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For thus says the Lord:
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
‘Save, O Lord, your people,
the remnant of Israel.’
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
those with child and those in labour, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Scripture quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
By Kath B, a Reader at St. Mary's
“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!” Does anyone recognise where this is from? ………. When it first came into my mind I thought the speaker was the Mad Hatter but in fact these are the words of the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland” as he dashes around in a great hurry. In the cartoon version of the story, the rabbit looks quite cute and his actions seem amusing, but if we’re honest, isn’t this how we can sometimes find ourselves living as we try to keep up with the pace and pressures of life? If this happens from time to time it’s not necessarily a bad thing; a bit of pressure can even help us to perform better, but if it becomes the norm, this kind of behaviour can have undesirable consequences. One of these is that we can become so preoccupied with what seems all-important that we lose sight of much that really is.
In our reading from St Mark’s Gospel we hear about a man who has lost his sight and longs to have it restored. Although many of us find that our sight deteriorates, particularly as we get older, most of us are fortunate enough not to lose it completely and there is a great deal available, at least in this part of the world, to help us make the most of our remaining vision. But this set me thinking about the many other forms of blindness that we can be afflicted by without even realising it. The sort of things that came to mind are blindness about the needs of ourselves and others, blindness about the consequences of our words and actions or conversely our silence or inaction, blindness to the natural world and what we might lose if we don’t take better care of it and last but not least, spiritual blindness. Hopefully taking a few minutes now to consider some of these issues will help us to take stock of our where we are in relation to them and maybe, if necessary, make some changes for the better.
I think it would be fair to assume that most of us don’t go through life intentionally being unaware or uncaring or blind to the needs of others, but it can happen all too easily, especially if we’re in a position of influence or authority in relation to those concerned. We can think we’re doing the right thing for someone and be acting from the best of motives, but unless we pay attention and take the time to listen and try to see things from their perspective we may get it completely wrong and cause a lot of distress all round. Taking the time to really listen to someone and paying attention to what they are saying is a form of respect and we all like to feel respected don’t we.
In a recent “Thought for the day”, Bishop Philip North referred to people and roles that are largely unseen and therefore unappreciated. In truth there are whole armies of people who do the unseen and often undesirable jobs that keep our societies going; often they are foreign workers or from underprivileged backgrounds and they don’t get paid much but where would we be without them? Another phrase I heard was “Honour the unseen and the disregarded” and this really struck a chord with me and connects to our reading. Jesus did see such people and did value them. He saw those who seemingly had little or nothing to contribute, like Bartimaeus and valued them too.
Why are we blind to some people and their situations? I think it can sometimes happen when we are presented with uncomfortable information and images of people that are very difficult or painful to see. The news is frequently full of such images and when we are presented with them over and over again, understandably we can feel overwhelmed. Who wants or needs a permanent diet of misery, atrocity and despair that pulls everyone down? It’s why someone people stop engaging with the news. Compassion fatigue is an awful concept but one I’m sure we’re all aware of. We can be tempted to look away because we can’t bear to see anymore suffering that we feel powerless to do anything about, we can’t make it stop or fix it, however much we wish we could. But looking away and pretending to ourselves that the bad stuff isn’t happening is not the answer. If nothing else, we can acknowledge the people concerned and what is happening to them and hold them in our prayers. A comment by a Big Issue seller and repeated by other homeless people makes this point powerfully; it isn’t people saying no their requests for money that hurts, it’s being ignored as though they don’t exist, that really hurts.
If we don’t take the time and trouble to examine our thoughts, ideas and beliefs with an open mind, we can be blind about how our views or our actions can impact on others. Again we only have to look at the news to see what happens when beliefs and ideas are fuelled by lies and misinformation and used by people with ulterior motives to whip up hatred and violence. What may seem like an innocuous comment can be misconstrued and hijacked to support something we didn’t mean or wouldn’t want to be associated with. Jesus was no stranger to having his words and actions misrepresented .This sort of abuse has always gone on and sadly it probably always will so we need to be mindful of what we think and say and do.
As well as not noticing others and their needs we can be pretty blind to our own needs. The demands of a busy world where we feel under pressure to work harder for longer in order to keep all the plates spinning can be very damaging and lead to burnout if we don’t find ways to balance it with our needs for rest and recuperation. If we’re not mindful or careful about finding and maintaining this balance, we go on doing the wrong things and damage our wellbeing in the process. That does no good for anyone in the long run including the people or institutions we’re trying to please. Recognising and taking care of our own needs isn’t selfish or weak, it’s essential. What happens to those who need us if we break down?
When we are constantly in such a hurry and so focussed on whatever is on our minds, we can fail to notice the beauty of the natural world around us. We can fail to appreciate how blessed we are that it’s just there for us to enjoy if only we paused long enough to see it. We can fail to grasp just how fragile it is if we don’t start taking better care of it. I have to confess that I’m not a great one for taking long walks in the countryside but something I make a point of doing every day is looking at the sky. It makes me realise how small we really are which might sound a bit strange but it never ceases to fill me with awe, even on the gloomiest of days and I find that uplifting. It helps me to take a few moments to appreciate and be thankful for what I have rather than hankering after what I thought I wanted.
The last issue from the list I started with is spiritual blindness. I don’t propose to say much as I’m not an expert. This is more of an observation. I used to think that it was necessary to commit a lot of time and focus in order to understand something, but I’ve realised this isn’t always true. So often we can read or hear or even study a text and not really understand it, but only last Sunday, as I listened to one of the readings, it struck me how we can suddenly see with greater clarity a meaning in a piece of scripture. It may only be fleeting, but it is what we need at that moment and it is enough. To paraphrase the philosopher, Iris Murdoch, if we get the seeing right, the doing will take care of itself.
To conclude, however madly busy and complex our lives get, and I do understand how all-consuming this can be, we need to take the time to notice what is around us, the people, the kindness, the generosity of spirit, the beauty of nature. Open our eyes and our hearts and our minds to see and value others, as Jesus did and to know that we too are seen and valued by him.
Prepared by Barbara W
In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.
O God, the creator and preserver of all, we pray for people in every kind of need; make your ways known on earth, your saving health among all nations …
We pray for all of those affected by the Covid-19 epidemic.
We pray for those countries currently suffering from upsurges of the virus, thinking especially of those in Mongolia, Russia, Latvia, Turkey, Georgia, Romania and the United Kingdom: please help them to keep their most vulnerable citizens safe. We pray that all politicians stop using the pandemic to score political points and choose effective means of making sure that all the people they represent are safe and well.
We pray for the worldwide success of vaccination campaigns, and that vaccines are made available to all countries, regardless of their wealth or lack thereof.
We pray especially for all workers in direct contact with the public who are at such risk of exposure to the virus: health care providers, shop workers, bus drivers, schoolteachers and all others similarly exposed. Please help all of us to protect all of them by continuing to wear masks in public and practice safe social distancing and by getting vaccinated, if we have not already done so.
We pray also for the climate summit Cop26 in Glasgow and for all those who will be attending. Please help the United Kingdom to set a good example to the world, by delivering on promises already made and by increasing the United Kingdom’s efforts to prevent further damage to the climate. Please give all governments the political courage to resist further use of fossil fuels and to invest in sources of renewable energy instead. Please help each of us individually to contribute to protecting our planet in any way we can.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for your Church throughout the world; guide and govern us by your good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life …
We pray especially for our worshipping community of St. John’s Ranmoor, St. Mark’s Broomhill and St. Mary’s Walkley as we learn new ways of joining together in love for you. Please help us to feel your presence in a world turned upside down and to share that presence with others.
We pray that we can continue to worship together in ways that are safe for all of us, whether in person or online. Please help us to think of each other and let each other know that we care.
We prepare this week for our memorial service next weekend, when we name to you those dear to us who have gone before us into your heavenly kingdom. We pray that this service will bring comfort to all those who grieve.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are in any way afflicted or distressed, in mind, body or estate; comfort and relieve them in their need, give them patience in their sufferings, and bring good out of their troubles …
In moments of peace and contemplation, we name to you all those known to us who are suffering. Please care for them and for all those of whose suffering we are unaware.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We remember those who have gone before us in the peace of Christ, and we give you praise for all your faithful ones, with whom we rejoice in the communion of saints …
We name to you in our hearts all those known to us both near and far, asking that you bring your comfort and healing to their families and friends at this time of grief.
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2000