Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield
Sunday 1st November 2020

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Detail from the east window of Holy Trinity, Huddersfield

November, and the last day in October, is an odd time in Britain. We seem to do the dark side of things without the light. The darkness of Halloween without the corresponding light of All Saints. Later we have taken on the sales of Black Friday from the USA without the corresponding Thanksgiving. I think we have the bad deal.

Half term holiday this week, so to give our daughter and son-in-law we had the granddaughter stay last Sunday night to give them a break. It is OK, we are in a support bubble for child care. On Friday the whole bubble were out at the Room on the Broom Adventure Trail at Anglers Country Park between Wakefield and Barnsley. Although the car park was full the traol was large enough for people to be well socially distanced. We finished the day with a few fireworks.

In keeping with it being Halloween Saturday ended with watching Bran Stoker’s Dracula on TV. I like Halloween, which started as started as a Christian festival, All Hallows Eve, the celebration of the light overcoming the dark. We sometimes have to go through dark times, but we will get through them. The times of pandemic and lockdown we are living in are a case in point. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil,” said David. The wold seems to have forgotten the festival of All Hallows or All Saints and its eve, and concentrates only on the dark side of the festival. I would love the church to claim it back; there’s no emerging into the light without going through the darkness with God. The version of Dracula, with Gary Oldman as the vampire, clearly shoes the power of God being much greater than that of the evil count.

On to the service at Holy Trinity. We turned on at 10 am, the service was on YouTube live for the first time. People could comment on the side window. People said they liked it, and I admit it is an improvement. But there is still no way for those leading the service to respond as the service was fully recorded beforehand, the church had a separate traditional service in the building at the same tome as the so called live service. I am not saying it is bad in any way, I would prefer it become fully interactive.

The service started with Psalm 136, with the refrain, “His faithful love endures for ever.” A good start to be reminded of God’s love. Then came the adverts later in the service, including a quiz night on Zoom later this month for Tear Fund.

Last week Family worship packs were distributed . One, on the subject of forgiveness had an activity where children wrote things thet were sorry for on a picture of a heart, then the words were washed off with water. The teaching was that they are not to do it again and to ask God to forgive others. God will wash away things we say sorry for. They are gone.

There was an update from out mission partner, Ruth. Two weeks ago on my report of the service I wrote:

We were emailed urgently pray for Ruth, our mission partner in Mozambique.  Mendes, one of Ruth’s boys, had a motorbike accident on Monday – he suffered a badly broken leg and some serious internal injuries.  After making some good initial progress Mendes’s condition has deteriorated, he is in a critical condition, and is now fighting for his life.

Ruth has asked us to pray that Mendes will survive the weekend, so that he can be flown to Maputo on Monday to a much better hospital which should be able to care for him better than the one he is in at Pemba. 

Ruth updated us from Mosambique: When Mendes had his accident there were no public ambulance service. Someone got him to the hospital quickly, somehow the specialists were already there. Ruth had to go out and buy fluids and antibiotics. After 5 hours in surgery Mendes made a dramatic recovery but was frail. Then a gift came to use a private hospital. Mendes is on the road to a full recovery. He has started praying to Jesus again. We thank God for this answer to prayer.

The sermon started, before the reading, with a video of the preacher, Bev, carrying a large rucksack, struggle to get up the hill carrying a load. Sin is like that, she said, it can cripple us. We need to know our sins are forgiven.

The reading was Mark 2:1-12, A paralysed man is brought to Jesus. Please read it before reading the rest of this post. When it was being read the words, “Who can forgive sins but God alone,” stood out for me.

Bev continued: The paralysed man was so desperate he had hid friends make a hole in the roof and lower him down before Jesus. Son is a word of belonging and Jesus started by calling the paralysed man Son. Then then he said, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus was not implying that the man was paralysed because of his sin. On another occasion he made it clear when others were making this mistake that sin was not the cause if the sickness. But the man didn’t just need new legs but a new heart as well, he could have walked out having been physically healed but the sin weighed him down. Justice and forgiveness are not opposites but go hand in hand.

The healing points to the new life which Jesus will have after he has been killed and has risen, new life he will share.and share. Rucksack is a picture of how we are weighed down and held back.

The man was set free, we are also free. You are redeemed, Jesus says daughter or son to you. Forgiveness names the injury and takes it seriously. Jesus paid. the price, took the blame and died a painful death. He longs to give healing and give a new heart and a new life.

If I have any criticism of the sermon, it was from the perspective of someone who has been disabled for over 14 years and in pain for the whole of that time. When we say that you can come to Jesus and he will call you a daughter or son, will forgive your sins and heal you we need to think of how that will sound to someone with a chronic illness or disability. There is another version. Jesus calls you his daughter or son, forgives you from your sins and walks with you through your dark places. Wholeness sometimes has to wait as you struggle towards the light with Jesus. To me that would be more appropriate for a Halloween weekend. Or for a time of pandemic.

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