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The reflection below was used as part of our Morning Prayer on Sunday which you can  view on our Facebook page or on this YouTube video.

News:

Regular Worship: From this Sunday there will be a service at 10.30am at both St Cuthbert’s Haydon Bridge and All Hallows’ Henshaw alternating each week between a Benefice Eucharist and said service of Morning Prayer. We hope that this regularity will help those who would like to come to Church after a break or for the first time.
 
Tree of the Year: The Beltingham Yew has been nominated as “Tree of the Year” in the annual Woodland Trust poll. Please vote (early and often) at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk
 
Recovery and Support Questionnaire: to help in our planning as we emerge from lock-down we would like to know what people may need or be able to offer. 
Please do fill in the questionnaire 
to help us with this.
 
Worship this week:

Everyday through the week:

Morning Prayer at 9am and Evening Prayer at 6pm streamed on facebook.com/parishesbythewall

Next Sunday 27 September: Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
9am: Morning Prayer with Hymns and Reflection Streamed on facebook.com/parishesbythewall
10.30am: Said Morning Prayer followed by time for Private Prayer St Cuthbert’s Haydon Bridge
10.30am: Benefice Eucharist All Hallows’ Henshaw
 
For Reflection:

Jonah 3:10-4:11
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

Reflection
From one perspective Jonah was the most catastrophically unsuccessful prophet in the whole Bible.

We all know the story of Jonah. Called from his home by God to ‘cry out against Nineveh, for their wickedness has come up before me.’  So Jonah, after a brief sojourn in the belly of a whale, went to Nineveh and prophesied that in ‘forty days… Nineveh will be overthrown.’

But of course it wasn’t. Jonah did not expect it to work. On hearing his prophesy the King of Nineveh commanded all to fast, and cover themselves in sackcloth, and cry out their penitence to God. And this was total-penitence carried out by all humans and animals alike.

And as we heard at the beginning of our reading:

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

So on the normal terms of what it is to be a prophet Jonah was a disaster: all Jonah promised, all he had worked for, all he had prophesied came to nothing, because God saw what the people of Nineveh did and changed his mind. 

And so Jonah, realising what a bad prophet he was went up a hill, found some shade, and sulked.

But it is also possible to argue that Jonah was the most successful prophet in the Bible because his teachings on God, and his witness to the power of God was so strong, that God worked through him to change forever the people of Nineveh.

But Jonah did not think so, Jonah preferred to sulk. 

Jonah thought he was a failure because Jonah judged himself against the standards of the wrong type of prophet – the self-fulfilling prophet. On the terms of the self-fulfilling Jonah wanted the worst to happen, he didn’t believe in God’s redeeming power, he was rather looking forward to sitting under his tree, looking down on the destruction of Nineveh, and saying: I told you so!

Now I am as guilty as anyone of being a self-fulfilling prophet. As a follower of the English Cricket Team it is, trust me, always easier to be a self-fulfilling prophet. 

At the beginning of each Test Match it is always safest to predict the worst and then, when it inevitably happens, sit back and say: I told you so! 

Whilst the life of the self-fulfilling prophet might be a defence for the weary sports fan it is a disaster for the Church. John Bell of the Iona community puts this well when he says that all Church’s have ‘rumours’ and after a while they begin to believe those rumours. For instance if the rumour is that young people won’t  be interested in the Church then the prophesy will fulfil itself and the Church will not be a place young people want to come to and so on.

Being a self-fulfilling prophet is a very safe place to be. Jonah could not see the awesome and redeeming power of God’s love; to see that is to risk the unknown and the unknowable. Rather Jonah wanted to take the safe option, to expect the expected, and say, I told you so!

As we enter this coming season in the life of the Church we need to think deeply about the task that lies ahead. Like so many parts of our society the life of the Church will be put under huge strain by the process of recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. There will be concerns about money, about visibility, about resource and energy. As we face these challenges, we need to reflect on how we will respond to the world we will find ourselves in.

The tempting place, the safe place to be, will be as a self-fulfilling prophet. To pronounce – as so many are – the immanent collapse of the Church. And then like Jonah find a comfortable spot to watch on as the inevitable happens and say in a self-satisfied way – I told you so. Or we could take the risky root and look to the faithful and transforming power of God’s love working through the world we live in. 
If we look to those we might well ask, what rumours are we hearing?

Over the last few months day by day a regular group of people have been gathering each day to pray, chiefly through our Facebook page, but some alone in their homes. What if this were not an aberration of nervous energy, but the emergence of a renewed commitment to prayer for and in our community?

Through this crisis we have all witnessed the kindness and compassion of those around us. What is this was not the transference activity of people suddenly with time on their hands, but a rediscovery of the deep connections that bind our humanity and define the pastoral calling of the Church.

And through this crisis we have had to engage with different patterns of worship. For some  this could be seen as the inevitable dumbing down of the worship  of the Church – but what if this was a sign of the broadening and deepening call of  the Church as a place of prayer and  witness in every community?

Over the last few weeks, we have been asking you all to let us know where you stand in relation to our ongoing recovery from lock-down through an online and paper questionnaire. Some of what we are asking is to identify what needs you have. But some of it is about recognising what you might be able to offer in becoming part of widening pattern of daily prayer, in support the pastoral witness of the Church, and in developing the worshipping life of the Church.

This is a time of challenge – make no mistake – but in the face of that challenge the question we need to ask ourselves which rumour will we hear? Will we hear the comfortable rumour of our self-fulfilling prophesies and take our comfortable seat and say “I told you so?”. Or will we hear the new rumours God is putting on our hearts and, like the people of Ninevah, turn our hearts and lives towards the new possibilities God is putting before us?

Questions for personal reflection
•    Can you think of a time you have experienced a self-fulfilling prophesy?
•    What rumours do you think we tell about the Church?
•    How does this change who God is calling us to be in this place?


 
For your prayers:

In our Community…Angus & Amy Lill and Oliver & Gillian Newbury who have been married recently

Those in need… Lesley Towers, Margaret McAllister, Allan Munns, David Lench, Sue Cantwell, June Henriksen, Elaine Brown, Dorothy Hartley, Carol Wolstenholme

Collect for Trinity 15
Lord God,
defend your Church from all false teaching
and give to your people knowledge of your truth,
that we may enjoy eternal life
in Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Amen

Prayer for the 
Parishes by the Wall

Gracious Father, 
renew the Church in our day 
and make your Parishes by the Wall
holy, fruitful, and faithful, for your glory’s sake, 
Amen