Journal Entry: 15 April 1802 by Dorothy Wordsworth
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, Poem by William Wordsworth
Journal Entry: 15 April 1802 by Dorothy Wordsworth
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, Poem by William Wordsworth
Inspired by a prophetic picture of Jesus singing over the world, Julie reflects on the depictions of God singing in the bible. Includes readings from C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, Genesis 1, Psalm 22 & Song of Songs. Finishes with a prophetic song. www.flourishinspirit.wordpress.com/2020/04/04/for-god-so-loves-the-world/
This is a strange turbulent time. It feels like we’re in the middle of a storm. Tossed about by distressing statistics and heartrending stories. So many seem to be caught up in ferocious winds and waves caused the the Covid 19 pandemic. From the pressured nurse and the stressed home-schooling parent to the hemmed-in teenager and the lonely octogenarian, many are experiencing storms within and storms without. Worries over a hospitalised loved-one; the traumatic experience of struggling to breathe with Covid-19; the loss of earnings; the uncertain future – these can build up a pressure cooker of anxiety and anguish in our bodies, minds and spirits. It is a difficult time for so many.
I was at a Worship, Prayer & Fasting Conference with Ichthus Christian Fellowship in early March, when I first started to seriously pray with others about the Corona Virus situation. At this point, China was in the middle of the viral storm with the Corona Virus spreading in China and from China and we were hearing of the first cases in the UK. As we prayed and listened to God, the first thing that came to me was the story of Jesus calming the storm. As I pictured the disciples’ boat in the storm, my imagination was filled with the torment of the wild waves, their terror, their fear of death, their loss of control. The story is told in all 3 synoptic gospels and the gospel writers speak variously of “surging waves”, “swamped and in danger” and “we are perishing.” It seems to echo the feelings of being tossed about on the waves of this pandemic.
This is Mark’s account
“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
As we all prayed at the conference in the beautiful wooden panelled Great Hall at Ashburnham Place, those words of Jesus echoed through my heart, “Peace. Be Still.”
Jesus is speaking as much to the disciples as the waves. The storm calms at his words. The disciples’ fear is replaced by wonder, “Who is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him.”
This story holds much that brings comfort to us in the midst of our own stormy times. Firstly, Jesus is in the boat with his disciples. They are not alone in their trauma and panic. He is there with them. Admittedly asleep … because he is so enviably relaxed… but he is there with them and immediately wakes up at their cries for help.
He hears our cried for help.
He’s awake. Here. now.
He hears us.
He sees the storm raging, tastes the salt spray on his lips, hears the ferocious wind. He feels the rage of the waves as they toss the little boat.
He’s in our boat. He is in the storm with us.
This is not just the message of this brief but dramatic account of the crossing the Sea of Galilee but it’s also one of the profound messages coming from Jesus’ crucifixion. Rough Roman nails hammered into his hands and feet; skin and sinews straining and tearing as he hung. Struggling for breath, he hangs naked, exposed, exhausted, dying. Abandoned by his best mate, Peter and pretty much all of his male friends. Ridiculed and spat at. Rejected. Alone. Lonely.
“My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me? “ Even his heavenly father seems to have left him. As Jesus dies, it’s as if his heart tears apart like the temple curtain that tears apart from top to bottom. He’s been there. He experienced the extremes of suffering in the storm of pain and death of the cross.
His presence in the storm may reassure the disciples but they’re still in danger of being thrown overboard by the frightening turbulence. I’m not sure what they were expecting Jesus to do. it wasn’t as if he was an experienced sailor like Peter or Andrew. They are astounded by what happens next.
“ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”
Mark’s account is so matter of fact. Jesus makes it look so easy that the reader almost misses the magnitude of the miracle. The disciples don’t. They see it. They feel it. Everything calms: the tormenting fear, the turbulent waves. Gone, quiet, calm, still.
“Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him.”
On Good Friday, I woke up to the dulcet tones of Nick Robinson on Radio 4’s Today programme. He was interviewing Hylton Murray-Philipson, one of the first dangerously ill Covid-19 patients to recover. The 61-year-old spent five of his 12 days at Leicester Royal Infirmary in intensive care. When asked about his experience of coming to conciousness in ICU, Philipson described how he had a sense of Jesus calming the storm. This is how he describes this in his excellent article Faith, Hope & Charity for the New Statesman:
“Of all the images that came to me in intensive care, the strongest of all was that of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. At the time, if I coughed I was unable to perform a following in-breath as my lungs were full of infection. I was being kept alive by a respirator forcing air into my lungs through a pipe inserted into my throat. This inability to breathe quickly turns to panic. … I would reach out and clasp the side of the bed — or the hand of the nurse — as panic set in. The appearance of Christ rising from sleep in the bow of the boat to calm the waters was precisely what I needed to calm the storm in my throat and in my mind. Jesus didn’t address me, but I felt His peace radiating out from the boat towards me. My storm abated.”
Hylton Murray-Philipson’s sensitive account echoes my experience of Jesus’ presence during my own storm of chronic illnes. For 18 months, I was confined to bed in a darkened room, struggling to breathe, chew, swallow, speak and sit up due to severe ME/CFS. I was so fragile and wasted away, many thought I would die. In the midst of my storm, the calming presence of Jesus brought peace and helped me through the fear and despair, and ultimately to full recovery.
What’s interesting about the story in the gospels is the way it highlights how Jesus is in charge of nature. He can bring peace to wind and waves. He’s a miracle worker. Not just in bringing peace to people in troubled times, but he also has power to change the situation completely. This is his love-power at work. He did miracles then and he can do miracles now. Like the disciples, it is only our post-enlightenment lack of faith that blinds us to the possibility of real miracles. The story challenges to continue to pray and have faith for miracles in the current Covid 19 storm.
It’s interesting that in his article in the New Statesman, Murray-Philipson, refers to his campaigns for the Environment, particularly as chairman to Global Canopy. In the story of Jesus calming the storm, we are reminded of the power of the natural world. It may cause us to consider how the power of nature can affect human beings and like this new virus, it also hints at an ecology in turmoil. Of course, we’ve messed around with nature right from the start. We’ve thought ‘stewardship’ meant ‘take what-you-want-exploitation’ and we’ve so often applied our ‘take-what-you-want” mantra to pretty much everything we see and do since Adam and Eve ‘took what they wanted‘ of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Everything we do has consequences for us and the world we live in.
No wonder Paul says that the “whole creation groans and travails” under the “slavery of corruption” in his letter to the Romans. No wonder our suffering world feels “frustrated, futile”. No wonder the natural world longs to be free. No wonder our disturbed ecology erupts into violent storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, plagues, pandemics, viruses.
I believe that Jesus is concerned about the earth’s ecology, not only because he created it as a gift for us to enjoy and develop in but also because damage to ecology is damage to us. We are affected by the damaged ecology and we are part of this damaged ecology. And we’re special to him. We matter to him.
Jesus’ words to the storm, “Peace. Be Still” echo through the centuries to us. He has authority over creation. He proved it, not only when he calmed the storm of sea, but also when he calmed the storm of death by coming back to life. He spoke those words to the storm of wind and waves. He spoke them to the storm of death. That day on the Sea of Galilee, the wind and waves were calmed. On the day, he resurrected, the sting of death was neutralised.
And today? Do you, like the disciples, like Hylton Murray-Philipson, need wind and waves to be calmed? Do you need the fear of death to be neutralised?
Receive Jesus’ words: Peace. Be Still.
You may want to take time now to receive Jesus’ peace into your circumstances as you reflect on and pray about what you’ve just read. Here are some steps to help you.
Pause and connect with the Lord. Ask him to reveal himself to you. You may want to sing or listen to this song.
Listen to your heart and listen to God as you think about Jesus’ calming the storm
Take time to allow your emotions, minds and imagination to ponder and explore your responses above. You might want to jot down your thoughts.
Now we make time in case you want to say sorry to Jesus for anything?
Let me share Peace with you through this video of my Agnus Dei Banner Dance.
Reflection on God’s Compassion in the Covid-19 pandemic ending with sensory, contemplative prayer
Take a bowl of water, dip your finger in the water and drip water on the back of your other hand to symbolise God’s tears on our suffering world as you read these words or listen to them on the podcast.
Abraham Hershel: The Prophets
Terence E. Fretheim: The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective
John 11:35; Ex 3:7;Lam 2:11
I see the Holy Spirit like a dove hovering over the world. His wings are beating the Wind of the Spirit into the world.
His Wind/ Breath is gently blowing through us, moving amongst us. I see the wind blowing through streets, countryside, towns, cities, homes, shops and hospitals. I see the gentle breeze soothing and cooling the hot cheeks of the sick and sweating faces of key workers.
The gentle Wind of the Spirit is blowing away the stress and agony and blowing in his comforting, presence, blowing from Heaven, through us and turning our eyes and ears to Jesus.
Gen 1:2; Acts 2:2; Ezekial 37:9-14; John 3:8
I hear Jesus, the Word, singing over the world. His rich, glorious voice resonates around the world, moving amongst us. The air around us vibrates with His music.
If we take the time to listen, our ears will pick up His song on the Wind of the Spirit.
Then, our spirits will open out and respond to the beauty of His music in our souls and our bodies dance with freedom to the rhythms of His Song.
A lullaby for the exhausted and sleepless.
A love song for the lonely and rejected.
A lament for those who mourn and suffer.
A dance for those who feel restricted and shut in.
A comic song for those who need laughter
A ballad for those with stories to tell.
A song for each of us, for all our situations.
He sings Songs of Healing, Songs of Peace, Songs of Hope and Songs of Deliverance.
He is singing over us. He is singing to us.
Receive His Song.
Here are some wonderful songs which express something of this last picture.
When I was praying and waiting upon the Lord in January this year, I felt He gave me these words of love based Psalm 17 and Psalm 91. They seem particularly applicable in this current Covid 19 situation where many people are struggling with fear and anxiety. I hope they bring comfort to you.
Matthew 23:37; Malachi 4:2
Poems, reflection on self-isolation during 15 yrs’ illness. From frustration to contentment. Creative therapy.
Creativity has been used for centuries in the worship of God. We see evidence in the stained-glass windows of our churches and the poetry of our hymns. Scripture is full of examples of God’s people using creativity to glorify him, from Miriam’s exuberant dancing1 to Bezalel’s glorious bronze work in the Tabernacle2.
The current explosion of creativity in society and church has brought colour and celebration to our public and private acts of worship. Embroiderers create magnificent altar-pieces; songwriters write lively choruses; artists depict Christ in contemporary settings. Their creativity enriches our worship.
Whilst we often use this creativity of others in our worship, how often do we use our own creativity during services? Many churches have times of open prayer where people express themselves to God through their words and language. Charismatic churches invite worshippers to clap their hands or sing their own ‘new song’3 to celebrate God’s goodness. Physical space is created for those who wish to praise God through spontaneous dance or by waving banners expressing their joy of the Lord through colour and movement. More recently, some Christian gatherings are now inviting worshippers to draw and paint during extended times of sung worship. Sensory Prayer Spaces invite pray-ers to ‘speak’ to God through their colouring, collage and poetry.
The process of creativity invites concentration, contemplation and connection with God. As the language of our hearts finds outward expression in the symbols of movement, shape, colour and texture, we often make a deeper connection with Jesus than we can through using words alone. Creativity’s therapeutic nature helps us to be receptive to the activity of the Holy Spirit and if the results of creativity are displayed, then other worshippers are encouraged to reach out to God in new ways.
There are so many ways that we communicate in life, so why limit ourselves to a few prescribed forms when communicating with God? Creativity helps us worship in body, soul and spirit, connecting our whole being with God in wonderful, multi-faceted praise.