It’s good to feel loved

Today has been a good day of getting things done in the morning and in the afternoon a lovey long chat with a friend who is also a parish priest so we were able to give mutual support in these difficult days. There was a ‘work’ reason for the call as well, so it was more than catching up with a friend. Sometimes it is good to share things with someone from outside your patch and I was able to offer her some insight from my experiences in a situation that she is dealing with. We both agreed that parish ministry ‘aint wot it used to be’ when we were ordained.

My mid-day bible reading and prayer time enabled me to realise that today’s #Live Lent reflection was what I did yesterday.

Bible reading – Luke 15.3-7 (NLT)So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
Reflection Have you ever lost something? The loss of something apparently quite minor can have a major impact. Your car key is a small thing, but if you lose it a much bigger thing – your car – will not work. Your wallet is a small thing, but if you lose it you may also lose access to your bank account, which is a much bigger thing (or maybe not!) Less dramatically, if you have a complete set of books or records by an artist you love, and one goes missing, somehow it can spoil the whole collection.

This is the first of three parables that Jesus told about things that are lost, all recorded in Luke 15. These stories say something that was very important to Jesus, and Luke doesn’t want us to miss it.
Prayer Lord, I bring before you something I feel I have lost in my life: whether that is a relationship, a possession, or a dream of how my life would go. Be close to me in that place of loss. Amen.

Jesus is close to me in my loss. One of the lovely things since yesterday is to know the support of those who sent a message when they had read my blog. Thank you. It is good to know you care – and that is why this blog is entitled ‘I feel loved’.

When it came to doing some prayerful art I went back to Mark’s gospel. I read a couple of chapters (up to the end of chapter 11) but of course my art work was still at the end of chapter 5. I will continue to read Mark’s gospel this week and gradually build up the art to illustrate it. Hopefully by the end of Lent I will end up with a complete over view of the gospel. How that will coincide with the #Live Lent is anyone’s guess.

I struggled with the picture today because I had covered up some felt tip writing with white acrylic. Water colours wouldn’t work, so I used coloured pencils. I googled some images. I had to flip this one so that Jesus was walking in the right direction towards where I wanted to put the girl in the bed. I got a simple line drawing to copy for Jairus’ daughter.

Today I felt challenged by the drawing of the woman touching Jesus’ garment and then Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter back to life. Mark 5:21-43 The woman had been bleeding for 12 years – and the girl was 12 years old. I always wonder about that detail that Mark includes in this account. The woman and girl are at opposite ends of the ability to have children. I am assuming that the woman is menopausal. And the girl would be pre-pubescent. Not sure what the significance is though. But for me, when I read the passage today I was struck by the issue of faith. The woman was healed because she had enough faith to reach out and touch Jesus. Jairus was told his daughter was dead and so not to trouble Jesus, who then said ‘do not fear, only believe‘ and then proceeded to tell the dead girl to get up. And when she did, everyone was, understandably, amazed.

We read on, into chapter 6 to find that Jesus was amazed at the unbelief of the people in his home town. The latter part of Chapter 5 is full of the amazing things Jesus did. He had POWER to calm the storm and to drive out a legion of demons. His POWER left him at the touch of his garments and could even raise the dead girl. Jesus still has power – do we believe? Or are we disbelieving like those in his home town? Are we so comfortable and ‘at home’ with Jesus and our church ways that we don’t really expect great things? And that way we are not disappointed. We expect little, and get little.

What if we were more like the woman who had got to the end of her resources and reached out out to just touch his garments? In the church we often feel that we are at the end of our resources. We keep on going, often doing the same things year in year out (with the exception of this year of course when we haven’t been able to do what we usually do as church).

Many of us in the Church of England are seeing our congregations dwindle. Even before the effects of the pandemic, we were shrinking. We were haemorrhaging members as elderly members died, or people left, and we are not attracting the younger ones. People do not realise they are ‘lost sinners’ in need of being found by the Shepherd. We see the latest ideas for evangelism that look great, but when we try them they fall as flat as a pancake. We may feel that we are like the old woman – coming to the end of our resources and wondering how on earth we will continue. We may fear that we will die – and become like Jairus’ daughter.

Perhaps when we get to this point we need to reach out in faith, as the old woman did. I know that the church in England is not dead and I have faith that the Church of England will continue – but it will be a different church than the one I grew up in and came to faith in. This pandemic has shaken us up. It has brought into focus things that were already there – the gradual demise of the church in many areas. Let us pray that this pandemic is a turning point, enough of a wake up call, to make us reach out in prayer to Jesus, who loves us, to heal us, to change us, and even bring us back from the dead.

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