February 2021 Newsletter from Rev. Janet Calderley, one of the Ministers of our West Lancashire Partnership of the URC.
As I begin to write this letter it is less than two weeks into the New Year (though it will probably be over two weeks in by the time I finish it and nearer a month by the time you read it). Most of my letters are written over a period of two or three days, a sentence or two here or a paragraph there, and it is often a wonder to me that they eventually come out as a coherent whole, although sometimes I’m not sure that they do. But that’s what life is like too. It’s often messy and disjointed.
This time of year often seems particularly chaotic, and 2021 even more so than usual. New Year resolutions may have been upset by circumstances or just not be going to plan, the new term at school is scarily confusing as most schools are only open for the children of key workers and home schooling and on-line learning is difficult for many. It is especially hard for those who ought to be facing crucial exams this year who are worried about how they will be assessed and what effect it will have on their future prospects. For many workers employment is uncertain, whether they are furloughed or working from home, or whose businesses or jobs may cease to exist, and for those lucky enough (?) to be at work tax return deadlines and the approach of the end of the financial year pose their own challenges. January and February are full of uncertainties and even the weather adds its own contribution to the post-Christmas ‘blues’. There are times when you would just like to shut the front door, snuggle under the duvet, and hibernate until Easter, or until the vaccine has been rolled out to most of us.
The church’s lectionary readings too seem to reflect these uncertain times. They engender a very mixed lot of feelings as God reveals his purposes and Jesus embarks on his ministry. After celebrating Epiphany (which means revelation) and the arrival of the wise men, we read about Jesus’s baptism; the calling of his first disciples and the beginning of his ministry; and at the beginning of February another story of Jesus’ infancy when he is presented in the temple and is recognised by Simeon and Anna. Then in mid-February we reach the revelation of Jesus’ glory to Peter, James and John at the ‘Transfiguration’ when he meets Moses and Elijah on the mountain and shines so brightly they have to shield their eyes, after which we come to Ash Wednesday and begin Lent and the run up to Easter.
There are a whole range of emotions depicted from joy to sorrow, anger to calmness, rejection and denial to acceptance and conviction. They are all feelings with which we, as human beings, can identify. But in all this the thing that is most helpful to us is probably the doubt. People wondered who Jesus was. Although Jesus’ identity is revealed over and over again in different ways they are not easy to see. Most of them only become obvious in hindsight and many not even then, and some which seemed clear to begin with later become obscured. Others are not even seen at all. And Jesus himself often told people not to tell what he had done, as well as not allowing ‘demons’ to speak because ‘they knew who he was’. Despite all this Jesus gave reassurance, pointing to often unexpected ways in which prophecies were being fulfilled, God’s love was being shown, and the Kingdom of God was being revealed to those who were open to it and ready to accept. Only for those like Simeon and Anna who had spent a lifetime watching and waiting, for the faithful whose eyes, minds and hearts were open to God’s revelation was certainty possible, and for those of us who doubt it is only by asking the questions, as did John the Baptist, that our doubts can be relieved.
In these uncertain times it is comforting to know we are not the first to be confused and to have doubts, but like the people of Jesus’ time we can look around us to see the ways in which God is at work in our communities, giving strength, bringing healing and giving hope.
May God bless us and keep us,