The Revd.

Matthew J Hughes

01689 856931

Associate Rector   

The Revd.
Stephen Broadie
 07722 428553

September Leader:  

At the beginning of this summer a group of churches put on an online event called ‘United Breaks Out’. This was a series of Bible Studies, worship songs and teaching sessions that were posted online, mainly available to view on ‘YouTube’, over a period of six days. It was an online version of an event called ‘New Wine’, which would normally be happening every year at the East of England Showground in Peterborough. At ‘New Wine’ around 12,000 Christians from all over the country gather together over a period of two weeks to worship, hear Bible teaching, pray together and also enjoy spending time with each other.

Of course, over the past two years it has been almost impossible to put on such events. Just as other events like Glastonbury or the Hyde Park Festival have been cancelled, or moved online, so ‘New Wine’ itself has been impacted by the pandemic. Nevertheless, many Christians and (in some cases) whole churches around the country gathered online at the end of July, and the beginning of August, to participate in the ‘United Breaks Out’ event.

At the heart of this event were a series of morning Bible teachings that were given by a pastor named David Parker. David Parker is an American pastor who has stepped back from leading his church in recent years, partly because of his own battle with cancer. Watching David’s Bible teachings each morning, it was moving to listen to his account of his own struggle with cancer, as he reflected on some of the hard sayings of Jesus. On the final morning of this conference, he reflected on the teaching he said many Christians found the most difficult to accept, and which is found in Matthew 6:25 – 34 and Luke 12:22-31. This teaching is summarised in Matthew 6:34: ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’ David Parker pointed out that there could hardly have been a time in history when there was more pressure to live your life at the level of ‘what you will wear’ or ‘what you will eat’. These are the very things Jesus tells us not to worry about.

However, in an age of social media, people are every day being encouraged to define themselves by ‘what they wear’. Moreover, in numerous cooking programmes both the art of cooking and the act of eating are also glamourised and portrayed in such minute detail that it is hard to remember that ‘life is more than food’. David Parker encouraged his listeners to be aware that life is in fact deeper than either of these things (clothes or food).

Jesus’ instruction to ‘not worry’ is an encouragement to look below the surface of our lives, to look deeper than we normally do. David talked about his own battle with cancer, and also about the process of ageing. He described movingly how these things had forced him to look deeper than the surface, as his treatments had inevitably had an effect on what he ate, and how he looked. He talked of having to grow his hair longer to cover over those patches where it had grown thin. He spoke of looking in the mirror and seeing his own appearance change dramatically over time. However he also spoke of some powerful encounters he had had with the presence of God in this time, sometimes at the darkest moments of his treatment, or his own suffering. These encounters with the presence of God were a powerful reminder of the deeper life that is always going on underneath the surface of our clothes and our body.

Viewed from this perspective, the teaching of Jesus is not a rod to beat our own backs with. Rather, it is an encouragement to take a different perspective. To step back from the level of ‘clothes’ and ‘food’ that we so often live our lives at. Can we instead be aware of the deeper level, the life of God within us that is always going on, like an underground stream?

As we head into September, and as restrictions continue to lift in a national situation that continues to be uncertain, may we find the ability to be aware of the deeper life of God within, to let go of some of those surface worries and anxieties, and to instead become aware of the presence of God with us in every circumstance.