This material is also available as an audio recording.
How long has it been since the lockdown restrictions started for you? We may not all have the same answer to that. Some of us may count the Covid-19 clock from the start of the lockdown on the 23rd March whilst others may clock it from a few weeks earlier because they could see it coming and knew they were in a vulnerable category that meant they needed to take extra care and so began their personal lockdown sooner or perhaps they had been abroad to a category 1 country and were taking care on their return.
How long will it yet last? We do not know and the answer to that may also vary depending on whether we are in a vulnerable category being asked to shield or self-isolate for longer than those who are not. Whichever it is, somehow we have to keep going and doing as we are asked until restrictions are lifted.
The easiest way perhaps to do that is neither to look behind nor to look ahead but to look to Jesus and to keep our eyes firmly fixed on him. He will help us to live the day that is given not least by helping us to focus on how we serve and glorify him during this time.
WHAT IS JESUS ASKING OF US AT THIS TIME is the question, therefore, within the invitation of the material today.
The invitation of this time is going to involve raising your arms to your sides and pressing them out to left and right. As a result, sit somewhere that you can do this comfortably or you might like to stand at that point. I would l suggest you read this centring exercise through first and then come back to do it understanding its flow and intent.
So sitting comfortably but alert with your hands settled palms up on your lap begin your time of prayer by silently repeating on the breath in the words, “I turn” and on the breath out the words, “to Jesus”; do this for a minute or so. If your mind wanders, simply start to repeat the words “I turn to Jesus” again.
Then when you feel ready, either sitting or standing, raise your left hand level with your shoulder with your palm open and facing forward. Then gradually swivel your open hand and slowly press it outwards imagining as you do so that you are gently pushing away all that is past. When it is fully extended leave it, if you can, in that position.
Now raise your right hand level with your shoulder with your palm open and facing forward. Then gradually swivel your open hand and slowly press it outwards imagining as you do so that you are gently pushing away all that is to come. When it is fully extended leave it, if you can, in that position.
You now have both arms raised and extended at your sides with hands up and palms open pressing the past away to the left and holding the future away to the right. You stand between these points in the present. Hold this position, with its invitation to be fully present to the passing moment, for as long as you find comfortable up to a minute.
When you wish to lower your arms do so slowly and gently bringing them back to a place of rest palms up on your lap and continue to sit silently and at rest for a further time.
What is Jesus asking of me at this time?
The text below from Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8 may help you to reflect on this question.
So, with this question in mind, the invitation is to invite the Holy Spirit to open your heart to hear his prompting as you read it through slowly. Are you aware of any inner response to what you read? Do some words seem to leap out to you more than others or guide your thoughts in some other way? If you feel your spirit responding, stay with that thought and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand its pertinence for you.
The answer may not be immediately in this text itself but the text may prompt other thoughts, follow those if so. If you sense no answer to this question but feel the question is pertinent for you then continue to hold the question over the days to come and be attentive for an answer that may come at another time. You can always come back to do the remainder of the material later.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
I am hoping something came from your time of reflection on the Ecclesiastes text but, if not, you can as suggested above simply continue to carry the question and to seek an answer.
If you did have the sense of a response from your time of meditation then the question now is what one word sums up what you took away from this time? I don’t know the answer to this question but whatever it is, the invitation of this period is to consider whether there is a way of taking your thoughts about this word and its invitation from Jesus deeper.
If you are called to plant something new then I would encourage you to take a plant and to consider it, to contemplate it; to think about its soil, what its needs are and what that might mean for you at this time. So, in other words, amongst other things, a plant usually needs water, light, warmth and protection from pests. It needs the right compost and nutrients, and to be in the right place to flourish. What might those things say about your need at this time if Jesus is calling you to plant something in your life?
Or if you are called to dance then why not privately do so – dance! Pay attention to what is going on as you dance. The energy it requires and the joy it releases, for example.
If you are called to mourn, or if that is simply where you are, what image or object might capture that for you to understand what is happening for you at this time and how you might endure through this period? For example, you could fill a jug with water remembering that Jesus knows every tear that is shed and then slowly pour this water out.
If you are called to mend, why not get a needle and thread and mend something or sew something so that you can contemplate the process of mending and what that might entail in terms of binding things together.
Reflection on a magnifying glass might help with thinking about a time to search. For building and tearing down do you have something that you could use to actively build or actively take something apart? A jigsaw might fulfil this purpose, lego perhaps.
There are so many ways to give life or shape to a word. The invitation of this period of contemplation is to think about what Jesus is asking of you and then to reflect on a practical expression of that and to contemplate that for a further period so that you can consider more fully the resources you may require or how you fulfil this purpose with your eyes on Jesus.
Finish by gathering up all that has been given and revealed through your time of prayer and bring your prayer of thanksgiving to God.