Wednesday 9 September 2020
‘Yearning for freedom!’
One of the curious historical characters connected with the Reformation was a man called John Field. Born in London in 1545, he attended Christ Church, Oxford and was ordained in at the young age of 21. (In those days, 24 was usual age for ordination.) He began his ministry as a lecturer, curate and school master. In 1572 he petitioned the English Parliament and pleaded for the reform of the church, who ministers were “unsavoury salt, blind guides, sleepy watchmen”, and whose rituals were similarly empty of godliness. “They toss the Psalms in most places like tennis balls,” he complained. Like many Christians with a deep faith, he yearned for a pure church, free from the pollution of the world.
As an Ordained Minister of the Church of England, his zeal for what he believed was a true reformed church led him into continual conflict. He was so outspoken in his criticism, he was barred from preaching from 1571 to 1579, and occasionally imprisoned. With strong leanings toward the Puritans, he argued for a decreased in formal ritual and liturgy and a greater emphasis on preaching. It is also suggested that he set up for the first Presbyterian Church in England at Wandsworth in Surry in 1572.
One historian also notes that despite John Field spend much of his life denouncing Bishops and the decadence of the theatre, one of his sons Theophilus Field (1574-1636), became Bishop of Llandaf, and later Bishop of Hereford; and his youngest son, Nathan Field (1587-1619/20), was one of the most accomplished playwrights and actors of his day!
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
1 Corinthians 6:12
'I have the right to do anything,' you say—but not everything is beneficial. 'I have the right to do anything'—but I will not be mastered by anything.
Throughout his life John Field would never let go of his vision of purity for the church. It is a yearning that has continued in the hearts of God’s people in almost every generation. For many, this yearning is expressed not by working through their current congregation, but breaking away and joining or setting up independent or non-conformist fellowship. In Field’s day this was expressed through the Puritan movement. And this had unexpected consequences. The yearning for spiritual purity – radical change within the mainstream or established church – led indirectly to a yearning for freedom.
As many of the Puritan’s were to discover the established churches were not open to their version of spiritual purity. This inability to bring change, along with the experience of rejection and persecution, led to a desire for freedom which would ultimately be expressed by those who fled to America in the Mayflower.
The Pilgrim Fathers who set sail for America in 1620, were of course also escaping poverty and not just religious persecution, but in so doing they, along with historical figures such as John Field, they planted the seeds for what we would now understand as a fundamental human right for liberty and religious freedom.
Points for reflection
Personal liberty and freedom are an essential part of our faith. Jesus has set us free from the obligations and constraints of the Old Testament Law. We are set free from human expectations, rules and obligations. We are set free from sin and death. But with spiritual freedom comes obligations. As sojourners on earth and citizens of the heaven, may we use our freedom creatively and for the benefit and blessing of the people around us.
Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church
thank You for Your New Covenant
in which Your law of love
is written on human hearts
so that all will know You
from the very least to the very greatest.
Thank You for Jesus,
Your seal of the Covenant:
our Teacher, our Companion,
our Saviour and our Bridge to Heaven.
Thank You for the Spirit,
Your channel of the Covenant:
Our Comforter, our Guide,
our Disturber and Your Power within us.
A new Covenant? A new normal?
Is it happening, now Lord God?
Is this it?
Surely only instinctive Love can have prompted
this communal outpouring of kindness and caring,
this new-found self-sacrifice and self-discipline,
these acts of courage and compassion,
by individuals and families,
by keyworkers and those in lockdown?
We praise You for this new awareness
of who is our neighbour
who are our everyday heroes,
and who in our society
still suffers inequality or injustice.
We thank You for the language of lament
for there have been many heart-breaking losses.
But although in these times,
we cannot give a loved one
the send-off we might want to,
their journey into Your heart O God
A new Covenant? A new normal?
Lord, empower us
to create the new normal
that lives out the truth
of the new Covenant.
Enable us to build relationships
and communities –
locally, nationally and internationally
with Your Law at the heart of them.
Let us make Your name,
spoken and unspoken,
a verb, a ‘doing-Word’.
Love in action.
Let us be Christ to one another,
ready to share our loaves and fish
or waiting, with towel and water,
to kneel at the feet
of friend or stranger.
A new normal?
Let this not be a cliché
but a Kairos!
(Prayer for September from Life & Work.)
To God the Father, who loved us,
and made us accepted in the Beloved:
to God the Son who loved us,
and loosed us from our sins by his own blood:
to God the Holy Spirit,
who spreads the love of God abroad in our hearts:
to the one true God be all love and all glory
for time and for eternity.