Saturday 20 June 2020
It’s lovely to receive another letter from you as we rapidly approach midsummer 2020. Before we know it the nights will be drawing in and we’ll no longer be able to go outside to play after tea.
You’ll think all that I do is look out the window and watch the world go by, but as you mentioned your poor old blackbird, today there’s a rather dishevelled looking male blackbird hobbling across the grass in search of insects. The beak is still bright yellow, but the plumage is rough and more grey-brown than black. He’s dragging his right leg behind him. It would be nice to think it is just a cramp after sitting too long on the nest, but I imagine he’s picked up an injury, may be from a bite or a scratch from an outstretched claw.
I forgot to say about the lily, but a bit like the amaryllis, it was spectacular for a few days, but couldn’t maintain such magnificence for very long, even before the winds and downpours of this week. I’m sure there is a parallel (or parable) to be drawn here, but I’ll let you fill in the gaps.
As you would know, you’re preaching to the converted regarding the splendour of the magpie in sunshine. With my love of black and white spangled poultry breeds in particular, the sheen of feathers is always a delight to see. You mentioned the murmuration of starlings; well that is also another underrated bird of brilliant beauty, amid spots of white and a spectrum of dazzling blacks, purples, blues and greens.
I can relate to your feelings and thoughts being in a tangle. I think for me it is the combination of all these things that is potentially overwhelming. Experiencing the Coronavirus pandemic is one thing unique for most of us, but on top of this we are challenged with what we see around the world and around the corner, as people respond to injustice and violence. We journey through refugee week and the statistics of 1% of the world population, 8 million people, displaced, is beyond my comprehension. In consulting Wikipedia, that’s roughly equivalent to every person living in the region of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Hampshire and all the way to Land’s End having to flee from their homes and communities.
The use of Jesus’ words in the hymn you mention certainly speak to me in trying to cope with and makes sense of it all. Like so much that Jesus says, it may seem contrary to our desire for self-determination, liberty and what we consider to be our individual rights, but when Jesus speaks of taking His yoke and bearing His burden, strangely this offers freedom and fulfilment, not thraldom or servitude: ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’
Finding such a rest for body, mind and soul goes farther than the rest essential sleep offers. It is the peace that comes from faith in God and it holds out the promise of calm contentment. The calm contentment that some seem so blessed in exhibiting and sharing with those of us who, like frantic flies, appear unable to settle or rest at all.
The comments you make on good and bad and the writings of Giles Fraser, who I have not read or heard, together with the balance between heat and light that results from disagreement, gave me the picture of the snow globe – more of the shaken rather than stirred variety perhaps! We all know the effect the snow globe is trying to produce; snowfall amid winter scenes and Christmas stories. I wonder though, what is the optimum state? Is it calm, settled, undisturbed; or is it a blizzard, or at least a flurry of activity, of swirling views and opinions. In my, thankfully, limited experience of driving through heavy snow, the swirling snowflakes reduces visibility in the extreme and full headlights appear to make matters even worse.
Of late, there has been much debate over differing opinions and views within the Methodist Church. The question asked is; how can we live with contradictory convictions? My fear is that whilst yes we can and do, there is a danger of ‘the other’ opinion being appreciated or possibly tolerated, but only ‘until you come to your senses’. Perhaps we just need to dip our headlights and reduce our speed and wait for the snow or dust to settle in order to see, hear or feel the calm invitation of Jesus to come apart and rest, rather than just coming apart.
It’s an interesting dynamic, no doubt accentuated by our own experiences and perceptions, as to how we view the eddying mass of people gathering for protest, public performance, worship, music and even the beautiful game. (I don’t mean Tiddlywinks, which of course has its own skill and grace too!) There does appear to be in a strange dichotomy, albeit scientifically reasoned, that we can crush together to buy a new pair of trainers or piece of tech, and yet not meet together to share bread broken and wine poured out in remembrance of God’s sacrifice and love, nor lift our voices together in singing praise.
Do you ever hear people say this line ‘whilst I’m not an expert in…’ and they go on to give their opinion. Well, here’s one from me. Whilst I’m not an expert in epidemiology, I do have a concern that whatever the reason, value or justification may be for gathering together, there is that ‘brilliant germ’ as referred to by a certain world leader, which takes no heed of whether we demand freedom or free offers and that is the Covid-19 virus. I pray that our actions will not cause a further devastating and deadly rise in infections during the coming weeks.
The garden analogies spring up aplenty. I’m not sure of all the plants you mentioned, though I do know the birds-foot trefoil. Whilst I appreciate the look they are now going for, sadly as you know I can only look back in fondness to a tousled, no haircut appearance! As the late and great Revd Colvin would have said to his and now to my comfort ‘God made some people’s heads perfect, to others He gave hair’.
As for reopening our churches, the views are mixed, and whilst appreciating the range, there is a need for us to take care and to act responsibly. The guidance from government and church, as you’d imagine, is detailed and as abundant as a queue outside a JB Sports shop. Yet, as we struggle to navigate the way forward, we are told we can enter a place of worship for individual prayer but we should stay alert (attentive and vigilant) at all times. As you quoted, I think I could get busted, as when I pray I’m clearly not doing it right!
With love in Christ,