I hope you made the most of your week off last week – your week off from my ramblings! Rachel and I were on our post-Easter break. We had wonderful weather in our chosen destination – the back garden, and we made some progress in making it more representative of the word ‘garden’ and less of the word ‘wilderness’. We don’t have much gardening expertise, but fortunately it doesn’t take too much of that to identify and dig up brambles!
The Garden is the setting for the story of salvation. God places humanity in a garden at the beginning. The prophets speak of Israel as a vine in God’s vineyard (OK, bigger than a standard garden, but still, it’s cultivated), and of a new Israel where trees with healing leaves will grow beside a river flowing from a restored Temple. It is in a garden that Jesus prays to his Father to ‘remove the cup of suffering’ on the night he is betrayed. And he is brought back to a garden to be laid in the tomb. On the first day of the week, the first day of the new creation, Mary Magdalen encounters the risen Jesus in the garden.
Gardens are symbolic of life and growth. But they can just as easily be symbols of chaos! God’s prophets speak of the need to prune, even to burn down, the vine of Israel (Ezekiel 15). Jesus speaks of himself as the true vine, and his followers as the branches, but also of the need to prune the branches that bear no fruit (John 15).
In the last issue I was encouraging us to think about two of our diocesan values: Generosity and Joy. Our response to the joy and generosity that God gives us in Jesus is to live lives of joy and generosity, towards our loved ones, our community and our church family. The other two diocesan values are imagination and courage.
God re-imagined the world in the person of his Son. In the garden that had run wild, he sent the Son to be the gardener. The garden of creation had got out of tune with God and only the Son of God could put that right. That took courage too – the courage Jesus prayed for in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus gave up his human life that we might share in his resurrection, in the life of God. That we might be re-imagined into the likeness of Christ.
This is a time of uncertainty, anxiety and hardship for many people. Even here in Kings Langley things are tougher than usual. Some Christians may say that this is a time of pruning, a time of being tested in our faith. Perhaps that is so – as many a sports fan will testify it is a test to ‘keep the faith’ when things are tough. But rather than setting us tests of our faithfulness, I believe God comes alongside us in the testing times. He comes alongside us and says have courage, have imagination. At the heart of the word courage is the Latin word ‘cor’, heart. God says many times to the people of Israel, ‘take heart’, and then shows them his imagination of a new world. Jesus too says, ‘take heart’ to the people he heals, the people he makes part of the Kingdom God is imagining in him: ‘your sins are forgiven’, ‘your faith has made you well’.
God calls us to imagination and courage too. He calls us to act with courage and imagination in the garden of the world. To imagine how we can be Good News to the people around us: offering patience, a listening ear, prayer and practical help where we can.
And God says ‘take heart’ to each of us. He calls us to tend the garden of our own minds and hearts, not just of others. In this uncertain time it is important to look after our mental and spiritual well-being. Below are 5 top tips for doing that. For those of us who can get online, head to the prayer resources section of the (new look!) website. There are lots of ideas there for daily or weekly prayer, including broadcast media. I have listed the latter below as a reminder for those of you who are not online.
Be strong and take heart, and do not be afraid: for it is the Lord your God who is going with you; he will not take away his help from you. Deuteronomy 31.6
With my love and prayers for you,
All Saints Vicarage
Feast of St Catherine of Siena, Wednesday 29th April 2020
Dealing with Loneliness and Isolation: 5 Top Tips
- Pray – light a candle, if safe, and pray for hope, faith and strength. You can do this virtually HERE.
- Talk about how you feel.Use the phone, internet and social media. If you need to contact a counsellor, this can be arranged by your GP, local agencies or privately. Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, every day, and it’s free to call them on 116 123.
- Focus on the things that you can change, not on the things you can’t.
- Look after yourself – physically, emotionally, spiritually. Plan to do things you enjoy each day – a TV programme, a phone call, a book, a favourite dish, a game.
- Look after others – even if only in small ways: a kind word, writing a letter or an email.
Online Prayer Resources
- BBC Radio 3 (90.5FM and DAB) Recordings of Choral Evensongbroadcast – 3.30pm Wednesdays, repeated Sundays 3pm. And on BBC Sounds / catch up HERE
- BBC Radio 4 (198 LW and Digital Radio) Daily Service– every day at 9.45am. And on BBC Sounds / catch up HERE
- BBC One Songs of Praise – Sundays at 1.15pm and BBC Iplayer HERE