A Reflection by one of our Church Members
The End is Nigh?
We now have ‘a roadmap for lifting lockdown’; a set of dates – ‘not before thans’ – when we might be able to start up again, to engage with those things we have been prevented from doing. I expect all over the country people have been scouring the internet and other sources for information. When can I see my family? When can I meet my friends? When can I reopen my business? Is it OK now to book a holiday? Will this or that event be possible? In our household the first reaction was a frantic series of questions around the possibility of our son’s wedding going ahead in early April (the fourth date we have now pencilled in the diary!). Whatsapp messages pinging between upstairs and downstairs. Emails back and forth to the wedding car service. It looks like a tentative yes! We hold our breath…
I wonder what your feelings have been in this last week around the possibilities of restrictions easing? What difference will it make to your life? What is it that you are so much looking forward to? I guess the answers will vary and there will be common themes. Meeting friends, hugging loved ones, having a coffee with others, enjoying a meal out…..Or there might be anxiety around for you about leaving the security of home; lockdown has become familiar, safe. I know several people who do not relish the thought of it ending; my own feelings are mixed.
We know we are not through the woods yet, nor likely to be for a while. We know that caution is needed and life will probably be different for some time to come and having a mask in the pocket and hand sanitiser in the bag will probably become the norm. But there is a sense of anticipation, a readiness for that huge community sigh of relief:
It was dreadful. Thank God it’s over!
But wait...Before we rush headlong into ‘getting back to normal’, might we pause? The season of Lent is a natural time to step back… reflect… review… repent. There have been voices calling out over the last year encouraging, pleading even that we don’t just return to ‘business as usual’, not least of course the voices speaking for environmental concerns and our responsibilities as guardians of this world. We cannot forget the clear skies, the joy of having time to watch and appreciate nature last Spring, the hope even that we could live in a world with different priorities.
The past year has been strange, to put it mildly. For many it has been horrendous. There has been suffering and loss, grieving and anger, an undisputed rise in domestic violence, poverty, hunger, loss of work, loss of dignity, stress and anxiety.
Where has God been? Has God been on holiday while the rest of us were stuck at home?
There are many who do not believe in any God near, far or anywhere, but they do have a strong sense of common humanity and compassion; they recognise love.
There are others who rail with anger at God for allowing pain and suffering. Like myself, you may well have had conversations with those who feel that God has let them down badly, has abandoned them. I can understand the pain and anger that people may feel when the God they have trusted has turned out to be a disappointment. My deep sadness is that there are parts of the Christian church which encourages a view of God who blesses good people and punishes those who are bad; a God who offers a kind of insurance against life’s difficulties. Not a God I recognise nor want anything to do with.
Has God been closely with us in the past year? In the sacrificial care of those who have worked for our protection and health; worked to keep us supplied with food and necessities, emptied our bins, delivered our essentials. In the contacts we have had though phone, zoom, letters, visits on the doorstep. In the new awareness of our closest neighbours and our ‘looking out’ for each other. We have learned to value what is precious and what matters most.
In the early years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the early followers truly believed that the end was indeed nigh, that Jesus would return in glory and the world as they knew it would end very soon. How did they find a way to be community?
“They met constantly to hear the apostles teach and to share the common life, to break bread and to pray……they began to sell their property and possessions and distribute to everyone according to his need….they kept their daily attendance at the temple and breaking bread in their homes, they shared their meals with unaffected joy as they praised God….” (Acts 2:42-47)
We may not be called to replicate the pattern of the early followers. We are called and challenged to question: What does it mean for us to be church, to be God’s people, in 2021?