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Building your life on a rock (February 2021)

Dear Friends

Happy New Year to you all! How strange it is to think that I still have hardly said hello in person to many of you. Thank you for the warmth of your welcome and your positivity in spite of all we continue to endure. With you I hope and pray that 2021 will see us retrieving so much that we have had to put aside: worshipping in our own buildings; singing hymns without masks; chatting over a coffee and welcoming one another into our homes. I know, not least as some of you receive the vaccine, that we will get there. But it will take months yet I suspect. Meanwhile, we abide within God’s love and care and we continue to look out for and after everyone we can.

As if the pandemic were not enough, I have watched events unfold in the US where Jenny and I have many friends. They have shared with us something of their fears as the profound divisions scorching their nation were laid bare in response to Biden’s victory and sustained attempts to overthrow the presidential election outcome. Much fell apart for many.

All of this has put me in mind of a little story Jesus told. Imagine two men building their houses; one does so on rock and the other upon sand. When the storms come, the house on sand collapses whilst the house on rock withstands the force of the tumult (Matthew 7: 24-27).

It’s a story about where we put our trust and in what we place our hope: “…everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice… everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice…” Hearing and doing become the bedrock for lives that can withstand everything that is thrown at them. They enact communities of faithfulness and generosity which can endure the harshest of torment. Hearing and ignoring seem, initially, to be unproblematic. The house can still be built upon the sands of selfishness and idolatry. But such lives and such communities falter when disaster comes knocking. Too little supports the edifice.

Democracy can be alarmingly fragile when some consistently undermine it for their own ends, not least a democracy that finds many of its roots in Christianity and the words of Jesus. All it takes is to hear but not to do; to listen to words invoking God’s blessing and God’s protection, even God’s preferential blessing, whilst ignoring God’s demands and God’s vocation.

What of our communities? What of local church life? What of my own personal walk with Christ as a disciple? Lockdowns are all kinds of torment. Even as the vaccines come so a new virus variant presses upon us and exhaustion comes knocking. How much longer can we endure? At what cost? There is so much to foster despair even as hope glimmers.

Hope may sometimes seem such a little thing. Faith might seem so terribly small too. Love can feel vulnerable. And yet, maybe not. Hearing the words of Jesus and making them work, turning the Bible into a lifetime’s handbook rather than a museum piece, kindles and rekindles the light and warmth of faith, hope and love. Belonging to and actively sharing in the life and work of churches roots our lives into the most solid bedrock ever to be found because it lets us flourish as God intends in worship and in service not just alone, but together. Taking time to be good neighbours and to encourage all that encourages community clears away the fickle sands of passing interest to uncover the solid ground of enduring goodness.

2021 begins, and still we believe. Still, we read and pray and witness. Still, God is with us and for us. Christmas passes, but not the truth that Christmas remembers. Lord, let us always build upon the rock, not the sand. God bless you every moment and bless the world.