Where is there Hope in Lockdown?
Just like many other people listening to the Prime Minister’s announcement my initial reaction was one of despair. That’s a natural and human reaction, it’s all a bit much really. This was a bit humiliating as on Sunday I preached a sermon calling us to be ‘Heros of Hope’.
In times like these hope is hard to hear. As human beings, we respond to fear far faster than hope. This is useful in the savannas of Africa when you need to escape a lion. But, fear although useful is not a Christian response. On Sunday we had a reading from Jeremiah which contains an incredible promise of hope. Most of the prophets have these great songs of hope within them. The amazing thing is these songs are always given at times of incredible hardship and literal destruction. The reading on Sunday was written in response to the destruction of Israel by the Babylonians. Destruction not just of the nation, but almost the culture and people of Israel. Everything that made the Jewish people the Jewish people was almost gone. The Jewish people were literally scattered and alone. The song of Jeremiah says that God will gather them together again. I think that that same promise holds true today. We have been scattered by lockdown but we have the hope that God will gather us together again. God’s response to despair is always hope.
Unlike last March when we were thrown into lockdown with nothing in place. This time things are very different. The real hope here is we are given the opportunity to see how far we have come as a parish during the last year.
We have a weekly Livestream of the Sunday morning service and a recorded 630 praise each week.
We have morning prayer Live on Facebook each morning.
We have worked hard to make each of our Churches as covid secure as possible.
We have a pastoral telephone list enabling us to stay in contact with the parish.
We have written to those without the internet with prayer resources and given a CD version of the services too.
All these things did not happen overnight, they are the result of tiny improvements made day by day, week by week. If we look back at the first online service it was the wrong way round, with bad lighting, awful sound, and kept skipping back and forward. But, through the tiny gradual improvements, we have something far better today. The same is true for everything we have done together in lockdown.
The song of Jeremiah is a destination of hope to guide us forward. It is not magic that happens overnight. Covid is the same it is a darkness that can only be overcome gradually bit by bit. The greatest danger for us all is that we slip into despair, that we lose sight of the vision of hope. That vision is just like in the time of Jeremiah. God has promised to gather us together again. Like anything else this will not happen overnight, we must look day by day for small steps on the road of hope.
Mornings in January are dark cold and depressing, but each day it gets a little lighter. This morning I finished morning prayer at 8am and it was just getting light. Soon when I am halfway through at 7:45 it will be light and eventually, it will be light at the start. It will appear to have gotten light suddenly, but that’s not true. The light will come gradually minute by minute. Let’s try and look for those little bits of light each day and when that is hard, let's try and remember the hope spoken of in Jeremiah.
For thus says the Lord: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.’ See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labour, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with consolations* I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’ For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,
says the Lord.