The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

The Sea Cadets have returned to their outdoor activities this week. I recorded Divisional Pray-ers for Facebook from Lake Lackford on Monday by putting the laptop on the roof of the car! Everything is very much the same – scenery, boats, flora and fauna, sails, rigging, my uniform, the message and prayers I said – and yet there are differences too (recording the prayers for 18 months without cadets for one thing!). C-19 protocols are still in force so that, for example, in rowing the Cox and the Stroke have to wear face masks but the other rowers do not have to wear them. This week I have been the ‘extra body’ in the rowing and it has been fun being out on the water – and we all laughed and no one com-plained the night it was cool, windy, and lots of rain! (Yes, we were soaked!) In fact it was so heavy with clouds that I experienced, I think for the first time, ‘grey light’ – the only colour on the water, on the foliage at the lakeside, and in the sky was grey! One cadet said that it was like looking at an old black and white photo! The only colours we saw were the red of our buoyancy aids and the iridescent yellow of the sails.

At the moment I think people are still on a ‘high’ from being together. We’ve said the same when we’ve been together in church recently – especially as we can sing together. We’ve seen pictures of arrivals at airports and the like where people are hugging and crying and happy to be in the same place together. It is true that we live in a most marvellous time with online communication and being able to see and talk to each other around the world is something commonplace now but it was only seen in the science fiction cartoons of my childhood! We live a long time away from when a letter took months to reach you by ship (and months for you to get a reply). But in all this instant communi-cation we know that there is something different – more ‘real’ (not sure that’s the right term) – about being in the same place and touching. We are physical beings after all.

Religions are not unaware of our physicality. Talking about, presenting, promoting, sharing what is essentially hidden (God, spirituality, the ‘heavenly reality’) can’t ignore the physicality of this world – our senses and experiences – but they are presenting something that is also be-yond our senses. So religions can use or maximise our physicality through use of space, archi-tecture, sound (music and singing especially), hallucinogens, food, light, rhythm, silence, cloth-ing, actions (kneeling, arms lifted up, dancing) and such experiences shape our religious views.

Christianity emerged from Judaism but was radically new because everything – the hopes of Israel – and the goals of all human-made religions – were to be found in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He died and he rose again – or he didn’t. And if he did – and he did! – then his fol-lowers were not creating experiences to get close to Jesus but were receiving ways or means by which Jesus said he would be with his people. I know I use the phrase a lot ‘words, water, bread and wine’ and they are the key ways by which the followers of Jesus meet him – encoun-ter him through faith and physically but he is still hidden – because the key ingredient of the relationship we face with him is faith.

This means that our foundation or security or confidence in our religion – about us as physical and spiritual beings – is not in us but outside of us – in Jesus and his Word. That is what helps us through each day. But it also means that we do not ignore, reject, disregard our physicality – because that is us now, each day – and Jesus is pre-pared to be with us now, each day! And that certainly impacts how we live with ourselves and with others!