Prayer for Liverpool
As life begins to move on slowly to whatever the ‘new normal’ will be as the lockdown restrictions are lifting, I note that we are all being encouraged to walk and cycle, rather than use public transport or drive. I am all for us taking to our bikes, if we have one and are able to ride it. Always with the caveat that we should cycle responsibly, of course. Cycling is carbon-free, good for our fitness and reduces the number of vehicles on the road. I can honestly say that I did put my money where my mouth is in my previous job, since I almost always cycled from my house to the office – only about 4 miles round trip – each day.
However, a plea, if I may. As we are encouraged to dig out our old bicycles, can we at least give them a bit of TLC by oiling the chain? I often witness some poor bicycle suffering from ‘rusty-chainitis’! And my heart goes out to it! A precision-engineered chain which left the factory in gleaming condition is now grinding around dry sprockets and chain-wheels which probably haven’t seen a drop of oil since the bike left the shop. It’s just crying out for some 3-in-1!
As well as seeing the bike in this condition, you can usually hear it too! Does the rider not realise that he or she is using up valuable energy working against the increased friction? Or am I too squeamish (perhaps from my engineering days) about a poor helpless mechanism in distress?! Mind you, it has to be said that, when I was a young undergraduate studying Mechanical Engineering at Leeds, one of the technicians used to park his large Ducati motorcycle out the back, and its chain was covered in rust. Some advert for an engineer! But apply some oil to a bicycle chain and it’s amazing to see the transformation that results; suddenly it starts running smoothly and quietly. Sweet music to an engineer!
So what has prompted my wittering on about showing love and care for bike chains? Just stay with me on this, if you will. We are in the period between Ascension Day (yesterday) and Pentecost (in nine days time) when we are reminded that Jesus instructed his first disciples to wait and watch for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Canon Leslie helped us think about Jesus’ promise to send the Spirit in his blog last Sunday. In the verse before we read of the Ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:5), he is quoted as saying “…you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” There will be more about the work of the Holy Spirit in our reflections next week but Canon Mike pointed us to the diverse working of the Spirit in his recent blog – with reference to Winnie-the-Pooh!
In the Bible, there are a number of symbols used to describe the Holy Spirit. Famously, these include fire and wind – as on the Day of Pentecost. But oil is also a symbol of the Spirit, although I should add that I don’t think that the writers of the Bible had in mind Castrol GTX or 3-in-1 bearing and chain oil. Oil is used for anointing kings and priests, and for healing too. And the Holy Spirit of God is given, in one sense, to ‘oil the wheels’ of the Christian and help us to live for Jesus more effectively. It is the Spirit who gives us that desire to be more like Jesus and to grow in our awareness of the things that are holding us back in our Christian journey. It is the Holy Spirit who matures in us, growing spiritual fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control – and bestowing diverse spiritual gifts to help us build up God’s church in service, proclamation and outreach.
Yet, too many Christians live without a real knowledge of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. We peddle on without oiling our chains and wondering why things are even more difficult than they need be. And it can affect whole churches too. I think how many times churches are beset by deep divisions – often going back years – because of the way we rub up against each other unhelpfully. Some level of difference of opinion is inevitable in churches, but the Spirit can help us be more effective in how we deal with it and learn from it. The Holy Spirit helps us to see one another as Jesus does – fallible but still precious to God, prone to make mistakes and yet capable of being forgiven and forgiving.
So as we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus into the heavens as our King and await the coming of his Holy Spirit afresh upon us, let us bring ourselves once more to God’s spiritual bicycle workshop and allow our chains to be oiled!
While you're here:
Why not prepare for next Sunday's worship? Our preparation sheet for adults and for children can be accessed by clicking on the Resources tab of this website: https://www.prayerforliverpool.org/prayer-resources.html.
Prayer for Liverpool
brought to you from Liverpool Cathedral
St James Mount
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