Right from the very beginning
This time last year I was busy packing a suitcase in preparation for a trip to Sri Lanka. It seems an age away now. I remember that by the time I returned to the UK on 19th February, the coronavirus death toll around the world was just beginning to make its mark and the worlds death total had reached 2000 people.
Fast forward a year and we are living in a very different world. We keep apart from our families, our friends and our neighbours. We wear face coverings, wash and gel our hands constantly and we try to stay 2 metres away from people we meet.
We have a new vocabulary and words like furlough, shielding and Zoom roll off the tongue. Our freedom has been taken away as we stay at home and do our best to protect ourselves and others from the virus.
Our social lives revolve around online gatherings and most conversations seem to include a question about whether we’ve had the vaccine yet.
Yes, it is all very different and we yearn for the moment when lockdown is behind us and restrictions can be lifted. Until then, we have to do our best to wait things out.
Few of us would have chosen the path this past year has taken, and yes, it’s been tough. However, amidst the reality of fear, this new normal has been a time to take stock, to recognise and acknowledge the things that are important to us.
Some people have even thrived during the past year as they have filled their time doing some of the things they’d been putting off or didn’t have time to do, in all their busyness.
There is no getting away from the fact though, that many people are feeling lonely and isolated. When I ask people how they are doing, the top answer is “fed up”. It seems that each day is much the same as the one before. Routine, for now, is practically non-existent.
Thankfully, we live in an age where we can maintain communication and the good old-fashioned telephone has been invaluable, especially for those who don’t use the internet. There’s even a freephone number that you can dial to listen to a weekly church service.
For those who do use the internet, a whole new world has opened up for those who in the past have shied away from it and we now have an elderly generation of proficient Zoom and Facetime users – just brilliant!
The past year has been a time where individuals and businesses alike have adapted their online use in order to meet their needs and I do think that many things will never go back to the way they were.
Church too, has had to adapt in order to make services happen and thanks to the power of technology, we are broadcasting live, even as I speak. This is something that we hope to continue in the future, even when all our churches are open again and its great that we can reach out to those people who are unable to join us in person.
We live in an on-demand world where we can choose when and where and how we worship. However, we are made for community and worshiping online isn’t quite the same experience as worshipping corporately in a sacred building where the faithful have prayed for centuries. There’s something about the rhythm and discipline of church life that feeds the soul.
Regardless of how we worship, the church’s liturgical year marches on and we move from the season of Epiphany into Ordinary Time. There are two seasons of Ordinary Time in the church calendar and this year this first season of Ordinary Time lasts just two weeks. The word ordinary suggests that there’s very little going on. But nothing could be further from the truth because we worship a God who is anything but ordinary.
We heard that wonderful passage from St John’s gospel.
“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God”.
What I love about that reading is that it begins at the beginning. Right at the very beginning; at the beginning of time. The reading goes on to say that “the Word became flesh and lived among us”. So, if what John writes is true, then God himself entered the human race and experienced life, complete with its ups and downs, its tragedies and joys and its hurts and its pains. But what really amazes me is that this was all part of God’s plan …right from the beginning.
I really like this time of the year because even though it is still so cold, we begin to see the signs of new life and already we’re seeing the snowdrops coming through and the daffodils won’t be long.
At this time of year as we approach Lent, we begin to think about how we too can grow in faith as we prepare ourselves for our journey to Good Friday and Easter. After such a difficult year, it may seem that bit harder to motivate ourselves back into discipline and routine.
Our Lent groups this year are based on just that…but perhaps Lent groups are not your thing?
So, a question… how are you going to gear up for Easter?
Even if our lives seem on hold at the moment, or even if things seem dull or mundane at times. Even if we’re fed up of yet another day in lockdown, we need to make that extra effort to look for God because he’s still there and he’s been there all the time even if we’ve thought him distance…he isn’t.
Remember, it was in God’s plan right at the beginning to be with us at all times and in all places…even in lockdown. God knew that in order to be able to bring blessings to his people, they needed to come to know him. And to know Jesus is to know God.
These final weeks of lockdown may be a great opportunity to get to know Jesus better before the busyness of life gears up once again and who knows where we will be in another year’s time.
Whoever we are, wherever life takes us, whatever we’re doing…God will still be with us. It was all part of his plan…right at the beginning.
Rev Julie Clarkson – 7 Feb 2021