23rd February 2021 Canvey Methodist Church Bible Studies

Here– and there
Reflecting on the global pandemic  in the context of Jesus’ journey to  the cross


 

I am grateful to Mary Cooper who kindly passed the details of this “Hear and Now” Lenten Bible study on to me from her online copy of “Roots  Magazine” to share with you all. This six week themed reflection has been prepared to help us, as Christians, to reflect upon, and to explore, in a biblical context, the challenges and changes to everyday life that we have all experienced (in one way or another) during the coronavirus pandemic. There are six scenes that  take us, week by week, through St Mark’s Gospel account of Jesus’ journey to the cross (chapters 14 and 15). Each scene  makes a connection between ‘here’, (our world today), and  ‘there’, (the world of the Passion narrative). The connecting  points are brought to life through voices talking about  experiences in the pandemic, contrasted with a voice from a character in the Gospel. Questions for conversation and  reflection, an image, a prayer action, and suggestions for
music to listen to, offer different ways for us to consider how the pandemic has affected lives today alongside familiar passages of Scripture.


 

About the writer- Emily Hoe-Crook is a Student Deacon at Queens Foundation
in Birmingham, and was formerly employed as a church based families and children’s worker. She contributes  regularly to the ROOTS resources.


 

Scene 1 Healing presence- Tuesday 23rd February 2021.
 

We may sometimes be guilty of focusing so much on the immediate needs around us (particularly in the crisis of  pandemic), that we can forget to be “still” and to be “present” with Jesus. Today, we are considering the importance of finding a healthy balance between the ‘being’ and the ‘doing’. As we do this we might find that we are in need of a healing and refreshing touch from Jesus ourselves? May Jesus, touch, bless and heal us as we walk this Lenten path together with him.

 

Bible Reading-      Simon’s house- Mark 14:3-9

 

Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. As he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly nard ointment, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some people who were there said to one another in anger,

‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could  have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’

And they scolded her.

But Jesus said,

‘Let her alone; why do you trouble  her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done
will be told in remembrance of her.’

 

Voices-   “Here”-  A Minister experiencing burnout
 

“It’s been a long year. I never imagined when all of this started last March that I’d still be organising distanced worship and Zoom meetings. It’s incredible how far we’ve come to be honest, but Lord, I’m so tired. My working week has become all about the admin – finding worship songs without copyright restrictions, recording video messages for those who are shielding, sending out Zoom links left, right and centre for meetings I can normally just rock up to and
see other human beings face to face. The spirituality has gone out of the window. I’m drained. I thrive on company, on contact. My sermons build in enthusiasm when I feel the body language lift in the people around me, the Holy
Spirit makes me buoyant as the words trip out – that doesn’t happen so much on a screen. I’m proud of the congregations for rolling with the changes (mostly), for turning up online when they’d rather be in church, for phoning one another
and showing love despite the circumstances. But Lord, I’m tired. I miss having the energy to pray, to read and study for my own fulfilment. I miss spending time with Jesus, there’s nothing else like it.
 


There - The woman who anointed Jesus


I’ve never experienced anything like this. A rowdy room full  of chatter and activity, that went quiet when I came in and moved towards Jesus. I was holding the jar close to my chest
– I was afraid of dropping it or that someone might grab it. It was so quiet when I knelt at his feet. He looked at me
– he’s got bright, warm eyes. I felt he could see right inside me, it was like he knew everything about me. I broke the jar and bathed his forehead with ointment. The sweet smell went all round the room. I’d never felt so close to someone, even my family – this closeness, I felt I was touching the face of God. He closed his eyes but it still felt as if he was looking at me. I forgot there was anyone else there, everything I’d thought or worried about during the day vanished, there was just me and him. I felt so good, like a weight had
been lifted. I hadn’t felt so peaceful for years. I was whole,
connected, loved. It was like nothing else.

 


Conversation and reflection

 

Over the past year we have, both as a church and as individuals, walked a very different path to normal, during this period of the covid pandemic. Had we been holding these Bible studies in church together today, we could have joined in the conversation and discussion from the points below. It would be lovely if we could still do this, albeit through other means. To let each other know of our experiences: of the new insights that God has given us through this strange time. Perhaps we can use email and WhatsApp to respond. I can even then, if you think it a good idea, collate our experiences (Anonymously if desired) and then to include these in a “Thoughts from last week” section of the next week's study. Please do let me know what you think?

 

Here are the questions for us to ponder this week :

 

1 What has your experience of ‘being’ and ‘doing’ been like throughout the months of pandemic? Have you found time to spend with Jesus during the past weeks and months?


2 Consider the atmosphere in the room when Jesus was anointed by the woman at Bethany. What kind of emotions and conversations can you imagine going on,
and where would you be in the scene?


3 How might we be more mindful about self-care in the  coming weeks and months, allowing Jesus to restore and heal us through his presence?
 

PListen
Song 1: Alabasta, https://youtu.be/oRAip6qzYmY.    By Rend Collective


Song 2: Lord, we come to ask your healing recorded by at  St Laurence’s Church, Chorley.     https://youtu.be/GbbcjEsiwb8

 


Prayer action
 

Losing a sense of smell or taste has been one of the unwanted symptoms  of the Coronavirus. Using our sense of smell can evoke strong memories and emotions. My first Primary School Teacher was Mrs White. Why do I remember her? She was a very kind lady as well as being a good teacher of information. She was kind to a nervous little boy on his first day at infants school and settled and calmed me down amidst the strangeness of being away from family and home. Mrs White wore what I now know to be a “Violet Floral” Fragrance and whenever I smell this, I think of her kindness.

Fragrance features in the Bible passage. If you think that holding your life savings as a “fragrance oil” seems a bit far fetched, it really isn’t.

Perfumes are blends of individual oils many of which are really expensive. One of the fragrances I used to work with was Je Reviens, one of whose ingredients cost £3,000 per kilo at the time. A quick trawl through the intent marks the exorbitant raw material cost of other ingredients (eg. Oudh wood from India: $50,000 per kilo, Iris-root butter from Florence: $47,000 per kilo).

Thus the lady who approached Jesus to anoint his head with fragrant nard, really was “giving her everything” to him.

The question that occurs to me as I ponder upon her devotion is, “What might be the modern equivalent to this nard offering to Jesus”?

He gave his all for us. What is my/our response to him?

 

So, here is a suggestion, Before we offer the final prayer suggested, first find a fragrant hand cream, perfume or essential oil, or something else pleasant (e.g. fresh herbs) to rub into your hands and smell. As you breath in the fragrance offer the following prayer:


Loving God, this time is a struggle in so many ways, but help me/us to spare the time and energy to consider those going through more immediate peril and desperation. We pray for those who have to flee from places of insecurity and fear, and we also pray for the places that receive them. Help us to be open-hearted, and proactive in our response to the need on our doorsteps. Amen.


Follow-up activity
 

Why not intentionally this week, make a space each day to “sit with Jesus” and to talk or to listen to him. You could light a candle to mark this time together, or to use a picture or photo which reminds you of peace and stillness.

 

May God Bless You All

In Christian Love

 

Colin


Material adapted from:  © ROOTS for Churches Ltd “Here – and there”: Scene 1 of 6 Weekly worship and learning at www.rootsontheweb.com