Maundy Thursday 9 April 2020

Dear Gwen,

Greetings from Truro.  It was lovely to speak with you on Palm Sunday.  Thanks too for the email.


It’s mid-afternoon on Maundy Thursday, as I write, and the bin lorry has just gone by.  Refuse and recycling sorted for another week or fortnight.  Someone is bringing in their wheelie bin and the sound reminds me a little of a Lambeg drum, though not as tuneful.  Well, I suppose it depends what you think of the playing of Lambeg drums or wheelie bin percussion for that matter.  I remember a few years ago we would have followed the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition quite avidly – the Young Jazz Musician too.  In this particular year there was a young man who had brilliantly incorporated wheelbarrows, dustbins and all manner of things to create a symphony of sound.  No doubt this is the wrong term, as I don’t know if you can play a symphony when you are a solo musician; or maybe it’s just not possible on a solo instrument?


How are you doing in these days of isolation and lockdown?  We all find ourselves in unfamiliar territory.  We may be a soloist in the performance of each day of our lives.   It may have been this way for many years.  We may be part of a duet or a select ensemble rehearsing the daily chores and activities; with home working and home schooling; with daily exercise alone, together or with four-footed friends.


Did you see the feature on one of the news programmes recently of how a family was coping in lockdown?  I think it was in Italy or Spain – a mum and dad and little girl in a small apartment.  They seemed to be coping well, even though the parents were beginning to struggle with watching Mary Poppins every single day.  This was no criticism of Mary Poppins, or at least I didn’t take it as such.  More so it was the repetitive demands of seeing the same film; of doing the same things; within the same walls called home.


Yet isn’t it horrific that for some, the demand of lockdown with loved ones is anything but a time of togetherness and comforting support.  Some folks are now at greater risk of hurt and harm in their own “home sweet home”.  Why is it we can behave so appallingly towards each other and yet, as ever, at the same time we have the men and women of our health and social services, our bus drivers and so many others, prepared to stay at their job, task, or calling at incredible cost to their own health and even their very lives!


I think this is the one aspect of the Coronavirus outbreak I wasn’t expecting.  We have been told which age groups or medical conditions may make us more susceptible to this disease.  It wouldn’t be surprising then to find doctors and nurses contracting this infection as they care for us in our need.  But that this disease challenge would cost them their lives!  How important it is to protect each other by keeping apart.


I hear children’s voices outside now.  Our local school is still being used to help some key workers.  I wonder what the children will think in looking back on these days.  Perhaps it will give a greater appreciation of the daily routine and structure of school with teachers and friends.  Just like the man who was featured leaving hospital, having recovered from Covid-19, and delighting in every aspect of life from flowers and birdsong to the simple pleasures of marmalade on toast.


There is a lot of truth in the saying that we don’t appreciate what we have until it is gone or taken away.  I guess Mary Magdalene might have been painfully feeling something akin to this in the early hours of Easter Sunday, as she stood crying outside the tomb where Jesus had been laid on Good Friday.  I was saying about the bin lorry’s round (and I’m certain there is a more correct term for such a vital and easily taken for granted service).  Not sure what you have, but last thing last night as I set out the bin and recycling bags and boxes, apart from appreciating the incredible full moon this week, I was met at the kerb by the perfume of the pittosporum in our front garden.  How is it that these hardly visible tiny purple flowers with their yellow centres can fill the evening air with such a beautiful scent?  I’m sure there is a message somewhere here.  Indoors our amaryllis bulb has just come into flower (I know it may not actually be an amaryllis, but you’ll know the type of plant I mean).  From an apparently dormant bulb three months ago to a metre high flower spike bearing flowers as big as a hand span.  It’s all very striking and impressive, but only to the eyes.  230 mm blooms versus 5 mm!  It’s all for show.  This one has no scent at all.


But as I stood in the darkness with my recycling, smelling the intoxicating pittosporum perfume, I wondered if Mary breathed in the overpowering scent of all the myrrh, aloes and spices that Nicodemus and Joseph had lavishly used in preparing Jesus’ body for burial in the tomb, as she stood in the darkness of that early Easter morning.  Her senses and emotions must have been in overload.  The scent from the tomb; the sight of the angels; the power of the presence of the risen Christ; the sound of her name being spoken; the desire to touch and hold onto fiercely the One she thought she had lost.  In drinking in the wonder of those moments, even through the isolation of grief, pain and loss and the good news she was sent to share of having seen the Lord.


I don’t know what you think, but in these Coronavirus days there is genuine fear.  Fear of being alone; fear of being ill; fear of being imprisoned with a foe who should be your dearest friend; fear of unemployment; fear of having to go to work; fear of an extreme situation we could not have anticipated or planned for; fear of dying.  But I truly believe amid the terror and fear we have Jesus’ comforting words telling us not to be afraid and offering us His peace and promised presence.  I believe we are called by name by God in Christ, who wants to envelop us with the wonders of His love.  It’s sweeter than the pittosporum scent and something we can inhale deeply always, with or without a face mask.


Wishing you a blessed and happy Easter, for Christ is risen.


Truro Methodist Circuit, Cornwall    |   01872 262907