We are slightly updating this weekly email to include not only the reading and reflection (with some questions for personal reflection) but also some news and prompts for your prayers during the week. If there is anything else you would like added to these emails please let Benjamin know.
The reflection was used as part of our Morning Prayer on Pentecost which you can view on our Facebook page of on this YouTube video.
Through this strange season we are also trying to capture our impressions of where God is calling us as the Church at this time. To help with this we would be delighted if you could answer some short questions using this link:
"Where are travelling as a Church during Covid-19?"
We are please to announce that from Sunday 21 June we will begin the reopening of our Church buildings for supervised private prayer.
The initial pattern of opening will be:
- Sundays 2pm-4pm: St Cuthbert’s Haydon Bridge and All Hallows’ Henshaw
- Wednesday 2pm-4pm: St Cuthbert’s Haydon Bridge
- Thursdays 10am-12noon: All Hallows’ Henshaw
Please note that if you would like to use the churches for private prayer you will be asked on arrival to: adhere to simple hand-washing; advised to wear a facemask (which will be provided if you do not have your own); keep to social distancing.Benjamin
Jesus said: “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Today is Father’s Day and is another of the little milestones which we pass reluctantly through this strange season. For many this will not mean a great deal. Growing up Father’s Day, as a counterbalance to Mothering Sunday, was only really emerging and for some now it is not a day that means a great deal. But for others it is. For the owners of our hard-pressed pubs and restaurants it becomes another day when the tables remain empty and till even more so. For some it will be a day when we are reminded again that we are unable to meet with our own families and celebrate. For some this will be a harder day still when Fathers are missed and grieved.
Whatever our approach to Father’s Day might be it is not, like Mothering Sunday, a day of we celebration in the life of our Church. Its origins lie not in the traditions of the church, but the marketing departments of greeting card companies. But just because that is the case is not a reason why we can’t use today as an opportunity to reflect on the image and picture of the Father in our own life of faith.
One reason why this is important is that a faith based on God as Father can be a challenge for many. When we come to celebrations of Fathers (and Mothers) for that reason we need to tread carefully knowing that many people don’t have an easy relationship with their own Fathers, and being expected to celebrate and worship our Godly “Father” presents an often painful challenge. Added to that is the historical dominance of white men in human history. The Black Lives Matter protests of recent weeks, as well as the “Women’s March” of 2017 explicitly challenged the idea of Patriarchy, the view that older men deserve our respect as a matter of right. These movements for justice challenge us to reflect on what are often named as the “sins of the Father” which have created the world we live in and the privilege many of us receive from it.
Alongside this contemporary need to reflect on the image of the Father is a theological question of who we are praying to when we pray “Our Father”. The words seem so familiar that it is easy to forget that as we come to worship our God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the one who is often overlooked is the Father. At Christmas, and through Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter we reflect again and again on who God is for us in Jesus. A few weeks ago, on the day of Pentecost, we focused on God’s-self revealed in the gift of the Holy Spirit. But in the whole of the Church’s year there is no occasion when we focus solely on who God is for us a “Father”.
If we want to focus on God the Father there are many places we might start. One might be in the words of that wonderful hymn we began our worship with today. Based on a fourth-century hymn by Prudentius we are given again and again images of the great majesty of God the Father: from whose heart “the world from chaos rose”; who “seer and sibyl sang in ages long gone by”; whose praises “Angels and Archangels, sing!”. A great and glorious image of the Godhead that fills all of heaven and earth, evermore and evermore.
One reason why a focus on God as Father is a challenge is precisely the vastness of the vision that we find in Prudentius’ great hymn. In these pictures God as Father becomes, for us, a vast idea for us to get our heads around. In the prophecy of Isaiah we get a glimpse of this challenge when the prophet encounters the presence of God in the Temple and, so vast is God, that the Temple - which was one of the largest buildings in the ancient world - was filled with merely the hem of his robe. If we focus solely on these pictures of who God is as Father we are in danger of thinking of the Father becoming distant and aloof and beyond our comprehension and understanding. A sort of heavenly Mr Bennett, evermore and evermore.
But this is not the only image of God as Father we find in scripture. One of the theologically radical ideas that Jesus introduced was how he invites us to pray to the one he called Father. This radicalism is hidden from us by our translations. In our familiar reading today, Jesus teaches us to pray “Our Father”. We are so used to hearing this formally intoned in the sonorous patterns of our public worship. When we do this we can equate this “Father” with the vast image of God we find in Isaiah and elsewhere. But Jesus’ actual words carry a different meaning. When asked how to pray, Jesus teaches us to pray not to a distant and foreboding Father, but to the one he called Abba - a word we might translate more truly as Daddy.
What Jesus opens up for us is a way to know the whole of what it means to speak of God as Father. That the God of the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end is the God who brings the love and safety and reassurance every child craves. That the creator of all things is the one Jesus invites us to know as Abba. That to know God as Father is to know all the safety and protection and reassurance and love given freely to all who know themselves to be children of our loving Father in heaven, evermore and evermore.
Questions for Reflection through the week
- Who do you think about on Father’s Day
- Does this help you reflect on and pray to God as Father?
- What other words and pictures help you understand who God is in your life?
Collect for Second Sunday of Trinity
whose mercy never fails:
deepen our faithfulness to you
and to your living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Please keep in your prayers: Lesley, Archie, Dorothy, Sheila, Margaret, Carolyn, Judith, Mandy & Laura & Matthew.