Thoughts from the Vicarage 29

Good afternoon on this chilly May afternoon,

It only seems a few days ago that we were welcoming May – is it just me or is this month speeding by? In my optimism, back in April I wrote a short piece for Village Views which alas, had to be shelved. I called it ‘Marking Time’ and thought I would include it today before it’s too late. And I ‘m really sorry that I’ve missed May 8th!

One of the things that has changed for me, and probably for a lot of others, since we have been staying and working at home is the amount we need to use our diaries – and our watches! There are a lot of jokes circulating about the way in which we are losing track of time – is it Wednesday or Thursday? What exactly is a ‘Bank Holiday’? Has March been extended indefinitely?

It’s a reminder perhaps of what life would have been like in the days before ordinary people wore watches or had diaries; when the high spots of the Church Year – the literal ‘Red Letter days’ marked in Red on the calendar would have been all the more important as landmarks in our lives. This month has several, including one for one of my favourites, on May 8th.

Julian of Norwich, a wise and holy woman from the 14th century, should perhaps be regarded as the Patron Saint of Lock-down! She wrote the first known book in English written by a woman, called ‘Revelations of Divine Love’. Like us at the moment, she was an expert in ‘staying at home’. She was an Anchorite, which meant that she took a solemn vow never to leave her little cell attached to St Julian’s Church in Norwich.

Her book is memorable for its gentle cheerfulness and calm trust in the goodness of God, despite the fact that she also lived in the time of a pandemic – the Black Death was rife and had hit Norwich particularly badly.

Probably her most famous words are these, in which she sees a vision of the whole of creation, held in safety by God’s love: “And in this Our Lord showed me a little thing, the size of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand. And I thought, ‘What may this be?’ The answer came, ‘It is everything that is made.’ I marvelled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing, it was so small. And I was answered in my understanding: ‘It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.’ In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.”

God made us, and loves us, and keeps us – and our world. May we know that in our time as clearly, and joyfully, as Julian did in hers. Amen.

That theme of God’s love was evident in the psalm at Morning Prayer this morning. Psalm 145 spoke of God’s great love to ‘all’ with that short, yet so powerful word ‘all’ recurring throughout bringing a sense of gathering across time from one generation to another. We are offered encouragement, assurance and affirmation of God’s great love for each one of us. And in this Easter season this is a hope onto which we all can hold.

Something that has become clear in this time of Covid-19 is that being human means our being vulnerable. With the coming of the virus all of us are confronted with our vulnerability at a physical, emotional and a spiritual level. There are pluses to that, but there are also negatives.

This is a year in which we have never needed more the promise of resurrection hope as we struggle to reconcile ourselves to the realities of the present. None of us remains untouched by the cruel realities of Covid-19. Yet as St Paul wrote, ‘neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus’ Romans 8: 38-9.

The good news is that even while we keep physical distance from one another, even while we yearn for the touch of those we love, even while we long to hug those in distress we are neither socially or spiritually distanced from Christ as we virtually gather as His body – be it through streaming, on the radio or on Zoom.

None of us remains untouched by the ugly realities of Covid-19

And yet, one of our correspondents, Val shared this quote from her nephew …

‘The Corona virus is something of great ugliness, but humankind may bring something of great beauty from it.’ I’m sure he voices the thoughts of many of us and it certainly prompted me to think about asking these questions:

  • Where do you see hope in this?
  • Where do you see love in this?
  • Where do you see joy in this?
  • Where do you see the helpers in this?
  • What do you grieve? What have you lost? Who has helped you?

No need for answers on a post card but do respond via email, letter, telephone if you feel so moved.

And a meditation as you reflect …

Please join us wherever you are. Find a quiet space, light a candle, if you would like to, and get comfortable. Suggested reading: Psalm 139 vv 1-18. Set a timer for 20 minutes. Close your eyes or keep them open and look at the floor or the candle. Sit quietly, using a sacred word or mantra if you wish. Acknowledge thoughts that come, then let them go.

Afterwards, let us use the prayer of St Theresa of Avila:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

We end with the Grace.

Let’s live hopefully, love generously and pray earnestly, blessing each other by the way we behave.

The Lord bless you, guide you and inspire you today and always.

Julie

Note about the West Berks Foodbank