Quiet Space: 10th May 2020

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You might want to light a candle; you will need your preferred version of the Bible…

 

Offering ourselves, open to God:

Best of all is God is with us,

God will hold and never fail,

keep that truth when storms are raging,

God remains though faith is frail.        

Singing the Faith 610

 

The report of a work study engineer after a visit to a symphony concert at the Royal Festival Hall:

For considerable periods the 4 oboe players had nothing to do.  The number should be reduced and work spread more evenly over the whole of the concert, thus eliminating peaks of activity.  All 12 violins were playing identical notes; this seems unnecessary duplication.  The staff of this section should be drastically cut.  If a larger volume of sound is required it could be obtained by electronic apparatus.

Much effort was absorbed in the playing of demi-semi-quavers; this seems to be unnecessary refinement.  It is recommended that notes should be rounded up to the nearest semi-quaver.  If this were done it would be possible to use trainees and lower grade operatives more extensively.

No useful purpose is served by repeating on the horns a passage which has already been handled by the strings.  It is estimated that if all redundant passages were eliminated the whole concert time of 2 hours could be reduced to 20 minutes and there would be no need of an intermission.

Since the players are provided with written instructions, the chap at the front appears to be redundant.

 

How do we ‘read’ or address music, art, gospel accounts, and the questions they pose?

 

Let us listen for a word from God:

Read John 5. 1-15, aloud, slowly…

 

I am fascinated when, reading a familiar passage, I find evidence contrary to my inherited understanding. 

Perhaps it comes of watching TV murder mysteries with unexpected twists at the end?

Take the account of ‘Mat Man’, just read. 

How, with fresh eyes - imagining a first reading as a detective story - might we read it?

v5   After 38 years, did the man enjoy his status as the longest lying invalid beside the pool?

v6   What was the tone of Jesus’ voice - gentle or challenging? 

       Was his speaking emphasis on “well” or “want”?

v7   The man complains that his circumstances are the fault of others.

v8   Was Jesus’ instruction sharp, rooted in frustration at complacency and wasted potential?

v9   Were the man’s legs healed, or were his mind and spirit equally addressed?

v11 The man justifies his changed circumstances as the fault of an unknown stranger.

v14 Jesus finds and rebukes him with warning of worse to come if he does not change his ways.

v15 In reaction to Jesus’ challenge, the man sought out the authorities to inform on Jesus.

 

Read the passage aloud again, and then allow some quiet space to reflect.

 

Did the man recognise the breadth of sickness which afflicted him?

Did the man receive the healing he was offered?

Is Jesus’ offer of healing sometimes expressed in discomforting ways?

I wonder if ‘mat man’ returned to his mat, explaining to friends that he had suffered a relapse?

I find my former, traditional reading of this account, challenged!

As many of us may feel forced to ‘lie on our mat’ in lockdown, how will we ‘manage’ affliction in our legs, minds and spirits? 

How are we expressing our potential? 

How do we ensure time spent ‘on our mat’ is not wasted? 

How are we dealing with those things that we most miss? 

How might we respond as isolation lifts?

 

Numerous hymns in Singing the Faith may speak to our condition, and be offered in prayer.  They warrant later, further reflection, beyond these extracts:

 

Free every heart from haughty self-reliance, our ways of thought inspire with simple grace; break down among us barriers of defiance; speak to the soul of all the human race. (720)

From every ailment flesh endures our bodies clamour to be freed; yet in our hearts we would confess that wholeness is our deepest need.  How strong, O Lord, are our desires, how weak our knowledge of ourselves!  Release is us those healing truths unconscious pride resists or shelves.  In conflicts that destroy our health we diagnose the world’s disease; our common life declares our ills; is there no cure, O Christ, for these? (653)

When the bridges that we travelled have collapsed and left a void, when the chasms seem to widen, separating souls once joined, God of healing, reconcile! (656)

Soothe away our pain and sorrow, hold us in your love; grace we cannot buy or borrow, hold us in your love.  Though we see but dark and danger, though we spurn both friend and stranger, though we often dread tomorrow, hold us in your love. (652)

God! When human bonds are broken and we lack the love or skill to restore the hope of healing, give us grace and make us still. (649)

God give us skill, insight and will to find, when none are sure, new threads to mend the web of life, new means to heal and cure. (612)

We expect a bright tomorrow; all will be well.  Faith can sing through days of sorrow all, all is well.  On our Father’s love relying, Jesus every need supplying, then in living or in dying, all must be well. (639)

 

We remember those ‘lying on their mats’, willingly and unwillingly, the sick in body, mind and heart, and all who may aid their healing.

 

A Blessing:

Tender God, touch us and be touched by us. 

Make us lovers of humanity, compassionate friends of all creation. 

Gracious God, hear us into speech, speak us into acting, and through us recreate the world.

Then let us ever bear the blessed end in view, and join, with mutual care, to fight our passage through; and kindly help each other on, till all receive the starry crown.