Monthly Meditation – June 2022

Pentecost artWe reach the end of the Great Fifty Days of Eastertide on Sunday 5th June, when we celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples (Acts 2:1-21). Early Christians gave the name ‘Pentecost’ to the whole fifty-day span of rejoicing, which we echo today with the ‘Alleluia’s’ that ring out at every service and greeting. The arrival of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost completes and crowns the Easter festival, Alleluia! And now we move into a different season.

Here, it will be a season with a difference as Robert is taking a sabbatical, returning on 25thSeptember. The term ‘sabbatical’ derived originally from the Old Testament and related to the Sabbath, the weekly day of rest and delight in God (Exodus 34:21, Isaiah 58:13-14), and the sabbatical year, in which, every seven years, complete rest was commanded for the land, with no sowing or reaping and the remission of debts (Leviticus 25; Deuteronomy 15). In the nineteenth century, ‘sabbatical’ became used as a term for a time of leave, to ‘re-train, refresh and renew the very base from which future activity may spring’ (‘Sabbaticals for Ministers’, Methodist Conference Agenda 1985, 240).

It is therefore very appropriate that Robert’s sabbatical begins around the time of Pentecost, when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that works through each one of us to fulfil God’s ministry on earth. It is important to take time for refreshment and renewal and we wish Robert every blessing. While he takes a longer period of renewal and refreshment, may we also think about our own, whether that be the keeping of the Sabbath or a longer time of retreat. I shall be taking my retreat at the end of August with 5 days away for prayer and reflection.

When Bishop Steven spoke at Shiplake at the end of May during his visit to the Henley Deanery, he spoke of the need for deep spiritual renewal. As we come into the first summer for three years when we may gather without restriction, we are feeling the need for that renewal. We are still mid-pandemic, facing a crisis with the cost of living and engaged with supporting refugees from the war in Ukraine and those left behind. The bishop likened this to the journey taken by two disciples out of Jerusalem to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) and drew parallels with us and our church today; we are anxious, grieving and seeking fresh inspiration.

At times like this, we need to be confident that Jesus walks with us, alongside us every step of the way. He does so with great compassion and gentleness, falling in step with us where we are, even if we are walking in the wrong direction, listening to our prayers and petitions. He hears us and if we ask him into our lives, will come and show us the hope and the joy he brings. The Emmaus journey is a profound story about Jesus, human and divine. Part of our journey will be how to know Christ afresh in these times; for our hearts to catch fire again with that sense of the wonder of the Creator; to encounter more deeply the person of Christ and the love of God. I pray that Pentecost brings that first spark towards our own renewal and knowledge of the freedom that faith in Christ brings.

Reverend Sarah

Note: During the sabbatical, if you need to speak to the clergy, please contact me in the first instance; Robert will not be responding to emails or telephone calls until the end of September. 07770 930756