What came to mind when you first heard the Prime Minister’s new slogan: “Stay alert“?
- Listening out for a baby crying?
- Watching your child or grandchild climbing a tree?
- A lifeguard or a coastguard keeping watch?
- A meerkat on lookout duty whilst the rest of the group feed?
Or maybe another animal, like this hare, my grandsons spotted sunbathing on the lawn in their garden, in Kenya. It was apparently relaxing but ever watchful, and immediately on guard, watching and listening and ready for action when they came too close.
Staying alert, reminded me of the words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, to his disciples who were unable to stay awake, whilst he prayed in agony: ‘Could you not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’
Thinking again about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, has reminded me of the festivals we haven’t been able to celebrate together this year. I had hoped we might be able to worship together for Ascension Day, but this will be celebrated on Thursday. Perhaps we can each climb a tor independently (either physically or in our imaginations) to remember the moment Jesus ascended back to his Father, to be enthroned in heaven.
As the disciples stared up to heaven, we read, in Acts chapter 1, that two men stood beside them in white robes and told them, ‘This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’
Jesus had already talked to his disciples about the time in the future when he will return, but he tells them that no-one, not the angels in heaven or the Son of Man (Jesus himself) no-one, except the Father knows when this will happen. He tells the disciples a parable about the need to be alert!
33 So watch out and be ready! You don’t know when the time will come. 34 It is like what happens when a man goes away for a while and places his servants in charge of everything. He tells each of them what to do, and he orders the guard to keep alert. 35 So be alert! You don’t know when the master of the house will come back. It could be in the evening or at midnight or before dawn or in the morning. 36 But if he comes suddenly, don’t let him find you asleep. 37 I tell everyone just what I have told you. Be alert!
And there is no better way to be alert in this difficult time than to watch and pray, especially when you are out exercising, working or shopping. As St Paul says, ‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances’. (1 Thes 5:16-18)
So watch and pray, pray for: each other, our communities, the NHS, our care homes and all carers, all those who are working hard to meet our needs, and teachers and school children homing schooling at present and preparing to return to the classroom.
To help you reflect and pray, you might like to listen to the Taize chant:
Stay with me, Remain here with me,
Watch and Pray!
Here is the YouTube web address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCr2tn4yYKY
–Hazel Butland, Lay Reader, St Peter’s Church, Peter Tavy