This Month's Rector Writes Post, comes from our Curate, Rev Gareth Erlandson:
We are heading towards the midpoint of another extraordinary year. Yet, despite the difficulties many of us have faced over the last 15 months (especially since Christmas), there is reason for both hope and joy. Restrictions are being lifted at a pace and, even if the Delta variant may disrupt the final stages of easing (not much is known about this at time of writing), there is light at the end of the tunnel. From a church perspective, a number of activities are resuming and more services are now taking place on site, but for now please do let us know that you’re coming so we can ensure adequate distancing. We pray that a long-awaited return of refreshments and indoor singing might not be too far away.
It might be hard to believe that it is the sixth month of 2021 already. Yet here we are in June – the lightest month of the year and the one in which summer begins. Is it just me, or does the light seem to burn brightest through our windows at children’s bedtime and then about an hour before they’re due to get up? Thank God for blackout blinds I say.
Of course, we have the longest day on the 21st June – the Summer Solstice. Solstice comes from two Latin words – sol (sun) and sistre (to stand still) and to those who may spend the 21st June in the Arctic circle, the sun will certainly appear to stand still as they encounter 24 hours of daylight.
The solstice is usually associated with Pagan festivities, but the longest day can be a good time to pause and reflect on the sun and its importance for us as a human race that is loved by God. The sun features prominently from the start of the Bible – it is part of God’s great gift of creation (Genesis 1:16) and through it, God provides the warmth and light needed to sustain all life (Psalm 19:4-6). God is constant and immovable (Hebrews 13:8), just as the sun will appear on 21st June.
Down the centuries, the biblical writers used the sun to symbolise various aspects of God’s character and our life in Christ:
So, in various ways, the solstice and a focus on the sun can be a very helpful image for us in reflecting on God. He wants to keep us safe through his law; provide for us through natural resources; is constantly there for us; came as a light to guide us as Jesus Christ; and promises those who follow him a share in his glory. I think there are some very comforting messages there – messages of hope as they draw our attention to God’s providence and faithfulness.
That last point about us sharing in God’s glory is not to be taken lightly, though. Yes, it does point towards the life to come in heaven, but it is also a metaphor for how we are to live now, as children of God. One of the closing prayers of the Holy Communion service, asks that we may “shine as lights” before Christ, ahead of his second coming. In other words, as we wait for life in heaven, we are to set the world ablaze with the love, compassion, and justice of God in the here and now. We can do that in all sorts of ways – from grand gestures of big monetary donations to charity to small acts of kindness, such as collecting a neighbour’s prescription or making a phone call to someone we know who is housebound. As we look start rebuilding and restoring our lives, relationships and communities after the pandemic, such love is as important as ever.
Just as the Bible starts with reference to the sun in Genesis 1, it also comments on the sun in its closing chapters. Revelation 22:5 tells us that in heaven, we will have no need for the sun – God will provide all the light, warmth, and sustenance we need as we live with him forever. This is the ultimate statement about God’s all-sufficient providence and reminds us that all aspects of creation are temporary. As John Newton puts it in the famous hymn, Amazing Grace, “The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine, but God who called me hear below shall be forever mine.” God is constant and promises us life with him forever. Not just a day of light on 21st June in the Arctic Circle, but light eternal wherever we are, 24/7.
Let’s pray this month that the lengthened days of summer bring us all hope and inspiration. May the Summer Solstice be a symbol for us of God’s eternal light and a reminder of his constant love for us – a love we are called to radiate out into the world.
Rev Adam Pawley