God wants us to have joy

The Ordinary Office
and
Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield
Sunday 18th April 2021

“Joy was always there from the beginning,” said Rebecca, “God wants us to have joy.”

After I had been to a service in Newcastle Cathedral in 2018 I put Rebecca in contact with Disability and Jesus, @Disability J on Twitter. Since then Dave from @DisabilityJ has started the Ordinary Office, @Ord_Off, also on Twitter, a church for those who cannot get into physical churches. Rebecca is assisting him in this.

Rebecca had put together the Ordinary Office service and as there was a vacancy I was asked to provide the gathering prayer for that. During her talk, Rebecca showed a postcard a friend had made for her based on Philippians 4:8.

Whatever is true,
whatever is honourable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is pleasing,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.

After visiting my Father on his Birthday last Sunday, he was 93, so birthday deserves an uppercase B, I have had a quiet week, with the only panic being in a bus stuck in traffic when going to pick up my granddaughter from school.

On Saturday I watched the funeral of Prince Philip on TV. Seeing a family in grief was moving, which having many of the trappings of a state funeral stripped away made it even more poignant. It had been revealed a week before by the dean of Wakefield Cathedral that when the Queen and Prince Philip had visited on the occasion of the maundy money ceremony being in Wakefield that when they had gathered for drinks after the service that he had been told to supply India Pale Ale for the prince. I drank IPA during the service in his honour.

In the Holy Trinity service, youth minister Wayne led the worship and vicar Mike preached on Mark 5:21-43. But before that Wayne mentioned the tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh that had been pouring out after his death a week earlier; the word service had been prominent. Jesus said we are called to serve others, the servant is the greatest in God’s kingdom. Our motto to love God and love others could read serve God and serve others. Lord, send us out.

Ahead of the reading Mike asked, “How long is 12 years?” If you have a daughter the time will have flown, if you have received a diagnosis of a chronic illness the time will drag on. (He was, of course wrong, the seconds of my chronic illness have seemed at times like eternities, but the years have flown by.)

The two people in the story are at opposite ends of the social scale. One has a name, Jairus, he is a religious leader who risks controversy by seeking help from Jesus. The other, a woman not named, is ritually religiously and socially unclean. seen doctors and is now physically and financially broken. Both are desperate for a touch from Jesus.

You may want a touch from Jesus so you come to church and then slink away. For Jesus a touch is not enough, he stops and asks, “Who touched me?” The woman tells him her story. Jesus wants to know you closely. God is warm, scanning the crowd for us. Let us not settle for a touch and slink away, let us be desperate to be with Jesus.

To Jairus, Jesus is dealing with a non urgent need first. The dying girl, his daughter, is urgent. He is right she dies.

jesus timing is different to our own. we see time differently to God. Jesus would say to us I am hurting with you. Jesus says your faith has saved you. Salvation is comprehensive, not just sin but the social dimension of our lives. it includes sin and wholeness and death. Followers of Jesus will be healed. What we don’t know if that if it will be before our resurrection or after, Jesus promise for us is resurrection overcoming death.

That is what Mike said. If he has ever suffered a chronic illness I cannot see it from his sermon, it lacked a sensitivity for those of us who are going through it. To be fair he did go on to talk about people with chronic conditions who have gone on to find Jesus helping them in the present day, but the damage had been done. Pie-in-the-sky preaching does not help those who, like me, have been on constant pain for over the 12 years in this passage. Pie-in-the-sky is not a good thing to say to someone who is facing 30 years of pain. The sermon was fairer than this, but it brought back a lot of memories of a time when I was suffering flashbacks and loss of sleep because of memories of the accident. It was a time before Mike came to Holy Trinity, I’m not blaming him. But there needs to be better knowledge of mental health issues in the people we allow to be do counselling. The flashbacks i suffered were indication that I could have had PTSD, the flashbacks are long gone now but they continued for a few years, no one ever suggested I needed psychiatric help, but I did get told I needed to pray more from people who did not ask me how well or often I was praying, or make allowances for how difficult prayer can be in pain.

There were good things in the sermon, but my overall impression of the sermon, which was not intended and is down to hurts in my past, was of feeling abused by it.


That’s it.

I started writing my thoughts on services as a Lenten exercise some years ago, and I carried on doing it. Some weeks I have ended putting myself under too much stress trying to get my notes from a service into something I thought I could publish at 9 am the next day.

As Sunday next week is my wife and my 40th wedding anniversary and it seems highly likely that I will not have time to write a decent review, I have decided to stop for the time being.

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