Having been in the Hills for nearly a year now, I am entering into my second autumn and enjoying the explosions of colour everywhere among the trees as the leaves change and fall (not enjoying so much the necessity of raking them up!). Autumn is a beautiful time, and so can winter be when it comes, even among the cold and rain. There are many different things to experience in these seasons. This week in a couple of contexts I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on what the Bible calls the practice of ‘lament’, which is calling out to God in grief and questioning when things are not going right. When disaster or disappointment strikes, or we are going through a dark, wintry time. It’s important to understand that God welcomes this kind of expression from us (two-thirds of the Psalms are actually songs of lament), and that it is an opportunity to move into a deeper experience of God’s presence and love. This week is the Sunday of ‘Pentecost’, which celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the church after Jesus returned to his Father. The seasons for the church and for Christians after Pentecost have often been autumn or winter, but we have hope that spring is coming.

-Andrew-

By definition, most of us are ‘ordinary’ people. We do similar things to others of the same age as us, we have similar hopes and dreams. But many people dream of being ‘extraordinary’ and living an amazing life, and our society encourages these kinds of aspirations. This can make is hard to feel that our lives are significant or special if we are not particularly successful, important or interesting. Our series at St. Mark’s on the Song of Songs touches on this topic this week, showing us that, when we see with the eyes of love, even ordinary people are glorious and radiant creatures. Jesus showed his disciples in his ‘transfiguration’ that the glory of God was in him, even if not visible to everyone. And all of us are the same as we grow closer to God. This week we honour and celebrate our mothers on Mother’s Day. Mums are often the best example of an ordinary, everyday life that has extraordinary and glorious results, so thanks to all our Mums everywhere and we pray you have a great weekend.

-Andrew-

This Term at St. Mark’s we are considering the Song of Songs, a collection of love poetry in the Old Testament. This is a book that has a lot of joyful and exuberant celebrations of love and the enjoyment that romance can bring, and we see in it an image of the love that God has for us and we can have for him. However, there are also moments in the Song of Songs that acknowledge some of the painful moments of a relationship, including the pain of separation and not being with the one we love. This week we are thinking about how to interpret the times when we experience that God is absent from our hearts and we don’t feel his love. Even Jesus experienced this as he went to the cross, the feeling that his Father had ‘forsaken’ him. The deep truth that the Song of Songs reveals is that this might be part of how we learn to love more truthfully and deeply. Can we move forward from immaturity, and learn to love God for himself and not just for the things that he gives us?

-Andrew-

One of the big challenges at the moment for us is the amount of distractions that we have in our daily lives. In addition to whatever task is before us we now have constant connection to phones, email, and a million other notifications of various apps working in the background of our lives. It’s increasingly recognised that this often has a negative impact on our relationships, because it is hard to pay attention to our families and friends in the way that they need. In being so ‘connected’ we become disconnected. But the same is true in our relationship with God, that the distractions of life make it hard to hear his voice and to pay attention to him. Particularly because God often speaks to us in the ‘quiet whisper’ that Elijah heard (1 Kings 19), allowing us the freedom to ignore him if we choose. This week in our series on the Song of Songs we think about the reality that God is calling out to our hearts, calling us to pay attention to him and follow him into a new life. This experience is often buried under many distractions, but it is always there, and our job is to listen and be ready. Where do you hear God speaking to you right at the moment?

– Andrew –

One of the big issues in our culture is that we tend to separate our ‘head’ and our ‘heart’. We exercise our reason in trying to figure out the world, and often ignore the place that our emotions play in how we live. That can lead to a sense of imbalance in how we live and work, and that something is missing in our lives. The same can be true for our faith in God. It’s easy to think a lot about God and about what we believe, but miss the deeper experiences that come from the presence of God in our hearts. If we miss this, we miss the joy that comes from this relationship, the joy that we were made for.

This Term at St. Mark’s we are working through the ‘Song of Songs’, one of the most interesting books in the Old Testament. The Songs are a series of love poems between a young Israelite couple, where they describe their admiration and delight in each other, as well as the highs and lows of their romance. This book may seem strange to be in the Bible, but over the years it has been seen as an inspired window into the kind of passionate love that God has for his people. This is how we will explore it, and allow the Songs to open up for us some of the amazing experiences of love that God offers those who seek him with all their heart.

– Andrew –