Thought for the week

This week marks the second anniversary of us going into a national lockdown at the start of the
Covid 19 pandemic – I was acting superintendent of the Tadcaster Circuit and life changed
dramatically. One of the things I decided to do was to write a ‘thought for the day’ for the Circuit
leadership team who were working so hard to devise a strategy for ‘mothballing’ churches and
ensuring everyone received the care and support they needed. I continued to write a daily
reflection until I handed over the superintendency in August to Revd Ann Fox. By this time I was
also sending it to the Local Preacher’s and Worship leaders in both Tadcaster and Nidd Valley
Circuits and there were some requests for me to continue writing and so I have done but only
once a week – I was in danger of running out of thoughts!! In March 2020 I started my reflection by
noticing how much the world had changed since Christmas and noted later that it was a very
worrying time. I wonder what we/you would have done differently if we’d have realised that 2
years on the pandemic would not be over?! As I think about Mary and the annunciation and how
little she understood at the start – I see many similarities with the situation we’ve been in but I
know that during this time God has most certainly been with us through all the ups and downs
and the change and challenge. Life might not have turned out as we had hoped but, in so many
ways, I don’t think it did for Mary either. I thought I’d share with you the reflection I wrote for that
year when the first Sunday many churches did not meet for worship was Mothering Sunday (as it
is this week).
This coming Sunday (March 27th) is Mothering Sunday and 25th March – Friday of this week is
the feast of the Annunciation – and that means it’s 9 months to Christmas! Just 13 weeks ago it
was Christmas Eve and how the world has changed – changed beyond our imagining. Our
readings for today are Psalm 40 (from which I quoted yesterday ) – “I waited patiently for the Lord,
he turned to me and heard my cry” and the Gospel is from Luke chapter 1 – the story of Gabriel’s
visit to Mary.
I remember the first time I ever stood in front of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth and,
looking up, worked out word for word, from the memory of my schoolgirl Latin, what the words
carved into the building said – Verbum caro hic factum est – Here the Word became Flesh. I
remember the tingle that shot through my body, not because THIS was the place, we can’t know
that, but because of that sudden realisation that it was not at the birth of Jesus that the Word
became flesh but at the Annunciation. The Word became flesh at the moment that Mary said
“Yes” to God, at that moment the Word came to life within her.
It was a “Yes” that changed the world – for us and for Mary. I wonder what thoughts raced through
her head at that moment and during the nights she lay awake? For her it meant that her life would
never be the same. Yes she was to be the mother of the Son of God, the Messiah, she was God’s
chosen one but, more immediately, it meant her life was in danger; it meant disgrace, humiliation,
shame and, potentially death. What was she to do? To whom should she turn? BUT the Word was
dwelling in her and the Angel had told her not to be afraid. The Angel gave her a clue as to where
she should go and she went. She went to her cousin Elizabeth, someone who would understand,
who would love her, comfort her and protect her. For us it meant that we could come to know that
loving, comforting, protecting love of Jesus which also brings with it challenges that change our
The Angel said “Do not be afraid for the Lord is with you” – I wonder how many times in the
following 33 years Mary wondered where God


This picture of the Annunciation by Fra Angelico who lived in the 1400s is a favourite of mine. If you look to the far left of the picture you will see Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden – they look downcast and fearful. Mary, however, having just received some news from  Gabriel that could have been devastating, looks calm and at peace – the Holy Spirit is seen  descending on her in a beam of light. This isn’t the time for an art lesson on interpreting pictures of the annunciation but they have a formula and this picture is a great example.

There’s much fear around at the moment, fear for life, for family, for loved ones. There’s a sense
that we could wonder where God is in our world right now. The Psalmists knew that feeling of the
absence of God but, it seems to me, they were also constantly seeking God’s presence in their
anguish. I know that fear, I heard yesterday that my niece (another Mary) and her husband of just
8 weeks have been diagnosed with COVID-19. They are young and, a couple of days in, are not
too unwell, I hope and pray they will be fine. In these days when so much is confusing, worrying,
different; when we wonder what to do now, when we wonder what the future holds; when we,
perhaps fear for those we love we need to keep seeking for God. As I realised outside that church
in Nazareth, over 20 years ago now, the moment of incarnation was the moment God, in Christ,
lived in Mary – in the potential mess, devastation and disaster. In these days when all is so
confusing, let’s make sure that Spirit of God lives in us and casts out fear – for that is what perfect
love does. And, as we find new ways of being church remember that, in the words of John
Wesley, “The best of all is God is with us”.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered Blessings give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of his word;
in God my saviour shall my heart rejoice.
Timothy Dudley Smith (b1926)


Ruth Parry