Greetings to all the churches and members of the Tynedale Circuit of the Methodist Church.
Over the past few weeks we have been in the midst and on the edge of weather that has affected us all. In the midst we found churches such a Haydon Bridge and communities such as Corbridge and Ovingham seriously affected by water damage to homes and property. On the edge we hear about terrifying floods in Louisiana, Tornados in Texas, giant landslides in Shenzhen, China and floods in Argentina & Paraguay to name but a few.
From the edge we have thanked God with a sigh of relief that we have been spared the worst and are responding in the best way we can to calls of help from our neighbours. In the midst of it all we will be grateful for the love, help and practical support of others, but we will feel grief for what we have lost and confusion at the disruption it has brought to our lives.
So quickly, once a century has become once in decades and now has become once every other year, we look for solutions where there is yet none. Together we continue as much as possible with what we have always done as we look for and offer comfort.
As I have experienced this with you all, I have also had sent to me two photos that have given me hope and reminded me that being on the edge or in the midst of it is very complex.
The first I received on the same day as the gospel reading was on Jesus being lost by his parents and found in the temple debating with the leaders there. It is of a little boy, 12 years old, sharing a testimony in church.
For me it made the gospel reading for the day come alive, as I imagined the diminutive Jesus responding with confidence in the midst of the learned leaders of the temple with grace, dignity and God given confidence.
The second image, also from Nicaragua is of a group of church leaders kneeling in prayer, resting their elbow's on the pews. The bible stands on the communion table and the floor is made of compacted dry earth.
From the edge, I see the poverty of the building and think about the discomfort of sitting on such a pew for a long sermon, (I have done it). From the midst I know that there is real comfort in being part of such a community (I have felt it), that overcomes physical discomfort.
I felt moved by prayers being offered for our well being by people I have not met yet have promised to pray for us regularly. Both images made the spiritual come alive and give me hope. The hope that comes in knowing that many people in many places not only share our circumstances, but forgetting themselves, intercede to God for us. This is the grace and solidarity that binds all people of faith.
In 2016 there will be many times when we feel within and on the edge of so many things. I will pray that the images that dominate our lives will be joyful ones. I am conscious though that in reality there will be sad ones also.
I pray that in joy and sorrow, our faith will enable us to draw Jesus Christ into the midst of everything and that we will grow in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Happy New Year.