Many people choose to give things up for Lent, it’s a time to give up sweets, chocolate, cake – admittedly, often this is using religion as a means of kickstarting that well intended diet rather than entering into a time of fasting with prayer and meditation.
Of course, this year, we have all been forced to give things up. It seems unthinkable that we cannot take family trips outside, pop to the shops as and when. There are no movies showing at the cinema, theatres and music venues are closed. We can’t visit our elderly relatives for fear of putting them in danger, we can’t hug our friends. For some, work has dried up, for others work has become very intense.
We have developed a custom of clapping, setting off fireworks, banging saucepans together etc to show our appreciation of keyworkers – people that, not so long ago, many just took for granted.
For Christians at this time of year, we often reflect on the isolation of Jesus. In our Lenten period, we remember Jesus in the wilderness, alone and hungry in a completely inhospitable place. We remember the temptations placed before him – the temptations of power and glory. The temptation to consider that God is not enough.
We remember the glorious entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday that so quickly turns into the isolation of Jesus who knows what is to come. Jesus who is betrayed to the authorities by a close friend and remains alone in prayer because his friends simply cannot stay awake. Jesus, arrested and isolated because his friends are too scared to admit they know him.
There are many in our country, indeed our world, whose journeys have taken a frightening twist. Those who fear for the safety of loved ones, those now thrust into grief, those who face financial uncertainty. Keyworkers who are putting their own lives at risk working longer and harder hours, sometimes with little or no protection.
Covid-19 holds nothing positive for us.
However, we are amazing people. We are witnessing amazing things, wonderful good deeds, heroic acts and seeing a world united and learning from each other.
We are learning how quickly we can make a difference in the healing of our environment and we are learning how important to us our NHS is, our paramedics, our care home staff. Domestics, porters, housekeeping staff, admin staff – invisible people of our hospitals and care homes without whom everything would fall apart.
We are learning that we can all be small cogs in a great machine of kindness and care.
On Sunday, Easter Sunday, our church buildings, normally full and alive with rejoicing and singing, will be still and quiet. In that stillness, though, there will remain the Hope of the Christian Easter message. For those of you that pray, remember in your prayers those that are suffering at this time of social distancing, of illness and indeed death. If you pray, pray for the lessons we can learn from this experience, the appreciation of our world, our environment, our friends and relatives. For those of you that do not pray, maybe you can take moments of stillness, mindfulness, in which to hold these things.
So, yes, our church buildings will be quiet this Easter but the joy, the hope and the love of our communities can and will look forward to a world changed and made new.
God Bless you all, until we can be together again,