Friday 1 May 2020
There’s been a change this week, with fresh winds and welcome rain. I guess this wouldn’t have suited everyone, but the fields, gardens and hedgerows will be grateful. Mind you, as I write the sun is again shining and nearby electric lawnmowers are busy.
I know this will vary from place to place, but I wonder if this is a late or at least a bit of a confused spring. Looking around where we are, the trees seem to be taking a while to come into leaf. The other day I heard on the radio Barry Douglas playing on the piano ‘The last rose of summer’. It doesn’t seem to apply here as a rose in our garden had flowers in January and now again as May begins! You mention the Hawthorn, but this is another name for May isn’t it?
A week or so ago when I was sitting outside in the sun, I was amazed to see the aerial display, not from the seagulls thankfully, but the hoverflies. I can easily mistake them for honey bees and wasps when they are landed on a flower, but not when they take to the air. Honey bees and bumble bees with bulging pollen sacs seem to fly to defy gravity. Whereas the incredibly mobile hoverflies appear entirely free of any such restrictions and manoeuvre effortlessly. But in the rain of this week a somewhat slower member of the garden society has caught my attention. To the extent that my eyes haven’t been looking upwards at moon or planets, but downwards to avoid hearing the scrunch of shell under foot amid a profusion of snails. I’ve got some vague recollection on how to estimate snail populations by a capture, mark and release method. I think it involved a spot of Tipp-Ex (again) placed on a shell, though you would think this would literally make the snail an easy target for thrush or blackbird. I can’t remember all the details, but unscientifically there sure appears to be plenty of snails about at the moment – hostas and lettuces beware!
I’ve heard several reports on the numbers of birds people are seeing and in particular are hearing. It’s been said in part that this is due to a reduction in other sounds, particularly vehicles. Possibly the opportunity to look around us as we eagerly take the daily excursions along our allotted paths of choice under these days of social distancing help us to take in what we may have taken for granted before. I wonder if we will still notice and appreciate all these things when the Covid-19 pandemic will have passed, as we pray it does. All that has happened and is happening must surely make a difference to how we will live our lives in the future. All of the clapping, saucepan cymbals, samba bands, car horns and even orchestras of Thursday evenings at 8.00 pm; all of the acts of kindness and thoughtfulness; all of the sacrificial giving and generosity. With all of this what will be the lockdown legacy for ourselves, our families and friends, our communities and churches, our culture and country? How will this all shape our behaviour and priorities towards our neighbour around the corner and across the globe?
It is all so strange at the moment, for when I’ve been out and met someone walking; I’ve intentionally kept my distance, stepping into the road to allow for the two metre plus gap to be maintained. Or in my official role, actually not shaking hands, let alone hugging someone in their grief and loss. It is contrary to how we would normally act and yet in doing so we are protecting one another.
I’ve been thinking back to a song from my primary school days. And yes I know you’ll be thinking what a good memory – touché, after my comments of last week. The song has actually made it into the relatively new Methodist hymn book, Singing the Faith. The words and music are by Pamela Verrall and the opening line is: ‘Would you walk by on the other side when someone called for aid?’ It makes me think of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. The neighbour to the man attacked by robbers was the one who crossed over to help, not the religious professionals who passed by on the other side. Yet for now we have to deliberately keep our distance and cross over the road in order to help one another! It just goes against the grain of how we would want to act. I’ve even thought of an additional verse, if you know the tune:
Would you walk by on the other side,
to be self-isolated?
Would you walk by on the other side,
Yet the chorus speaks into every situation we may face:
Cross over the road, my friend,
ask the Lord his strength to lend,
his compassion has no end,
cross over the road.
Just for now, in the main, we cross over the road to protect one another through keeping our distance. How wonderful it will be when we can cross over the road to greet one another in friendship, neighbourliness and love.
I want to end with a word or two from your last letter. I expect my attempts, even in so many words, may not have been as effective as I intended. I think we can get into difficulties when we use any word or words to attempt to describe God. All too often it is a label we may more usually associate to a human being in a position of authority be it Sovereign, Lord, Master. Whilst there are notable exceptions all too often power corrupts and as humans we fail in the extreme. Would that we could as you mention ‘fail better’. I do not have the comprehension, but I do have the confidence in our all-powerful God.
As Pamela Verrall wrote ‘His compassion has no end’ or as we read in Isaiah 54:8, “‘but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you’ says the Lord, your Redeemer.”
Thanks again for your letter and for all the nudges by pen, hand or elbow!
With love in Christ,