Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video. I’m sure many of us will have reacted with joy to the news that public worship under quite severe restrictions can begin again from July 5th. The thought of being able to take communion again is especially welcome. However, its clear that this guidance is permissive rather than directive. I don’t want anyone to feel they have to, particularly clergy who have to self-isolate or those over 70 who are in high risk groups.To ensure we maintain a sense of togetherness we’ll be offering online worship for quite some time yet.
We’re in a risky time, as events in Leicester have demonstrated.We will be living with the virus for quite some time. But in the moment, we can celebrate a chink of light.
My sense is that far from lockdown leaving us more relaxed, we are all quite tired.That is going to lead to all sorts of tensions we need to be alert to.There are going to be tensions between those who have been furloughed and those who’ve worked through it.Having nothing to do and being paid for it is in fact quite stressful. Its inevitable that those who have had to carry a heavier burden might feel resentful to colleagues in that position.There will be tensions between those who are going to lose their jobs and those who keep them.As ever in a crisis like this, some of us will actually be a lot better off considering what we’ve not been spending over the last 3 months, and some significantly poorer.And if you’ve been one of those locked in at home, you’re probably feeling a little stir crazy.
When all these different experiences come together as the semblance of community resumes, conflict is inevitable.When Jesus told us to love one another, he didn’t envisage a group in a higher spiritual plane, immune from the troubles of life. He was calling us to love through the aggravations and conflicts that are an inevitable part of being a real community. Paul was even more specific in his letter to the Ephesians where he writes, “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” It requires the spiritual virtue of empathy.Bearing with one another is a much neglected quality in our culture.We have become so conditioned to getting what we want when we want it, that it fosters a spirit of entitlement: a sort of narcissism whose motto is, “because you’re worth it.”L’Oreal really tapped into something with that slogan.
But the brutal fact is the 7 billion people on the planet can’t get their own way all the time. As community is reconstituted we will be reminded that bearing with one another isn’t a hypothetical piece of advice. Our friends, work colleagues, family members, clergy and Bishops even, will disappoint us.Our inadequate sensitivity to the feelings of others, coupled with an excessive capacity to take offence can be a toxic combination. Bear with one another: we all have baggage. That exterior that seems so tetchy to us may be carrying so much loss, shattered dreams, deep bereavements and sadness.Just surviving might seem to them be a sort of psychological and emotional victory.Your brother or sister may be carrying a history or burden that fortunately, isn’t the cross you have to bear. Bear with one another: there are two words in the phrase, ‘take offence’, you can choose not to take it. Bear with one another: if someone in authority who usually behaves with kindness and consideration seems to have made a blitheringly stupid decision, could it be that they were privy to a lot more information than you when they made it.
One of the paradoxical qualities about our culture is that we notionally value tolerance and non-judgementalism as a cardinal virtue. And yet, that tolerance only seems to extend to those who largely agree with us.When we are slighted, we don’t forgive we sue!
Paul again, in his letter to the Corinthians, that church whose dysfunction was mind-boggling, whose differences were being settled in court to the shame of the gospel said this.“The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?
As we emerge blinking into the light, perhaps bearing with one another might be so countercultural that it points beyond ourselves to the Jesus who inspires it. The Jesus who bore our sins and burdens so we wouldn’t have to.
Stay safe and have a good week.