Aldeburgh floods: what washout at the rectory has taught James Marston
PUBLISHED: 15:31 15 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:31 15 October 2019
James Marston came home to find the rectory flooded. Here, he reveals what it has taught him...
As all you regular readers will recall I was ordained in June. I am, alongside my newspaper work, working as a deacon in the parishes of Aldeburgh, Friston, Knodishall and Aldringham. It is semi-rural, like most of Suffolk and Norfolk.
In recent weeks a number of you, including my friend Liz Nice who asks a lot of questions about faith every time we meet, have enquired what things I talk about in sermons.
Tempted though I have been to suggest that I talk about much the same as any other preacher and why don't they go to church to find out, I have refrained. Perhaps, because this question about my sermons has appealed to my vanity. My sister calls it my "big head". Well, we all have our faults.
Nonetheless, though I don't always talk about religious stuff in my James Knows Best column and though I am far more a man of the written rather than the spoken word, I thought, with your indulgence, I'd do so this week with an abridged sermon I delivered on Sunday.
The theme of the morning's service was gratitude and thankfulness - of which there seems to be little in the world these days. So try to imagine yourself in a pew with me in the pulpit, and let's hope the church you've pictured yourself in isn't too cold….
"When I got home last Sunday in the heavy rain I found the rectory in Friston surrounded by several tonnes of mud, the shingle from the driveway washed away and inside a flooded kitchen floor and a flooded sitting room.
"I am currently decamped into a holiday let in Aldeburgh while the dehumidifiers are running and the clean-up operation begins. And just in case you were thinking about it, someone has already wondered aloud if I might consider building an Ark like Noah.
"I don't want to catastrophize because, of course, it could have been so much worse. Unlike Japan, which is experiencing the devastating effects of a powerful typhoon, I haven't lost much property and no one has died. Indeed my first reaction among the shock was relief, perhaps selfishly, that my sofas weren't damaged and that the heating still worked.
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"I didn't, to my shame, immediately thank God for the fact the flood wasn't as bad as it could have been. But I know I should have done.
"Today's bible reading, is a familiar theme. Jesus is caring for, healing, and searching out the marginalised and those at the edge of society - in this case lepers and foreigners - and it is the foreigner, who turns back, praised God and then lies at Jesus' feet offering thanks.
"Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus] feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan."
"Jesus responds by not only wondering where the others are whom he healed and suggests an appropriate response to His care is to praise, worship and express gratitude. I can't help thinking that, as we go through our journeys of faith, thanking God is something that not only deepens out faith but enables us to love our neighbour. It is the love of God and neighbour - Jesus 'greatest commandment to those who follow Him - that springs from gratitude and this gratitude is perhaps the very essence of faith.
"Counting our blessings, however small, and thanking God for them, is what we must do yet so often forget.
"Yesterday afternoon, as the house was drying out, I found on the internet some ideas about thanking God that we all might like to think about and I thought I might share with you today.
"They are; to thank God continuously throughout your day. ... to offer a special prayer of thanks after major blessings. ... to say a quick prayer after small blessings, as well. ...and to give thanks for God's love even when you can't find another blessing.
"I think it's good advice as no matter what our circumstances, we can find a reason to be thankful and a reason to praise God. Jesus throughout the New Testament notices and acts with care towards the marginalized and hidden and, as we follow Him, he calls us to do the same.
"But I wonder if we might too consider the hidden margins within ourselves, the things we don't like about ourselves, the things we would rather others did not notice or know about. We might not like to think about ourselves in this way but I'm afraid we all have these hidden parts of ourselves, even, I have to admit, the clergy.
"Yet as we remember to remember Jesus Christ and to give thanks regularly and often, we can also perhaps reflect on the knowledge that Jesus knows us intimately, and loves us nonetheless.
"He, Jesus, meets us in our own hidden margins, and it is I suspect, by meeting him there that he transforms us with His love in the most powerful of ways. Amen"