If I am honest I don’t really want to look back over the year 2021, even though it did bring much joy, especially with a family wedding, and the birth of a lovely new grandson Nicholas, who entertained everyone over Christmas with his newfound ability to blow bubbles! It has however been a tough year for me personally, but I am aware, as we enter into the second year of a pandemic that these days have been tough for so many for various reasons. I haven’t written a Christmas letter for a number of years now, mostly because the demand seems to be for cheeriness and good news all around, also because my children now have their own families and can tell their own news as they wish to. Stories about my adventures with the cats may become a bit wearisome.
I do have news of course, I have spent a fair amount of the year of sick following two hospital admissions, and am currently on a waiting list for surgery along with many, many others, and likely to be so for longer as the pandemic continues, that said it comes with a silver lining as I have been well now for months, so the question is, do I still need surgery?
In other news, once again this has been a year of very little travelling again, my treasured trips to see friends in Norfolk haven’t happened again, I wonder if I still know the way ( that is not in doubt!). I have moved house, settling in arranging books and hanging pictures didn’t take long, but there may be more change to come, that will be for another post.
Like many people I feel that my world has shrunk in many ways, particularly physically, I wish I could say the same for my waistline, and yet in other ways it has grown, I have had the freedom to do more reading and reflecting, asking myself and of God the questions of St Francis over and over again. Those questions being “who are you O Lord, and who am I? It seems to me that the God I worship and serve is bigger and more compassionate than my first encounters with them ( yes I used them so as not to restrict he/she). God whose nature is love is just that, and their ongoing challenge to me is to choose to walk in that expansiveness, to know that divine love called me into being as a part of the calling of the whole of creation in which I have a unique place as a part of the whole. As Rumi is quoted: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.”
The questions though don’t end, and sometimes challenging times show us the best and worst of ourselves, and I can say for certain that this year I have seen both of those, sometimes a little too upfront and personal for comfort!
Perhaps one of the most significant milestones for many in Methodism this year for the Methodist Church in Great Britain’s choice to allow same sex marriage to take place in its buildings. I have long been a supporter of this, and having told my own story over the last few years, it may be easy to see why. That said I have stated twice today, that all of this is about much more than marriage, it is about dealing with homophobic and transphobic attitudes that still exist within the institutional church. I am going to say it out loud, but while the ability to marry a same sex partner is wonderful, it is not the whole story, the whole story means embracing the whole of humanity just as it is, fearfully and wonderfully made.
Other milestones have been reached in the outcry of the killings members of the black community, both in the USA and here in England, and then the outcry that followed after the murders of several women, the resulting protests and vigils have been criticised by some, but the world is changing because of them, as we become more aware of one another’s full humanity regardless of the colour of our skin, gender or sexuality.
But, the world remains inhumane, reports from Afghanistan have been sobering, the drowning of refugees who are simply searching for a better life have been heart-breaking, and the truth that pandemic or no pandemic we are at times fixated on seeing some as other, or a burden, or simply as beyond the pale.
In the last few days, tributes have flowed from all over the world following the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he has been quoted so often with great outpourings of love and affection. The one that is sticking with me comes from former Archbishop Rowan Williams, who says this:
“I have a theory, which I started elaborating after I had met Archbishop Desmond Tutu a few times, that there are two different types of egotists in the world. There are egotists that are so in love with themselves, that they have no room for anybody else, and there are egotists who are so in love with themselves that they make it possible for everybody to be in love with themselves…. they are at home in their own skin….. they have learned in some sense the joy that God takes in them…”
Williams goes on to say that he would like to be like that, to learn to love himself, not for his won sake, but in order to somehow draw others into the love and joy that he sees Desmond Tutu sharing. Of course Tutu’s love for himself was shown in a deep love for others, and gave him a compassionate and powerful voice, speaking truth to power, demanding justice, and doing so lovingly and engagingly! Maybe our greatest tribute would be to learn from him, and to try to love ourselves in such a way that we include all.
So, I say to myself as I look back, through it all you were held in love and grace by God, all will be well…
And as I look forward I say, through it all you will be held in the love and grace of God, all will be well…
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This down payment from God is the first instalment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life. Ephesians 1: 3-14