Saturday 27 June 2020

 

Dear Gwen,

 

Well it would seem that more than me, myself and I are concerned about the shortening day length, with midsummer passing, and still wanting to make the most of every moment to go out to play after tea.  Sadly and very unfairly, whether that is to a beach, city centre protest, street party or football stadium of choice, it will be our doctors and nurses that have to face the consequences of our actions.

 

There appears to be a lot of concern being raised on the government guidelines for reducing restrictions, and whether we can return to pre-lockdown conditions.  As far as social distancing goes I think a lot of folks seem to have misread the units of measurement that the Prime Minister has stated.  It’s an easy enough mistake to make, in that rather than 1 m plus, it appears many are interpreting it to be 1 mm plus.  No harm in this surely, after all what’s an ‘m’ between friends or for that matter, a few decimal points?  I don’t expect the Coronavirus minds either way; though perhaps it would like us to give it a little bit more of a challenge in continuing its devastating journey.

 

I don’t think I’ve heard of the violinist Christian Li, but his response to being in lockdown giving him opportunity for more practice is in agreement with the comment Anne-Marie Minhall, of Classic FM, made about an interview she had with Sir James Galway and his thoughts on attaining the ability and excellence he has in playing the flute.  Like Christian, Sir James’ advice on increasing proficiency was practice, practice, practice, practice and then more practice.

 

Many years ago I remember Derick Bingham commenting on another interview Sir James Galway gave, I believe, after a serious accident.  Sir James was asked about the effect the accident had on his life.  With great humility he had said he almost welcomed the accident, for he was beginning to believe what the posters and the advertising were saying about him; his prowess, proficiency and perfection as the man with the golden flute.  I think it’s a case of whilst looking forward to the possible gift of tomorrow, it is advisable to appreciate the present moment.

 

‘They are like rabbits caught in the headlines’ holds a remarkable truth not just for the reporters.  As for meals and drinks in restaurants, cafés and the like, I believe you are being too linear in your thinking.  Dare I say you are looking with nostalgia back to those ‘old normal’ days of ingesting and imbibing? In those days we were told that we taste our food with our eyes and noses before we even eat or drink it.  Post-lockdown and in the ‘new normal’ with eyes open and masks on perhaps we will be expected to look, appreciate and smell the food and drink of our choosing and then simply ask for the plate or glass to be removed and the bill to be brought.  What could be better?  This also helps the concern of some who feel the need to counter the ‘fattening of the curves’ that the lockdown legacy has produced.

 

Putting all joking aside in writing this, I’m immediately thinking of the images I have seen this week coming out of Yemen and the appalling suffering and starvation of children.  Thinking of our recent letters and the parallels of us being a part of nature ‘red in tooth and claw’ is, I feel, an inaccurate one.  The domesticated cat has its behaviour skewed by this very fact.  It is domesticated and pampered and so its instincts to catch and kill have no physiological need to meet.  It is not likely to be hungry and so it can appear cruel in playing or rather tormenting bird or rodent until death brings release.  It doesn’t seem that we have even this excuse when we go to war, take up arms or inflict pain or worse on the person we’ve lost sight of as being our neighbour.  This is a world of such extremes, of happy hoorays and harrowing horrors; of wonderful actions and wicked acts; of goodness and good grief.  I know where I need or rather Who it is I need to look to for the answers.  I recall recent criticism being made of the Christian goals of loving God and loving neighbour, of being nice to each other.  In my naivety I believe it would be a really good start if we could do both these things.  Sadly in the church, as in all places, we don’t always get things right.  There is no surprise in this.  On account of our relationship with God, incredibly we are His holy ones, we are all saints. However as a work in progress, we often mess up and fail to be saintly in thought, word and deed. 

 

Those preliminary statements of ‘I’m not an expert in, but…’ or ‘I don’t want to make party political points over this, but…’ can be happily joined with that chilling phrase ‘I want you to know what I’m going to say to you is offered in Christian love…’ and in response you take a sharp intake of breath and think ‘brace yourself!’ You wrote ‘the tricky question is whether being apart may be better.’  Sometimes it feels like it is for all concerned.  I was given a book about the first bishop of Liverpool, The Rt Revd J C Ryle.  This was, of course, before we knew Liverpool Football Club would win the Premier League for the first time this year.  In contrast to Liverpool Football Club supporters’ song of ‘You’ll never walk alone’, the book had the title of ‘Prepared to stand alone’.  It proved to be the case in Bishop Ryle’s life that on certain things and issues he was prepared to do just that, even when it was not popular.  Whether he was right on all issues I haven’t read fully enough to know, but being prepared a stand alone brings to me the imagery of a rock in a river; of swimming against the tide; and very much of being a faithful remnant, which seems to fit in with the challenge that God’s love in Christ often brings.

 

There was much in Bishop Ryle’s thoughts and writings from the 19th century that seemed incredibly fresh and current.  I was listening during the week to two experts, of course relating to the Coronavirus pandemic, one in Cambridge and the other in Norway.  I can’t remember the context of their conversation, but a statement was made that ‘absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence’.  This struck a chord with me of how we seek to interpret and, potentially very dangerously, attempt to speak for God.  Scripture, for me, has to be the most important consideration, not simply as a reference point, but actually as a current help for today as it is the living word.  It is no small thing that Jesus is referred to as the Word of God.  It may be hard to comprehend but if we want to see God, then we need look no further than all we see of Jesus portrayed in Scripture.  There are many things we, no doubt, would have wanted God to give clearer guidance on.  However it may be that if such clear guidance had been provided to us then the real, true and only freedom that matters eternally would have been diminished.  God does not look for automatons or even willing servants, but rather God seeks a relationship with us as daughters and sons of the holy heavenly Father of all creation.  Bishop Ryle wrote that ‘Grace is the steadying truth for hard times’.  God has begun this work of grace in all our hearts and patiently waits for our response.  Truly we can take from God the blessing of hearing His voice say ‘what I say to you is offered in love, Christ’s love’.

 

With love in Christ,

Mark

Truro Methodist Circuit, Cornwall    |   01872 262907