19th February 2012
A couple of weeks ago, in the company of his two other godparents, I took my great nephew to the National Space Centre, which I had never been to before. I found it very interesting, and I even survived being strapped into the space flight simulator and being buffeted around as though I was being launched into space on a moonshot. It made me think of the advert for specsavers where a couple find two seats to sit down to eat their sandwiches and discover that they are on a rollercoaster ride. The gentleman blames it all on the cheese.
It did make me wonder why people thought it a good idea to go to the moon – and even might want to go further afield. And then I thought of the explorers over the past centuries, who travelled across the seas to America (north or south), or travelled through Africa; and wondered what motivated them to such dangers and hardships. Some of them would be looking for wealth, of course, and others perhaps for fame. I think a motivation for some of them was simply the need to find out ‘what is out there’.
Another question which comes to mind is: how did they react when they arrived at the far distant shores, or travelled through virgin countryside, or walked on the moon? Some of them gave glory and praise to God – as I recall one of the moonwalkers quoting the Book of Genesis; others could think only of their own fame and glory; and others went about plundering the countryside and murdering the inhabitants. Perhaps we could ask ourselves similar questions every day: have we given thanks to God for our achievements and experiences, and ensured that what we have done has been for the glory of God? Or have we been more interested in our own fame and glory? Or have we even in some ways been agents of destruction – we would certainly hope not! In today’s Gospel passage, we hear of some who gave glory to God – and others who were much more concerned in being critical and small-minded, attitudes which can only lead to destruction and death.
There are times also for us to look to ourselves, to give thanks for what we have received and the work we have done, to relax and enjoy the company of those we have come to know best, and to ensure that our own families and our own Catholic community can display the glory of God.
But there are also times when we need to reflect on the needs of others, and of how God may be calling us to come to their aid – just as Our Lord heals the man in the gospel story – so that God’s glory may be displayed in other places and in the sight of other people. Indeed, if we can look to the needs of others, we may hope that God’s glory may also be shown to us in new and surprising ways, and pray that we may recognise God's glory, unlike the scribes in today’s gospel.
So there are times when we need to remember that the Church is much bigger than we are, to look to the needs of missionaries, of Christians in other countries, of the many people in the world who are in urgent need; or to focus a little closer to home, and think of other parishes and communities in our diocese and in our deanery and how we relate to them; being aware of their needs and aspirations as well as our own.
As we continue our diocesan consultation, I think a major threat to good reflection is becoming too inward-looking, of concentrating on what we need and how we see ourselves. We can even forget that this is a consultation of the whole diocese, and start to think that all that matters is our own situation and ensuring that our position as a parish is maintained.
I am very grateful to those who have already taken part in the consultation, and I will be summarising the views I have received so far so that all may add to them. But now perhaps we need to pause to reflect on our relationship with other people. The mass of people crowding around Our Lord were not aware of the paralysed man, so enterprising friends of his had to lower him down through the roof. There are people in our own communities, who perhaps we do not notice sufficiently. How do we relate to people in residential homes, for instance. Are there other institutions that as a parish we should care about – schools, for instance, and people in hospital (whether as patients or as healers)? Then we can look a little further afield, remembering that members of other parishes attend the schools, and are patients in hospitals, and become residents in nursing and residential homes, and that other parishes provide chaplaincy services to the hospitals.
What does it mean to us that we are part of a deanery? What do we receive from other parishes and their members, both lay people and clergy? How do we care for those who are unable to join us at our celebrations? What do we do for those who are in residential or nursing homes. What does it mean to us to be part of the Diocese of Nottingham? What is our responsibility to other parts of the diocese? What do we expect from our bishop and from his advisors
No doubt there are many other questions which we could ask ourselves, when we start to shift our focus to the world outside ourselves, our families, and our parish. Perhaps you will think of some of these important questions, and suggest some answers to them – enabling other people to reflect on these other aspects of our relationship to Christ and to his people.
As always, it is not just that I would like to hear your views; Bishop Malcolm and his advisors want to hear them, so that they can be brought together to enable the correct decisions to be made for the Church in the Diocese of Nottingham in the years ahead.