Friday 19 June, 2020

Dear Friends at St. Bartholomew’s:

We cannot move far without using our senses. Equally, most of us are probably aware that our senses are not as acute as they once were, and we are dependent on technology to help us in one way or another. In my case, not only do I have support for my seeing, but also for eating (to taste) and hearing… three out of five is not such a good record!

The Bible often references our senses to challenge how we are connecting with God and his word and I was reminded this week of the refrain “he who has ears to hear, let him hear”. This was especially pertinent for me as I have been struggling with hearing clearly for a few weeks and finally gave in earlier this morning to make an emergency appointment for later today, when I realised both ears were blocked. Rather limiting when attempting to hold a conversation, especially over the telephone!

Throughout the Old Testament, we read of the stubbornness of the Israelites who are described as “foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but do not see, who have ears, but do not hear” or as someone who “sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear.”

That refrain which Jesus used was to encourage his immediate hearers, then the early readers of the gospels and finally ourselves to properly listen to what God is saying to us or to properly see what he is wanting to show us. Just as I’m going to get professional help to recover my physical hearing, so too we need to get help to regain our spiritual sight and hearing. Perhaps, too, our other spiritual senses have become dulled and during this extraordinary period of being shut in at home and being isolated from others has dulled our taste for God, his Spirit and his Word. Do you know that mood? When one is feeling “out of sorts” physically, even the most succulent meal will seem flavourless and the same happens to our spiritual appetite if we let our sense of God grow dull. As with any recovery from a physical ailment, why not reactivate your taste-buds with some gentle reading of God’s word in the Bible. Perhaps read again the Gospel accounts from Matthew and Luke, which contain some of the particularly well-known and loved stories. The Psalms, too, have a wonderful way of resonating with our feelings with God saying through the psalmist “I do know how you’re feeling, and I want to walk alongside you.”

I hope it will not be too long before we can return to worship as the gathered people of God in the church building. From this weekend, we are opening up the building for personal private prayer. While of course we can pray to God whether in our homes or out on a country walk, the sense of being in the church building where Christians before us have prayed for their community, their country and themselves over the previous eight hundred or so years is both humbling, yet powerfully enabling.

Martin Dines has been helping me conduct some tests in church to see whether we have the technology to lead a ZOOM service from there. While we are currently researching whether there is a permanent solution to lay a broadband connection, we were glad to see that my simple iPad linked to my phone seemed to provide a workable answer. I’ll be writing about our plans to ZOOM from church once we are confident we have that robust interim solution.

With my prayers as we continue to find our way forward to the life God wants for us to live and enjoy.

Paul Boddam-Whetham, Rector