Hello one and all,
This is the reflection I wrote for today’s online service from Esgobty, based on the Gospel reading for this, the Seventh Sunday of Easter – the Sunday after Ascension Day. The passage is St John 17: 1-11 and it’s good to see Enid Jones reading it in Welsh during the service and to share the prayers of Christine Hainsworth – thanks to them both for participating and to Michael and John who did their filming.
The videoed service is available from the Diocesan website on this link:https://dioceseofstasaph.org.uk/coronavirus/digital-prayer-and-worship/worship-from-esgobty/
|Worship from Esgobty – Diocese St. Asaph
Bishop Gregory invites you to join him and others for a collaborative service of worship. Click on the image opposite to watch the latest service from Esgobty or catch up with previous services via the links below.
and, as not everyone can access the videoed service, two photos are included in the reflection.
With my prayers as St.Melangell’s feast day draws near,
I’m in the garden at St Melangell’s and I hope you’ll occasionally hear some of the glorious birdsong all around. This being the time near St Melangell’s feast day, there would usually be many people coming here. Today, though, it’s deserted as the terrible toll of the Covid.-19 pandemic continues. In what’s been described as the coronacoaster of emotions and challenges we’re all having to face, the dappled sunlight shining through chestnut leaves onto the bluebells here and the dappling of these colourful flowers or in the woods behind me seem to reflect the many shades of emotion being experienced as suffering continues while creation is revealed in its spring glory.
“Glory be to God for dappled things….. Praise him,” wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem Pied Beauty. This came to mind because of today’s Gospel, in which
Jesus prayed, “Father, I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” Earlier, his disciples were bewildered: “What does he mean?” they ask, “We don’t understand.” Despite his own needs before his crucifixion, Jesus patiently helped them to grasp what he was telling them. “You believe at last!” he says, with evident relief, “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home.”
These words may have an added resonance as we hear them amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and as we today are scattered, many of us confined to our own homes. Perhaps, like those first disciples, we don’t understand what’s happening and are bewildered by what we’re being told. But Jesus not only prayed for himself and his disciples, he also commissioned his followers to continue what had been begun as he prepared to leave them. The disciples were too scared to do that at first, and locked themselves away after the crucifixion. But the resurrection and later ascension of Jesus not only made God visible here on earth, humanity was raised to new heights too in Jesus’ return to the glory whence he came. Those disciples eventually rose to the challenge of a new way of life when inspired by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the good news of resurrection hope began to be shared. If that can happen then, it can happen today as we respond to the same commission: our lives can also be transformed when we face up to our fear, ask for God’s help in dealing with it and try to rise to the challenges before us all despite Coronavirus.
The word corona means crown, shown in the spikes of the virus. It can also mean halo and in Holman Hunt’s painting The Light of the World, Christ is shown with three coronae: the crown of thorns from his crucifixion woven into the golden crown of kingship and the halo signifying holiness.
THOSE coronae, borne of his suffering, death and resurrection, indicate that the love of Jesus is also spreading amongst us in these dark times but his words remind us that this involves suffering as well as hope: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
St.Melangell’s life shows that too. She had trouble accepting a way of life that she didn’t want and ran away, choosing uncertainty rather than privilege. Melangell may have spent ten solitary years here before the encounter with Prince Brochwel and she could have run away from the hunt but, in peacefully confronting violence, she drew a response of generosity from the Prince. By giving her some of his land, they both enabled this area to become a place of sanctuary, healing and hope. It still is today and, as we face isolation and uncertainty, Melangell’s bravery and Brochwel’s generosity may inspire us not to fear change and solitude but also try to rise above what threatens to drag us down in a way that may draw out the best in us all.
As with Jesus, no-one knows what Melangell looked like and her sculpture here is faceless. By contrast, the faces of many of those particularly affected by the pandemic are often seen in the media. But there are countless others too, whose faces may be unknown yet who are also contributing in often unseen ways to do what they can to help the isolated. We may be separated, but social media enables us to be reunited, though very differently. So, as we face the current closure of church buildings, the challenge to meet for worship in new ways and all that is being asked of us each day, we too can be strengthened by the prayer of Jesus for all his followers as he asks God to ”protect them …. so that they may be one as we are one.” Jesus prays for protection, not from troubles or difficulties, but for the sake of unity.
Today, whether isolated or together, we can also be united in persevering with hope and prayer even though the future is so uncertain. It’s hard and there may be times when anxiety and grief overwhelm us and the terrible heartache and mess that this Coronavirus has created seem to dominate. But the coronae of Jesus in Hunt’s painting remind us of the resurrection hope Jesus won at such great cost, and that there will also be glorious moments when we glimpse costly Love spreading amongst us, find courage in the face of adversity or notice the glory of spring unfolding all around us, wherever we may be. And at those times, amidst the many shades of emotion caused by Covid-19, may our hearts nevertheless be lifted to echo Hopkin’s words: “Glory be to God for dappled things… Praise him.”