In lockdown again! Not as bad as Melbourne, but it still affects us greatly in the City of Greater
Geelong. We in Lara are especially feeling for our friends in Little River, Wyndham, so near and yet so
In Stage Three, we are back to a maximum of five people at church in Lara, as we were earlier. This will
be the leader and preacher, generally me, the Zoom host and assistant. This leaves a couple of spaces,
and I am planning to invite one or two non-Zoomers to attend on a rotating basis.
Because we have all the procedures in place, the Op Shop may remain open, depending on our
wonderful volunteers. If we are directed otherwise, we will close, of course. So far, this has not
My visiting of people in their homes is curtailed again, but I hope to see some, perhaps outside if the
weather is appropriate.
How blessed we are in our homes! I was thinking about mine: a secure roof and walls that keep out the
rain and cold, excellent water in the taps, reliable gas and electricity, the means of cooking, a deliciously
warm bed, access to a world-class sanitation system. I also have internet and phone which keep me in
touch, in spite of occasional wavering. Compared to most of the rest of the world, I am rich beyond
dreams of avarice.
Being at home is restricting compared to our former lives, and places strains on many. Pray for each
other. But it is by no means all bad! I have heard of two studies, one from the University of Canberra,
and one from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, who surveyed people in response to the first
lockdown, and found that the vast majority, over 60% in one and 75% in the other, reported improved
And have you heard about the premmie babies? A Danish paediatrician reported that in normal times in
his hospital they would have an average of thirty babies a month born prematurely. Since the lockdown,
three a month. This pattern has been repeated in many other hospitals across the world. Now they
have to work out just what it was about our old ways that was so detrimental to life. Long, frenetic
drives to work? Eating on the run? Not enough emotional support? Greater infection rates? Perhaps all
of these and more.
Homes have always been intended as places of refuge and blessing and form a picture of our life with
God. Psalms 90 and 91 are very helpful with this. They do not avoid life’s traumas but give us direction.
It is helpful to read them in their entirety, but I include a few quotes:
Lord you have ben our dwelling place throughout all generations. Psalm 90, verse 1
The one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust. Psalm 91, verses 1 and 2.
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Ps 90: 12 and
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days, 14.
Homes become a picture of our relationship with Jesus, where we are most intimately known, and
where we can be our true selves.
John 1: 14 says: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
In chapter 14 verse 23 Jesus says: If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our home with him.
This is my prayer for you: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power
through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Ephesians 3:
16-17. Let’s pray it for one another.
I’ve just heard that the numbers for Victoria are 723 today. Seven hundred and twenty-three people have tested positive to the Coronavirus in the last twenty-four hours. 255 are in regional Victoria. My heart sinks. What will the future hold for us? We must all be feeing deflated, frustrated, disappointed.
Here in the City of Greater Geelong we can no longer have visitors to our homes, and from Sunday must all wear a mask or face covering as soon as we step out of our homes. These seem simple and perfectly reasonable measures to lower the spread of the virus. Let’s get the masks on today!
Of course, people who are sick must not go to work, and if we are tested we must stay at home until our results are available. And let’s not forget to wash our hands! These things we can do. They will all help
But the overall effect is frustration. This wretched virus! How it has disrupted our lives, and puts so much in jeopardy. Plans must change. Jen, our hard-working Parish Administrator, has postponed her wedding which was to have taken place in September and now is planned for next June. So many other things are affected, too. I’m sure you know of plenty. Living through this is wearing. Some are becoming angry.
So many of the psalms are written through difficult times, asking questions of God, complaining to God, lamenting what is happening. When everything in my life is going fine, they are a surprise, sometimes an embarrassment. When things are difficult, I have found that they help amazingly. Others have been here before me and have expressed what I feel in very explicit, tough language. Sometimes I can even feel with the most repellent expressions, though I don’t want to! But it is so good to know it is OK to complain to God, even to get angry with him. It is godly to lament the tragedies of the world.
In fact, there is a whole book of laments in the Bible, called, not so surprisingly, Lamentations. Have you read it? I’m not surprised if you haven’t! It is depressing reading.
In our English translations, it can look like a whole lot of dark thoughts and experiences jumbled together. But notice the chapter lengths. It is structured around the Hebrew alphabet of 22 letters, indicating that all of what can be said about the subject is attempted here, and does so in a carefully structured way. The third, longest, and central chapter has as its heart an amazing change of tone. One of your and my most favourite and comforting verses in the Bible comes from this very context:
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I will say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
It is good to wait patiently for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3: 19 – 26.
So, complain to God, be real with God, get close to God. God is with us in our lamenting. Praise God. Sing, ‘Great is your faithfulness.’
With love and blessings to you,
Locum minister, Holy Trinity Lara with Christ Church Little River.
Recently, the Geelong Field Naturalists Club, of which I am a member, asked Dr David Boyle, also a member, to run a webinar (like a seminar, but on the internet) about viruses.
David has 50 yeas experience working with viruses and epidemic diseases, especially with the CSIRO at AAHL in Geelong. He is a Virologist.
I found David’s talk fascinating. I thought you might enjoy some details.
Viruses are not just small, but very, very small. The polio virus is 1/10.000th the size of a grain of salt. They are very, very abundant, with hundreds of thousands of types. End to end it is estimated they would stretch for 100 million light years! They make copies of themselves very, very quickly. They can enter a cell, replicate between 100 and 1000 new copies, and exit the cell, all in 20 minutes.
There are viruses in every living organism on earth. They are a natural part of natural processes, living in the cells of their hosts.
We have our own. It is estimated that there are 200 virus particles for every square centimetre of every person on the planet. 8% of our genetic makeup is viruses or virus-like elements inserted into the human genome!
Without them, we would not exist. There are viruses in the womb of every placental mammal, which suppress the immune response of the mother to the ‘foreign’ embryo, permitting it to develop. Without them, we never could have had children.
They are fundamental to life, emerging from its very beginnings.
They do not ‘think’ of course, but mutate and adapt very rapidly, fitting the conditions they find.
Factors such as increasing human population, intensification of food production encroaching onto the natural world, degradation of the environment, and global movement of peoples facilitate this.
‘Don’t blame the bats!’ David said. ‘It’s what viruses do.’
We are learning to understand viruses. There is even room for virus appreciation! Do we really want to praise God for viruses? Well, of course not, but yes! We must learn to live with their more unpleasant aspects, even or especially when they have potential to disrupt or destroy our lives so disastrously.
Maybe it is a bit like the Parable of the Weeds, from Matthew chapter 13, that Philip told us about last Sunday. Only the final harvest will differentiate. In the meantime, we adjust. We pray, we cry out to God for his mercy and help, we hope, we have faith in the Lord of all, whatever our circumstances. We do what we see needs doing. In a pandemic, we continue to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.
Lynne Clarke, Locum minister at Holy Trinity Lara and Christ Church Little River.
Helen sent me an email a couple of weeks ago, telling me that there were goslings by the lake! She knows I am keen on birds, and that I had counted the Cape Barren Geese on the Lara Lakes a few months ago. I had found twenty that day. A few weeks ago, I mooched around there in the car again and was a bit surprised to notice that numbers were down. Now I know why! Even though it is early in the season, half the birds are sitting on eggs!
I mentioned the goslings to Joan and Esther, as I know they like birds too. Soon after, Esther sent me some beautiful pics she had just taken of the proud parents and their five beautiful little black-and-white striped chicks on the grass near the lake. I look forward to seeing them, and many others, when I return to Lara in a couple of weeks.
A female magpie has just completed her nest in the big tree behind my house. The pair of Red Wattlebirds which regularly nest in the trees at the front, are getting restive. What delightful signs of on-going life are all these. God provides for his creatures even, maybe especially, through the cold and wet.
Jesus tells us: ‘Look at the birds of the air: they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.’ Matthew’s gospel again, 6:26. Their food is abundantly present, but they must do their own foraging, of course!
Last week I heard from some friends who work as missionaries in Indonesia. They are concerned for themselves, their students, and their families in the pandemic, as numbers of infected people are growing rapidly there. They are praying for wisdom for all, especially themselves. They commented on the attitude of Indonesian friends:
‘… the fact that they are used to living one day at a time, depending on God to provide for their daily needs, has better equipped them to face this crisis than we are. We are so thankful for their example, and pray that we might learn greater day-by-day dependence on God.’
Jesus says, in verse 27, ‘Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?’ God knows the length of our days, and in all of them we are his treasures. He cares for us. ‘Look to him, and be radiant,’ as Leon reminded us last Sunday. Greater dependence on God.
Our times are in His hands. With the change in the situation in Victoria this week, it would be easy for us to have an increased burden of worry, even panic. But pandemics are not new: they had them in Jesus’ day and he tells us to cast off the burden of anxiety. Of course, we are to be realistic, to take every sensible precaution, doing our own ‘foraging’, but in the midst of that to trust ourselves and our lives to Him.
In faith, we bring our needs to God, the needs of those we love, our community, and our leaders in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic, and those who have asked for our prayers.
Day by day dependence on God is a lesson we all must continually learn.
A friend has moved to Hume Court, Costa House. This is a loved and familiar place to her, as she volunteered here for more than sixty years. It is a bit different living here, of course, and she would rather be in her own home, but after a couple of falls she knows that now she is no longer a worry to her family.
‘This is my last home,’ she tells me. ‘From here I go to meet my Maker.’ She smiles as she says it. ‘I’m not afraid. I’m comfortable with that. I’d just like to go one night in my sleep, like my mother did.’ She indicates a picture above her bed. ’Isn’t she lovely?’
Her tone changes.
‘There are people here who are afraid though. Some of them tell me they are frightened.’ She wonders at this. ‘If only they knew Him, like I do. I try to tell them, but they look at me as though I am crazy.’
She is far from crazy. Her faith is deep and has been integral to her for so long. She has a peace that keeps her balanced and whole, in the face of sadness, old age and death.
With the increase in Coronavirus cases and our concern about the lockdown in Melbourne, especially the residential towers, a heightened sense of unease is inevitable amongst us and our community. We seem to be suddenly more aware than previously of the dangers of cross infection. We are all concerned for people’s welfare, and I expect and hope that we are all regularly praying about this, bringing the concerns of our hearts to the One who knows and feels with us. When we come to the end of our resources, or are overwhelmed by sorrows, sometimes to such an extent that we can’t even pray, it is wonderful to know that it is then in particular that the Spirit intercedes for us, with sighs too deep for words.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is a wonderful book and chapter 8 is its centre. He says in verse 19 that the whole of creation is waiting for God’s children to be revealed. God has always wanted to rule his world through human beings, part of what it means to be made in God’s image. ‘We know that the whole creation has been groaning … right up to the present time … we ourselves groan inwardly …’ Verse 22. I think we can all recognise that picture. It is true of us now. The world is groaning, and so are we: we are caught up in it as God’s people. That is as it should be, but it is not easy.
Romans 8, verse 26 explains: ‘… the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.’
In this difficult time, we are called to be a people of prayer at the place where the world is in pain. Sometimes we can only groan, but it is then that we are caught up into the very life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, sharing in God’s deep, deep love for us and the world
Please read Romans chapter 8. Read verses 15 to 27 over and over, so that it seeps into your very being. Then read the whole chapter, 1 to 39. You will love it.
I have been thinking especially of our political leaders lately. They always face many challenges, but they are much deeper and more serious than usual these days. I think our prayers for them, both personally and in the work they do on our behalf, are more important than ever just now.
Lynne Clarke, Locum minister at Holy Trinity Lara and Christ Church Little River.
Our plans for the future have been very disrupted by the coronavirus and its implications for us all. What do we do, when there’s not much we can do?! Especially when our hopes for further lifting of restrictions are threatened this week by events in Melbourne, and an ongoing ‘spike’? In a nutshell: we wait, we hope, we have patience, we trust in God.
This week I was reading in Proverbs, chapter 15 from verse 31 onwards. (Proverbs always repays reading.) Chapter 16 verse 3 says: ‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.’
It is important to plan. We all do, we all must. But it makes a big difference to commit our plans to God, before, during and after we make them.
God is not surprised by the pandemic. In the midst of disaster for Israel he promised them ‘I know the plans I have for you, for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ We find this in Jeremiah 29:11, and it is for us too.
Paul tells us in Romans, ‘Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ Let us renew our minds daily with God’s pattern of faith and hope and love. We will find his will in our daily lives.
And again, in Ephesians, chapter 2 verse 10: ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ So God’s plans include things for us to do, whatever our stage in life, as individuals and as a church. They will open up for us as we keep our eyes open for them. It is fun to be watching out for them. They may be different from what we expected!
Our bigger plans will have to wait, but they are not gone. For the future …’we wait for it with patience.’
Lynne Clarke ,
Locum minister, Holy Trinity Lara with Christ Church Little River.
How are you feeling this week?
Lots of people are a bit despondent, saying ‘I’m sick of this!’ or ’How long is this going to go on for??’
We thought that this week we could be much freer, and see life begin to return to ‘normal’, but not so.
We decided we could endure it for a while for the common good, but for how long?
I turned to the psalm set for this week, Psalm 13, and felt it was written just for us, for this week. Yet David wrote it about three thousand years ago!
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?
So, it is OK to complain to God. To ask him the hard questions, to tell of our doubts and uncertainties.
David kept pouring out his heart to God, even when God seemed far away.
Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.
In spite of everything, he kept trusting. He turned his thoughts to God’s continuing support and provision, in the past as well as the present.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
In spite of everything, he kept rejoicing in the salvation God had given him, and even sing God’s praise.
I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.
We can see that David was a man of good mental health! He was realistic, honest, open. He looked at the bigger picture, at past and present blessings, as well as the difficulties. He turned to the wideness of God’s mercy and rejoiced in that, lifting his heart to the wonders of God’s love, whatever the circumstances.
It is an example we can follow. We can complain to God and pour out our hearts to God even when he seems far away. We can keep trusting, keep rejoicing, and keep worshipping. All these things are good for us, and bless others, as well as ourselves.
Locum minister, Holy Trinity Lara with Christ Church Little River.
What a week of turmoil it has been in the wider world. Sometimes I think that the reason we have the News is so we can pray, that special task of followers of Jesus, no matter what our age or stage.
We are told to pray for those in authority, whether they are Christian or not. They have big responsibilities which they hold in trust for the whole community – a heavy burden, and they need our prayers.
Please make the transforming love of God being widely received in our community a major part of your prayers. And pray about how we can share it ever more effectively in our parish.
Lynne Clarke, Locum minister , Holy Trinity Lara with Christ Church Little River.
There is a school down the hill from where I live. It is so nice, now, to see all the children on their way there again these glorious winter mornings, and to hear the bell calling them to class and out to play. We seem to be slowly returning to ‘normal.’ A number of us were able to be at church last week, and partake of Holy Communion, though in a slightly different form to which we are accustomed.
We have been so cared for by all our governments, and the good sense of our fellow-citizens
However, I expect that you, like me, are still very concerned about the progress of the virus. Added to this, we have the outpouring of grief and determination following the death of George Floyd in America, drawing attention to our own dark history and its ongoing effects and prejudices.
Recently we spent time praying ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ over all the world. Is this outpouring part of the answer to that prayer? How can we work together to make God’s love and justice work clearly for all peoples? To be rid of entrenched racism in our midst?
What can we do in these dark days?
This week I have been reading a little book, God and the Pandemic, by English bishop Tom Wright, which grew out of an article on the subject he was asked to write by Time magazine. He is a prolific and helpful writer.
He draws attention to the centre of Paul’s wonderful chapter 8 of Romans, where in the middle of a discussion on faith Paul has the puzzling section about the creation groaning as though in childbirth, our own groanings, and the Spirit’s intercession for us with sighs, or groans, too deep for words. Vss 22 – 27.
The time of Jesus and Paul was no stranger to plague, famine, and pestilence. Then, and now, Jesus’ people are called to pray, even though we are overwhelmed. The Spirit comes alongside us, deeply with us in prayer, in every time, but especially in difficult times.
Our prayer is born of sorrow and lament. Weep with those who weep, Paul tells us a little later. It is right to be in sorrow for the world.
We are also called to action, to follow Jesus as the church has always done, to care for those in need, to seek for justice, (write to our Members of Parliament?) to look in hope to the future, as we pray for it. Whatever the situation, nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus. Thy Kingdom Come.
Whatever the situation, the Lord’s Prayer is always appropriate. We must all pray it daily.
Lynne Clarke, locum minister, Holy Trinity Lara and Christ Church Little River.
HOLY TRINITY & CHRIST CHURCH WEEKLY REFLECTION
Welcome to our weekly reflection!