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Education and Wisdom
Not surprisingly, the Covid vaccines continue to be in the news; there is rightly much celebration at the remarkable speed they are being made available, but also concern that not everyone who would benefit is coming forward for vaccination when called. Part of the problem is “mis-information”; the lies that the vaccines contain microchips, dangerous materials or human foetal cells. Some leaders, including a few within the Anglican Communion, have spoken out without properly checking their facts. Earlier this week I was talking to one of my colleagues at work (Aston University) who specialises in vaccines; he had produced a short education article on the Covid vaccines that seems to be having a very positive effect; drdanpatten.wordpress.com/2020/12/14/covid-19-vaccines-sorting-fact-from-fiction/. He has been told of how the article doubled the number of people in one local facility willing to be vaccinated. Giving people the facts really can work and I highly recommend the article!.
Pleasing though this is, I have to say that I have never had much success by simply providing facts to get people to change their mind; I know myself that my deepest beliefs are resistant to this. As I write this article, news has broken of how the Queen has urged people to take up the vaccine because it helps others; both by stopping us spreading Covid and also from taking up resources if we fall ill. I suspect this appeal to our emotional and moral sense will reach many who will not be moved by simple facts.
To change our behaviour we need to use both our head and heart; we need facts, but we also need to use our emotional/spiritual senses to accept the need to change. This is part of what the Bible calls wisdom; it is what it means when it asks that God will “write” his laws on our hearts.
Rev David Poyner
Lent conversations, questions and challenges
One of losses of lockdown has been conversations with groups of friends, whether round the dinner table, the pub or sharing in some other activity. When we gather we talk about all kinds of things, but perhaps the best conversations are those when we hear something that gets us thinking; those that spark off an internal conversation in our own head when the group breaks up. It can be a statement we feel we strongly disagree with or perhaps something new that resonates with us. In either case it makes us think through what we believe and can result in us having a deeper understanding; either to affirm what we previously thought or come to a new position.
One of the big issues we all need to deal with is to understand our own spirituality; not just whether we believe in God or not, but what are our core values and beliefs; what sustains, inspires and moves us. In the Christian tradition, this is what happens at Lent, the season we are now in. It is a time of self-examination, when we grapple with the fundamentals of our faith. That means challenging ourselves and being prepared to face hard questions honestly. It does not mean that we are going to get simple answers to them; often it is about learning to live with doubt and uncertainty. With our benefice this Lent we are running a series of sermons and workshops on “Hard questions” which we hope will help people better understand their faith. But whatever belief system you subscribe to, the discipline of self-examination and the courage to challenge ourselves by asking questions is a vital part of our spiritual growth.
Rev David Poyner
PS I accept no responsibility for domestic incidents that might be triggered by this post if your beloved has forgotten a card for you.
This Sunday is February 14th and we all know what that means… Valentine might be the only Christian saint most people could name in this secular age; certainly the only one whose festival they celebrate, albeit without any reference to Valentine himself. The Valentine who we celebrate on the 14th February was probably a Christian priest who was martyred in Rome in the 3rd Century. He is said to have restored the sight of the daughter of the judge who initially was charged with investigating him. He was released but rearrested and eventually beheaded. One version of his story is that just before his execution, he sent a letter to the daughter whose sight he restored; this seems to be the origin of his association with romantic love.
Whatever the truth of the tradition, Valentine’s Day is now a celebration of romance and the physical love between a couple. The church has sometimes seemed rather embarrassed by physical love; the passion and joy that this involves. It has overtones of uncontrolled emotion and indeed, it can pass into lust and a desire for self-satisfaction that can be destructive. But it can equally be something higher; a mutual joy between individuals who can imagine nothing better than to be united as they love each other. This is what we celebrate in Christian marriage, it is what we might hope that all couples enjoy and is also can be a useful way of thinking about the love of God for ourselves. So celebrate the day and remember Valentine, whose passionate love affair with God was stronger than life itself.
Rev David Poyner