Weekly comment from the Clergy

Third Sunday after Trinity 

18th June 2021 

Grace, mercy and peace to you.

King Charles II famously described an English Summer as three fine days followed by a thunderstorm. Well, we’ve enjoyed more than three fine days and, here at least, there hasn’t been much in the way of thunder but it has certainly become cool and wet. The water butt in the Rectory garden is replenished to overflowing but it seems unlikely that demands will be made of it in the next few days at least. After a cold Spring the sudden arrival of Summer temperatures felt quite liberating but as soon as we had become accustomed to them we were closeted indoors again seeking shelter and warmth. None of this is of course unusual. The vagaries of the British climate are something we are all familiar with but the effect it has on our mood is extraordinary. When the sky is universally grey and it is just a few degrees too cool it’s remarkable how easily we lose whatever joie de vivre possessed us and become susceptible to common fears and anxieties. If there is any consolation, it is that the annoyance of the weather is a reassuringly familiar landmark in such strange and distracted times.

This Sunday’s Gospel text, Mark 4.35-41, is the story of Jesus calming the storm on the lake. A central motif is fear. The disciples were terrified of what might happen to them. As I read it again, mindful that Sunday is World Refugee Day, I found myself thinking of those migrants who take horrendous risks in attempting to cross The Channel in the hope of finding peace and prosperity here. Our response to them is so often ambiguous. On the one hand we are shocked and saddened by the frequent tragedies that occur, but on the other hand we tend to be fearful, frightened of being overwhelmed. It is a difficult issue and one that highlights the difference in our response to individual stories as opposed to collective movements. Sympathy is easily evoked by a single tragic incidence on the waves, but a larger migration evokes more complicated emotions whatever the risks undertaken. We pray for migrants but are our prayers sincere if, at the same time, we are fearful of them?

The extent of migration and the number of tragedies is no less than it was but, by and large, it does not stoke our fears at the moment. The way in which the media has reported the pandemic has swept all that aside. This demonstrates that fear is a latent emotion. There is always a big reserve of it awaiting an issue through which it can be stirred up recklessly and spread around and with the most appalling consequences. The great US president Franklyn D Roosevelt once commented, we have nothing to fear but fear itself. I think he was suggesting that even if we could vanquish all our enemies and solve all our problems, fear would still remain, persistent and nagging away in the background. Perhaps Jesus was acknowledging the same when he asked the disciples what they were afraid of. The immediate answer was obvious, death by drowning, but what I think he wanted them to grasp was that, in every circumstance of life, good or bad, fear will possess us, unless we are possessed of faith and trust in God. I once heard Christian faith described as life lived in the eye of the storm. It’s a wonderful metaphor evoking that peace of God of God which passes all understanding as the true hub of life around which swirls a maelstrom of chaos and destruction. Whilst it should always be a priority to dwell in that peace it is rarely more pressing than it is at the present moment. May God confirm his peace at the heart of the church and at the heart of all our lives, thus dispelling our fears and reassuring us that there is more than enough for everyone who seeks it.

Every blessing,

Charles Booth

PS. The reverse side of the Pew Sheet, The Sunday Link can be found on the parish website www.stmarks-allsaints-westparley.org.uk


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