Last nights anouncement from the Prime Minister has changed things once again, it is time to stay in, Christenings and Weddings are cancelled for the forseeable future and Funerals held under very strict rules. These things were already in hand but now confirmed by HM Government and have been very difficult for many. Today it was not without emotion that I fixed closure notices to our Parish Church doors, St Matthew’s and every other Church of England building closed from today as we seek to slow the spread of COVID19, save lives and keep the burden on our exceptional NHS staff as bearable as possible.
Life may take a very long time to get back to normal, I am making adjustments to our virtual and online presence too. Prayers will now be from the Vicarage, live services will be from the Vicarage ‘from our home to yours’. Services will not be Holy Communion as after much prayer and reflection I have decided not to break bread again until I can be with you all and we can share the meal Jesus gave us.
However, some things do not change as I was reminded by our Old Testament reading this morning from Exodus Chapter 3. The wonderful account of Moses and his calling, the amazing appearance to him through a bush on fire but not consumed – there are two key things that struck me again today:
First is that when Moses was in Gods presence he was told to take off his shoes for he was on holy ground. Today I closed the Parish Church even to myself and yet what a wonderful reminder that we do not need a concecrated building to be with God, wherever God is, it is Holy Ground. As you pray and as you join in with us online (please do we meet tomorrow live at 12Noon) remember we are in the presence of God. Have real joy in the knowledge that we are on holy ground together, even if we cannot be together physically for the next few weeks or months.
Second is that spine chilling moment where God tells Moses his name “I am who I am …. I am has sent me to you …. This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.” This name I AM or in Hebrew YHWH/Yahweh (or Jehovah) the unutterable name of God throughout the generations – the same yesterday today and tomorrow. Much may have changed my friends but God has not “The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” and of us all.
I leave you with the words of an 18th Century Hymn by Thomas Oliver who sums up my thoughts:
The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of Everlasting Days, and God of Love;
Jehovah, great I AM! by earth and heaven confessed;
I bow and bless the sacred name forever blest.
The great I AM has sworn; I on this oath depend.
I shall, on eagle wings upborne, to heaven ascend.
I shall behold God’s face; I shall God’s power adore,
and sing the wonders of God’s grace forevermore.
The heavenly land I see, with peace and plenty blest;
a land of sacred liberty, and endless rest.
There milk and honey flow, and oil and wine abound,
and trees of life forever grow with mercy crowned.
The God who reigns on high the great archangels sing,
and “Holy, holy, holy!” cry “Almighty King!
Who was, and is, the same, and evermore shall be:
Jehovah, Lord, the great I AM, we worship thee!”
Yours in Christ
Your friend and Vicar, David