Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday and I’ve done a picture in my prayer art journal based on the gospel reading. I focussed on this mainly as I preached. I did an all age talk plus an adult sermon. The text can be found on this pdf
My main message is Jesus’ invitation for us to come and drink the living water he offers. He offers this on the last day of a festival where priests have been pouring out water and wine on the altar with prayers for rain and resurrection for the dead.
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’”(John 7:37-39)
This would have rung bells in the memories of those listening of the words of prophets from long ago. In particular, God’s invitaiton through Isaiah:
55 Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
This chapter also contains the familiar words:
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
As a preacher, my prayer is always that I am preaching God’s words – his message – and that it will do what he purposes for it.
As I continued to work on the painting after I had finished preaching on Sunday I decided I wanted to paint a glow of fire on the church – the building and people. My prayer is that we will, as a church, be able to shine with God’s love and to convey that love to others in our villages and communities.
It isn’t so difficult to reach out to those who are able to watch/participate in online worship. But what about all the others who don’t zoom or Facebook? How do we reach them, when we are told not to post things through people’s doors? And many of them don’t even have an email address. It feels to me, as I write this on Monday, that I need to pray for God’s word to reach those whom I cannot reach. I hope they are being fed via TV and radio.
I am aware that it is easy to get spiritually tired, especially as we try to serve others in the strange circumstances we live in. I am tired; we are all feeling the strain whether we have been continuing to work from home, or at our place of work or if we have been in lockdown and going through our books and jigsaws, knitting and baking etc. I know that many people are longing to get back to normal – back to worshiping together in the same building – but how long will it be until our congregations, many of whom are well over 70 years old, can meet?
How long, O God, will it be?
How long, O God will you let this continue?
But of course it is God’s way to be with us in our suffering, not raise us up out of it. The crucified Christ, though risen and glorified, still stands with those who suffer.
I am thirsty for more of God, for myself, and for those I serve. I hope we can all find the time, space and energy to drink. Then we will be able to soar as though on eagle’s wings. For many years I had this picture on my noticeboard. It was on a card given to encourage me.
The Prophet Isaiah writes in Chapter 30:
27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
And so the final addition to my painting is an eagle soaring in the sky. I opted for silhouette, it being easier than lots of detail but added a little brown as total black looked too much. As this pandemic runs its course and we progress out of lockdown – and my fear is another spike – I pray that is indeed in control, that he will not let us suffer beyond what we can bear – as Paul wrote to the church in Rome: 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) And we can add pandemic to that list of his. I also pray that as a result we will come out of it stronger spiritually, and that the wind of the Holy Spirit will carry us through.