Within all the changing times.........God is constant.  God is with us.

RAMBLING RECTOR

Some church buildings are reopening for public worship following the changed regulations. St Barnabas, Joydens Wood remains closed for Sunday 6 December and Sunday 13 December to reflect a high infection rate in that area. I will continue to send a short reflection, for those of you who must continue to ‘shield’. It will be based on the Sunday readings.

 

SUNDAY 6 December 2020           

SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

 

Isaiah 40.1-11

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’

‘All people are like grass,
    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
    Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures for ever.’

You who bring good news to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
    lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    he gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.

 

Mark 1.1-8

 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,

as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’ –
‘a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”’

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt round his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: ‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with[f] the Holy Spirit.’

Reflection

Thank you to everybody who has sent me messages of congratulation on the unexpected news that I have been appointed as an Honorary Canon of Rochester Cathedral. My installation is being arranged, and will probably be in early January, but it is likely to be a very low-key service because of the pandemic. Some of you have asked what an Honorary Canon actually does! My duties are mainly involved with the administration of the Cathedral itself, so although I was confirmed there in 1985, ordained there in 2007 and have visited many times, I thought I’d better find out a bit more.

Rochester Cathedral has been on the same site for centuries. It was founded as a place of Christian worship in 604AD and was on the pilgrimage route to Canterbury, and on the road to Dover where pilgrims would embark for Rome, the Holy Land or Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain.  From the early 1200s Rochester Cathedral also drew people to its own shrine, to William of Perth. William was buried here in the cathedral, and after his death, miracles were reported, and he was made a saint. The Pilgrim steps lead up to a small chapel and although the original stone steps are now covered with wood to protect them, you can see how they were worn away by many pilgrim feet (and knees!)

The Cathedral site is constantly evolving and developing, the ancient building needs work to keep it in line with modern regulations.  It is still being well-used with events of religious and community interest, and there are new additions too!

Some of you may recall that in 2004, on the 1400th anniversary of the cathedral, a new fresco was painted by a Russian painter called Sergei Fyodorov. It is a striking work, and to me it seems to look both ancient and modern! The upper part shows the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.  The lower section shows scenes from Kent history. To the left of the lower section, you can see the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelbert being baptised by St Augustine in 597AD at Canterbury in what looks like either a bathtub or a tomb! And to the right, Bishop Justus, first Bishop of Rochester, is giving communion to the newly baptised Anglo-Saxons who are emerging from the River Medway (Thankfully we don’t do that now!)

As our gospel passage today reminds us of St John’s call to baptism, so the Cathedral reminds us that the Christian Church has continued this faithful pattern of baptism throughout the centuries as a sign of hope and new beginnings. As part of that Christian Church, Rochester Cathedral has continued to be a place of worship through changing times, through civil unrest, war, plague and hardship.  Within its walls, prayers of thanksgiving and of heartbreak have been spoken aloud, or in the silence of human hearts. Within all the changing times, even our own, God is constant.  God is with us.


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