In China, a famous story that is told is of a wise man living in one of China’s vast frontiers. One day, for no apparent reason, his son’s horse ran away and was taken by nomads across the border. Everyone tried to offer consolation for the man’s bad fortune, but his father a wise man said: “What makes you so sure this is not a blessing?”
Months later, the horse returned, bringing with her a magnificent stallion. This time everyone was full of congratulations for the son’s good fortune. But his father said, “What makes you so sure it isn’t a disaster?”
Their household was made richer by this fine horse the son loved to ride, but one day he fell off his horse and broke his hip. Once again everyone offered their consolation for his bad luck, but his father said, “What make you so sure this isn’t a blessing?”
A year later, nomads invaded, and every able-bodied man was required to take up his bow and go into battle. The Chinese families living on the border lost 9 out of every 10 men who went to war.
It was only because his son was lame did the father and son survive to take care of each other.
Over the last year we have been through a lot of ups and downs haven’t we. All our experiences have been different, and hard in various ways. However, I think that one thing we have all been learning is that good can often come from the difficult e.g., learning to help our neighbour in need, and, what we might once thought of as good can turn out not to be so in the long run. This month in the church year it will be Pentecost, the time when God came into the world in a new, special and personal way through his Holy Spirit. In life there are often seasons aren’t there and, whoever we are in the world, I think all of us are realising that something new is happening at the moment. It will be right and good to go back to some previous aspects of life, but equally it will be right and good if we can move into the new things that recent times have presented to us. As someone said to me recently, we can choose to take the view of ‘what we can’t do because….’ or we can decide to say, ‘what we can do if….’. So, what are the blessings of new things that are coming out of our adversities? Here are my observations:
REMEMBERING – we are learning how to remember again what is most important in life…a better rhythm of life so we might have time to live life ourselves, give time to others and time to God. What do you need to remember?
RESPONDING – we are learning how to respond again to the needs of people around us….practical, mental and spiritual. Who do you need to respond to?
REFLECTING – we are learning how to reflect again…to live a new kind of life that in an ongoing way is more thoughtful, prayerful and trusting of God day by day for all we need. What do you need to keep trusting God for?
RECOVERING – we are learning how to recover from things that are hard: the effects of Covid and some previous ways of life that was not healthy for us. What do you need to recover from?
RETURNING – we are learning how to return to life….change and uncertainty seem to be the new normal than occasional. In what ways can you return well in the coming months?
REBUILDING – we are learning how to re-build better than before… in old and new ways, in person and online and inside and outside! How can we rebuild a better community in Bishop’s Waltham and Upham?
So, as we begin to emerge from our lives of ‘lockdown hibernation’, it will be very tempting to only look back and say ‘we can’t because…..’ or, we can choose to say from what we have learned ‘we can if…..’. Change is never easy is it, but as we go forwards, we have an opportunity to be people who are Pentecost people with a with a new SHAPE (see the picture above) and a new purpose that is good for us, others and God.
With my prayers for May and the Blessings of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
Revd James Hunt – Rector St Peter’s Bishop’s Waltham with Blessed Mary, Upham
21st April 2021