Saturday 4th July 2020

 

Dear Gwen,

 

On a grey and seemingly cold Saturday afternoon, at least in comparison with some of the glorious weather we have been experiencing, my thoughts have turned to giant saffron buns and brass bands.  It could be that my blood sugar is getting low and it’s time to think of preparations for tea.  As for the brass bands, in my mind they seem to go hand in hand with saffron buns, Feast Days and Sunday School Treat outings, as I remember summers past.

 

A year or two back I chose as an evening hymn William Walsham How’s ‘Summer suns are glowing’.  It seemed like a good choice in the early part of that week, but by the time we met on Sunday evening in the Methodist chapel, the summer sun had disappeared and instead the rain and wind were lashing against roof and windows.  We are blessed with talented and dedicated organists on Truro Circuit, as elsewhere, yet when I think of this hymn I hear it sung to the tune ‘Ruth’ and the accompaniment of a brass or silver band.  You’ll know I’ve a vested interest in such musicianship, so perhaps this sways me. 

 

With all that’s been happening over the past weeks and months, and sometimes it’s hard to realise when God is near, one verse seems particularly relevant ‘Lord, upon our blindness thy pure radiance pour; for thy loving-kindness make us love thee more; and when clouds are drifting dark across our sky, then, the veil uplifting, Father, be thou nigh.’

 

Turning to your letter, and thanks again for all of them, responses to comments made by ‘ark’ or ‘Mark’ are all gladly received and indeed expected!  I must admit I’m finding it a struggle to keep up with all the guidelines and recommendations we need to follow.  I am just as concerned as the next person regarding the sense and safety of how we get businesses going again.  I suppose if the virus isn’t present it doesn’t matter, but personally I can’t see the value of a drink or meal being brought by a member of staff wearing a mask, when at the various socially-distanced tables customers sit with no masks.  On the other hand and equally puzzling, I saw on one TV news item a hairdressing salon opening up.  The customer, who apparently was to be in the salon for 3 hours (which for the likes of Harry Hill and myself would prove to be a rather excessive and needless length of time!) was wearing a mask.  However the hairdresser, with blow dryer engaged to maximum was wearing one of those full face visors, but no mask!

 

I take your point on criticisms to the response as Coronavirus reached our shores.  On the one hand this fact should have helped by providing a physical barrier of salt water all around us, however as a destination for work or pleasure the UK is regularly reached by travellers worldwide.  I’ve heard a little about the severity of the 1918 flu pandemic.  Apparently this virus is still present around the world, but has mutated over time and now only affects us as a minor cold.  I pray all those in authority can be given the wisdom of Solomon in order to make the correct decisions for us today.

 

I do not envy our politicians their responsibilities.  Though in mentioning linear thinking, and it has been picked up on, the Prime Minister whilst seated on his JCB, or similar, with hard hat on was heard forcefully saying ‘you know what they say, when you are in a hole, you’ve got to keep digging!” Of course, it could be that deeper holes are what are required and therefore no criticism will be levelled by me at Mr Johnson’s comment.  (And don’t say it’s hard to level a hole without filling it in!)

 

Actually I’ve got a vague recollection of seeing a programme about major construction, possibly in the USA, where JCB’s and other equipment used to excavate a building’s foundations were actually left in the holes where they stood and subsequently enfolded in the concrete structure.  It was apparently uneconomic to lift them out.  This causes me a tinge of sadness.  A bit like your comment on some people’s tendency to speak of the Coronavirus acting intentionally against us, rather than accepting that as a virus it is behaving like a virus.  The tinge of sadness for me, in thinking about buried JCB’s, probably comes from watching too many episodes of Bob the builder and his friend Scoop the digger with someone I love.  Anthropomorphism can be quite a debilitating condition too!

 

I wonder if you heard Sunday worship on Radio 4 last Sunday morning, as John Bell had selected a setting of Psalm 42 sung in Gaelic for the service.  The psalm always reminds me of a retired minister and his wife who recorded various hymns and songs.  We still have the cassette and yes, still the means to play it, being so up to date and with it!  Brian’s singing of the version of that psalm you mention always moves me.  I think this is because we know his deep faith and love for God and so the sung words mean more from this servant who loves his Saviour.

 

John Bell also made the observation that during lockdown one positive outcome has been the opportunity to have conversations in depth with our neighbours.  As he described it, to experience the ‘sheer delight of human company’.  I agree with you on the limitation of the written word compared to speaking face to face.  It is too easy to misconstrue an intention when a smile or a twinkle in an eye can make it clear what is meant.  As Paul wrote to the Corinthians ‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face’ seems to apply.

 

I would go farther than it being a simple invitation to love God and our neighbour.  Jesus had answered the question asked, namely which was the greatest commandment.  He then, not untypically for Him, gave a bonus answer too. In so doing He summed up the Ten Commandments.  I try to hold in mind the responsibility I have for my own words and deeds especially if these could potentially have a negative effect or cause others to stumble or sin.  Jesus makes it quite clear what He thinks of such people, yet there is some comfort that at the end of the day, or indeed on our final day, we will be assessed or judged on being ourselves.  So actually I think you’re starting at the right point.  There are a lot of people I can never be, but that’s alright because in the end I am only answerable for being me and how good (or bad) a job I’ve done at that!

 

In mentioning the blessings of deep conversation and delighting in another’s company, it brings me back to the perceptions we have of ourselves.  More importantly of what God’s view is of us as saints.  So yes, here we have the same root word meaning ‘holy one’ or ‘saint’, but through our relationship with God this takes the meaning of our life or our sainthood to a new level or, perhaps it could be said, back to a forgotten level.  Certain people are separated or elevated as being holy or saintly, and indeed for some bearing the title it can seem more than justified, yet this is not the saint I refer to. Within the love of God for us there is no elite group, rather in God’s sight we’re all His saints.  We are saints not on account of our achievements, but more significantly and more assuredly through God’s claim on our lives as His children and creation.  Equally it can’t be denied, returning to that more usual focus on sin, that everyone is in this camp too.  Yet God in grace and mercy has sorted this out once and for all, if we would only care to turn to Him and accept this gift of the love of God in Christ’s sacrifice.  After all, ‘God’s free mercy streameth over all the world’.  I am so glad of that!

 

With love in Christ,

Mark

Summer suns are glowing

over land and sea,

happy light is flowing,

bountiful and free;

Everything rejoices

in the mellow rays,

all earth's thousand voices

swell the psalm of praise.

 

God's free mercy streameth

over all the world,

and his banner gleameth

everywhere unfurled.

Broad and deep and glorious

as the heaven above,

shines in might victorious

his eternal love.

 

Lord, upon our blindness

thy pure radiance pour;

for thy loving-kindness

make us love thee more;

And when clouds are drifting

dark across our sky,

then, the veil uplifting,

Father, be thou nigh.

 

We will never doubt thee,

though thou veil thy light;

life is dark without thee,

death with thee is bright.

Light of light, shine o'er us

on our pilgrim way;

go thou still before us

to the endless day.

 

William Walsham How  (1823-1897)

Truro Methodist Circuit, Cornwall    |   01872 262907