Friday 17 April 2020
It was lovely to hear from you last week. I’m not sure if you ever experience this, but I am having one of those attacks of nostalgia. It’s not overly painful and I am sure it will pass. I was just thinking of the wonders and variety in the technology we have to help us communicate with one another. Skype, Webex and Zoom have come into their own in recent weeks. Emails, mobile phones and the telephone are brilliant. I was thinking back to my time at university and college, when I had a manual typewriter. For my dissertation Mrs Drew, with her professional skills, typed it all up for me. My friend Jim, who was at the forefront of things, had an electronic typewriter/word processor. How incredible it seemed to see the electronic words displayed on a single line screen and then watch them appear on the printed page. Whatever will they think of next! Maybe this was the beginning of the end for Tipp-Ex or at least a major threat? It must surely have been the end for manual typewriters.
Here I am writing to you as usual with my fountain pen! Perhaps I should substitute my name with Methuselah, but I always find it rather therapeutic to write with a fountain or an ink pen. I still remember my first form tutor and English teacher at the ‘big school’ encouraging me, well probably telling me, to put the biro away and use the fountain pen to improve my writing. I’m not sure how successful this has proved to be over the years. As you know, my scribblings sometimes appear as if a spider had fallen into my Quink ink bottle only to wander across the white paper with no particular sense of direction. I do like my fountain pen though, especially when I happen to have a nice quality of paper and the pen glides smoothly to reveal my hieroglyphics. I suppose young people would have to google to find out what I mean by all this talk of fountain pens.
Right, I think that’s the wave of nostalgia past for now. It may have been triggered by reading your comments on the many ways we have of communicating and getting information, whilst acknowledging that the media can be a source of some of the fears we feel. The media must have an effect as every time you turn on the news, read a paper, check your news app of choice, the grim statistics reported can be numbing as we try to take them in. Equally it is heart breaking when we see a blurred image of someone in their last moments being read a family letter by a nurse or carer; or we are introduced to a parent, a child, a family member or friend sharing the grief of the agony of loss they are going through. It all produces a roller coaster of emotions. Yet over this past week so many of us have had our spirits lifted and been amazed by the efforts of a 99 year old former army captain, Mr Tom Moore, and the worldwide response to what he has done. The amount so generously given to NHS charities is incredible. I trust his 100th birthday celebration will be memorable. It is so good, and indeed necessary, to focus on people like Captain Moore, instead of those elements of humanity seeking to exploit, hurt and simply rob the vulnerable.
I managed to see and hear the Easter messages of Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin. It was comforting to hear from these church leaders that all will be well; that in Jesus we have the answer to our deepest fears; in spite of the solitude many are experiencing the Lord has not left us alone, so we need not be afraid. The Pope spoke of recognizing we are part of a single family; and the Archbishop of Canterbury looked to the resurrection of our common life. I expect you have heard Captain Moore’s hoped-filled phrase of encouragement: ‘Tomorrow will be a good day.’
I really liked your thinking on moths being attracted to night-flowering plants and light, providing again that picture of Jesus being the Light of the world. I know I can share this with you, but I too had to check my spelling of pittosporum. I think I naturally had a tendency to be going along the lines of ‘pitta bread’, but it may be how I pronounce pittosporum that was leading me astray! According to Burncoose, one of the local plant nurseries, pittosporum is commonly known as ‘Parchment Bark’ which brings me right back to my thoughts on writing with a fountain pen!
Thank you for reminding me that Romans 8:38-39 is a very significant text of Scripture for you. ‘For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Those two verses and indeed that entire passage from Romans 8:18-39 have been in my mind a lot recently. Elizabeth, a wonderful Christian and friend of ours in Northern Ireland, gave us a book to read through Lent. It was written by Chris Wright and combines his writings and reflections with those of the late John Stott. The book’s title is ‘The Radical Reconciler’ with a secondary title of ‘Lent in all the Scriptures’. The Good Friday reading was based around these verses from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. Chris Wright said, ‘Good Friday is exodus-shaped and creation-wide.’ The work of Jesus on the cross frees, redeems and saves not just humanity, but all creation, as Jesus cried out ‘It is finished!’ In the sacrifice of the cross Jesus releases us from our sins and restores our relationships with God, one another and creation itself.
I’ve also been reading these wonderful verses this week to share with a grieving family at the funeral service of their loved one and I’ve read them to someone who called me, not from a place of grief, but equally a place of trouble and concern. I don’t expect Paul was looking ahead to the days of Coronavirus, of Covid-19, but his words in verse 18 speak powerfully and encouragingly to the situation we are facing: ‘For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.’ This isn’t a case of ‘pie in the sky when you die’. This speaks into all human need and it lifts us up so we can get a glimpse of God’s perspective and glory. We can certainly hold on to Captain Moore’s positivity that ‘tomorrow will be a good day’. Yet, equally in the difficulties of today, in the here and now, I take comfort in Jesus’ repeated words to His terrified disciples: ‘Peace be with you’.
So Gwen, may the peace of the Lord Jesus be with you and all whom you love.