black people treated differently, whose lives are not able to prosper in our societies through racist behaviour and attitudes. Protest marches are taking place around the world, despite the Coronavirus restrictions, with people in large numbers campaigning against violence and racism towards black people, following the traumatic death of George Floyd. How is this making you feel?
During these protests, we have seen the defacing of monuments and statues that some would claim are representing values that are racist and there has been a resulting, often violent reaction from other groups on our streets, with police forces, tasked to keep peace, facing the outcomes. How does this make you feel?
Perhaps you are feeling angry or confused, thankful for life or anxious at the complex situations we face. Maybe you are part of caring for others or left on your own. Perhaps you are worried for loved ones or overwhelmed by the pandemic. Perhaps you are seeking work, trying to work or attempting to open your business. You might be passionate about justice or frightened for your safety. You might be happy in your home or longing for contact with family and friends or even seeking a place to live and food to feed your family.
How has this lockdown impacted you and has God shaped you in these different times?
Perhaps your relationship with God has strengthened, perhaps you are new to faith exploring virtual Church services seeking meaning and hope, or perhaps God is not relevant to you and you have ignored him. Maybe your Church community is meeting virtually providing companionship and help, feeding you with the word of Christ, or maybe you can’t connect with your Church at all and are left to your own prayer. Perhaps you have become more alive to Christ in your life, seeing his work around you and within you or perhaps your faith has waned leaving you to your own devices. I am reminded of those words from Jeremiah 18:1-10.
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.
Then the word of the LORD came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.
During these times of anxiety, change, blessings and challenge, can we leave ourselves safe in the Potter’s hands as nations and lives are re-shaped and re-formed? When he was about to leave them, Jesus told his friends, his disciples, those who believed in him and know him as God’s son, that they were to prepare themselves to receive the Holy Spirit of God (John 16:12-15).
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you”.
The Spirit of the Living God changes our lives and our nations as we are held in God’s hands. Here is a sung prayer.
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me
Melt me, mould me
Fill me, use me
The people of Israel in Jesus’ day knew all about anxiety, anger, racism, persecution, changes and challenges in a society of brutal occupation with little respect. Life was very difficult.
In amongst this climate then, they come to one of the many festivals held in Jerusalem, the festival of the Tabernacles. A festival to remind them of the slavery suffered in Egypt, the deprivation they suffered in the desert and their rescue to better times by God. They would build shelters or booths to remind them of that deprivation and also celebrate the harvest by pinning fruit around their booth.
At its most celebratory, people would flood into Jerusalem to take part in 8 days of activities and the hope of a Messiah coming amongst them and saving them from Roman oppression. It was a huge festival and culminated with the ‘greatest day’ in the Temple, the place where they meet with God.
You can imagine the atmosphere and the intensity as more sacrifices are offered to God for the cleansing of the people and in the hope that the Messiah, promised by God through his prophets, will come and stand amongst them and save them. The priests gather around the sacred altar in the Temple and they dance and process around it seven times with water taken from the pool of Siloam.
The water is poured out around the altar in recognition of the gift of water that God had provided for the people in the desert so their thirst would be quenched. There was a hush in the crowd as they observed this ritual…. and then a man stands …. and shouts out…
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:37-38)
Meaning the Holy Spirit. Jesus, their Messiah, was standing amongst them and calling them to himself. Many have found that ‘Living Water’, through and in Jesus Christ, that quenches our innermost anxieties and out of our hearts then flows the Spirit of God to point many to Jesus Christ, to save, to inspire, transform, bring peace and to know God’s presence and his hope amongst us in a changing world. We place ourselves then into the Potter’s hands and trust in his grace.
The breaking of the chains of oppression will mean much to some, the breaking of the chains of sin and the freedom to know God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the power of his Holy Spirit is available to all who seek Jesus Christ. This is how we know God’s kingdom amongst us. This is how we bring about and know a better world.
Our prayer could be:
Loving and Holy Lord, in this changing world full of hopes, anxieties, sickness and challenges; open our hearts afresh to receive you in our lives.
Fill us with your Spirit
Loving and Holy Lord, bring your healing amongst the pandemic, may the virus be eradicated, may those seeking a vaccination know your blessing. May we place ourselves into your transforming hands.
Fill us with your Spirit.
Loving and Holy Lord, may those who feel mistreated and oppressed, persecuted and downtrodden know your transforming presence amongst us in our nations and our lives. We bring all leaders to you, that they may know your presence in every decision.
Fill us with your Spirit.
Loving and Holy Lord, you desire that all should have the opportunities to thrive and be the person and peoples you made them to be. Bring us to know you more clearly and love you more dearly, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.