Sunday 29 March 2020

Elena Markova, Children and Families Minister at All Saints Whitstable

Elena holds a Masters degree in Christianity and the Arts from Kings College London and a first class honours degree in Theology from Canterbury Christ Church University.
She is an accredited Local Preacher and Worship Leader in the Methodist Church of Great Britain, with a good amount of experience in leading Sunday services, Sung worship, Bible Study and Home Fellowship groups as well as organising fundraising events for charitable causes.
She is currently the Children,  Youth and Families Minister of All Saints, Whitstable.
Elena enjoys spending her free time with her family, she has two children and lives in Kent. Elena writes as follows

I encourage you to pause for a few moments and reflect on the image below. What is it that moves you about it in this present moment? What is it that strikes you about it? Do you feel a sense of comfort looking at it?

When I saw this image for the first time, only a week ago, posted on the WMT face book page, I was overwhelmed with a sense of loving reassurance and courage. We are living in such uncertain, strange and daunting times at present. And we are all in these together – the whole world, facing together one and the same invisible viral enemy, in the same time period, the same year. Fear seems to be everywhere – and yes, the majority of us are deliberate enough to choose not to focus on it, but it nonetheless remains there in the back of our minds, keeping some of us awake at night, this enormous elephant creeping in our rooms. Someone only needs to cough or sneeze once for us to think the corona... And the daily briefings, forecasts and updates keep on warning us how much more difficult it is going to become…
So, I found comfort in this image. 

It echoed the comforting words of Footprints in the sand in my heart:
" …My precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you."

Take another look – here we have in modern symbolic depiction God Almighty, our Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest physician with his stethoscope carrying his precious ill child – Earth (us), in his healing, loving and reassuring arms. She is clearly a young girl, wearing a mask on her face, her eyes are closed, tears rolling down her face, she is very unwell and weak, trustingly resting her head on her father’s shoulder.

A loving motherly kiss is reassuring her – I am right here, my dear daughter, I’ve got you, keep calm, everything will be all right, I am here. The red sash across His chest – reminding us of his sacrifice for all, the golden halo reminding us of his divine kingly authority. He is in control!

Notice, the delicate flower that she holds in her hand – it’s a white lily. Now, there is something very specific about the Christian symbolism the lily displays in the religious art of the Baroque and Renaissance era. Most images of the Annunciation depict the Angel Gabriel presenting Mary with a beautiful white lily, others simply depict the image of the white lily within the Annunciation scene. What the lily points to symbolically is purity and innocence. Thus, also referring to Mary’s virginity.

Christian spirituality here invites us to identify ourselves with the precious child in the hands of her Saviour, Father, Physician. 

While, I am led to reflect on the Christ figure being a representative of everyone on the front line in our own NHS, as well as medical professionals and staff all over the world. They are our selfless heroes, sacrificing not just their own lives but the lives of their loved ones. Our gratitude goes beyond any words to them. 

However, we also must not forget all other crucial workers on the front line in the face of all in the food industry, drivers, suppliers, shelf packers, till operators, store staff and managers, postmen and postwomen, pharmacists, but also our clergy - ordained ministers who continue to serve their communities tirelessly and selflessly.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Your presence in our lives changes everything, means everything, enables us and empowers us to live each moment of every day content in knowing - You are our constant companion, present in every situation, comforter and healer, guarding and guiding us and always in control.

Thank you for your amazing love and faithfulness to us Lord, even when we are undeserving of it.

Lord, we ask today for more of Your Holy Spirit in our lives. Lord, it is so easy for us to become overwhelmingly consumed with the fears that surround us in life, particularly in the present moment, when we all feel the pressing darkness of the COVID 19 fear.

Lord, we want to thank you for and lift up to you everybody on the front line – doctors, nurses, clinical support workers, receptionists, managers, chaplains all the volunteers that are making a difference for us on daily basis. We ask for your protection to surround them, your love and care to reassure them, your wisdom and strength to empower them, your courage Lord – so that they be able to face each new day of work with your peace and reassurance.

Lord, as we become ever more reliant on You, bring us into a greater understanding of the way you work in the world, so that we may come into a place of much deeper realisation that all we see with our natural eyes, is not all that there is.

And so, as we face each day, Lord, we ask for eyes to see Your hand at work in all matters, hearts to feel your love for the whole of creation, ears to hear the guidance of your voice and lips to speak your love, comfort and reassurance to one another and the world.
In Jesus name. Amen.

This week, I also saw and heard of some disturbing images of utterly ignorant and sad examples of human behaviour. I refer to the video of the young adolescent boy who brushed his tongue along an isle of home cosmetic products in declaration that he is not scared from the corona virus. I also refer to the video of another young man who picked up a French stick bread in what looked like a large food store, bit the top of the stick with his mouth and returned it bitten to the bread section. Not to mention, the group of teenagers who had assaulted a woman on the train by purposely coughing on top of her.

What was I led to reflect on, following these lower than low examples of human behaviour?

The wilderness mentality displayed by the Israelites on their 40-year long journey to the Promised Land. A journey that need not had taken more than a few weeks. So, God not only delivered His people from Egyptian bondage (Exodus, Ch. 1-12) but they were to take possession of the land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ (3:8) as promised to their ancestors. 

Yet, it was their complaining and total disbelief in God’s word and promises, that kept them captive to the wilderness and never allowed them to step foot in the Promised Land. That took place nearly 3500 years ago.

 Following the above modern-day examples of appalling human behaviour, I had to ask myself What’s changed then if we continue to display images of wilderness mentality? The saddest truth perhaps remains that those feeling free to display their wilderness mentality affect us all – and we can only hope that the range of the ripple effect such behaviour creates would be as minimal as possible.

Rescue, however, comes to us from Philippians 4:6-8

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Following the challenging, at this time, recommendation of verse 8, I must end my Prayer & Share reflection with a prayer from Julian of Norwich (late 1342 – after 1416). Julian remains one of the most creative theologians, spiritual writers and mystics in the Christian tradition from the Middle Ages. She wrote during the time of the Black Death, which started around 1349 and kept on coming back and back again in portions during the next century. It was a time of schism for the Church, when two or more popes claimed authority and monastic writers and parish priests predominantly taught and preached that the Black death was the punishment, or the result of God’s wroth for all human wrongdoing. Julian, however emphasised on God’s love and desire for human salvation. 

She saw, in a sense, the need to offer the vaccine against the pervasive fear of damnation, death and sin, and in her writings, she succeeded to do just that. Here, I leave you with what feels like a timeless prayer from Julian of Norwich, for all of us to use daily.

In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving.
You are our mother, brother, and Saviour. In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvellous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well. Amen

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the thoughts and images shared. It is encouraging to find that even in times of social distancing when many feel and complain of isolation that the love and work of God still continues to shine as a beacon. I hope many more will see the light of Christ shining through as you continue to minister where you are


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