Hey folks …
We have a new writer on the team — welcome to Malcolm!
In this piece he looks at faith, hope and love in the lockdown world.
Life has changed. We can’t do the things we usually do, we can’t go to the places we usually go and our usual routines have been turned upside down.
Many years ago St Paul said that when everything else goes, what remains is faith, hope and love.
Faith speaks of a higher power and a greater purpose. As we may struggle with uncertainty and insecurity we may not always be able to see the purpose; we may doubt there is a power that’s in control. That’s where we reach out and cling on in faith to someone who is stronger and more powerful than the world around us.
Hope tells us that there is a future. That whatever we’re going through we shall come through it wiser and stronger and there’s something to look forward to. Our world may be dark, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and we shall come through it to a brighter future.
We have seen the importance of love. Of love in the home where we are closer to our families, of love that reaches out beyond our homes to those in need, of love that empathises with those who are working under pressure or suffering with illness.
Those of us who seek to be Jesus’ disciples have faith in a God that is bigger and stronger than the current situation and have a confident hope that God will bring us through to a better place.
In Jesus we see one who shows us a love that takes us out of ourselves to give rather than get. And Paul says that as faith and hope will remain the greatest is love.
Rhythm, Routines, and Rest
We’re aware of the rhythm of life often without noticing it; the rhythm of day and night, the rhythm of the seasons, the rhythm of birth, life and death. The old song says
‘For the rhythm of life is a powerful beat
Puts a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet…’
The wise writer of Ecclesiastes wrote: ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…’ there is ‘a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.’
Within that rhythm of life we develop routines that help us organise our days and our weeks. They may relate to work, the home, hobbies or meeting friends.
Many of us enjoy routines because it gives us the impression that we’re in control; what we have realised in recent days is that our lives can quickly become out of control.
The new world that we now face have seen us develop new routines relating to teaching our children, contacting our family or daily exercise, to bring order, stability, continuity and reassurance.
A most important part of the rhythm of life, the routines that we develop is ‘rest’. Ancient religions called it ‘Sabbath’. There is a time to stop activity, to shut out the many voices that crowd our lives, to deliberately take time to rest. For some of us that place is in inactivity — sitting in our bedroom or the garden; others find rest in activity — walking, running, fishing, painting… It is in that place of rest that we regain perspective on our lives, that we rediscover peace and we can listen to that still small voice, that quiet voice of God.
Many of us pray — even those who do not practice any particular religion or subscribe to a particular set of beliefs.
Sometimes our prayers are personal.
We may be confused by the current situation so our prayer is ‘What do I do?’
We may be angry as we see innocent victims suffering for inexplicable reasons and our prayer is ‘Why?’
Perhaps life is just too much and we are overwhelmed and our prayer is ‘Help!’
Sometimes the prayer ‘Help!’ is for someone outside our immediate situation that needs super human support or strength. It might be family members that we can’t contact at the moment; it might be friends who are sick who we cannot see or support; it might be for ‘front line’ workers who are supporting the local community in ways above and beyond the ordinary or expected.
At other times our prayer may be the amazed ‘Wow’ prayer –when we see the view from the top of a mountain, when we stand on the beach and see a stormy sea, or when we see a new born baby. It is the prayer of amazement that goes beyond the immediate and material and opens not only opens our eyes but also helps us to listen.
Prayer is not confined to words or defined by words. Hundreds of years ago St Augustine said that when we pray, ‘God’s ear hears the heart’s voice’.
Perhaps the disciples’ request to Jesus, ‘Teach us to pray’ is one we can echo?
Being Strong Under Pressure
I still enjoy the story of the boss who, interviewing a man for a job, asks ‘Can you perform under pressure?’ ‘No’, the man replies, ‘but I can do a great Bohemian Rhapsody.’
All of us go through times when we are stressed, frustrated, angry or sorry for ourselves. We don’t always perform well under pressure.
There is much wisdom in the saying, ‘We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it.’
Today we can be strong, we can be positive, we can make the most of it.
This is not about how we feel, it is a choice we make.
We can choose to respond well to those around us, we can decide that we won’t be dragged down by the news, even if it is depressing. We can look for the good in others, we can look for opportunities to make a positive difference. These things don’t happen by chance; they’re a choice we make.
Even through tough times, perhaps especially through tough times, we can appreciate the goodness of others or the wonderful world around us; we can appreciate what we have rather than what we don’t have; we can look for the opportunities we face in a rapidly changing world.
We can know a God with us in the tough times; we can also know a God who gives us the strength to come through them.
It is the tough times that teach us lessons and mould our characters.
It is as we choose and are empowered to be strong that we become stronger, better people and learn to perform under pressure.
It is good to walk down the street and see so many rainbows!
Rainbows come when there’s rain, clouds and sunshine. When the sun shines through the raindrops we see the beautiful colours of the rainbow. In recent months we’ve seen how rain has brought floods and devastation.
Rainbows happen when pleasant and unpleasant are brought together.
Today we see the tragedy of coronavirus, but good people who bring light — and when the light shines through there is true beauty.
The rainbow is a picture of peace. It is a rain-‘bow’ in the shape of the bow, a weapon of war that in ancient times fired arrows and brought death. A sign of war was an upright bow, ready for action. A bow on its side showed it was inactive and was therefore a sign of peace.
Many link the rainbow to the ancient story of Noah — who built an ark that saved him, his family and a load of animals from drowning in a flood.
At the end of the story God tells Noah that the rainbow is a ‘sign of the covenant’ that God makes with mankind. Noah’s rainbow reminds us that:
- God does not and will not forget his people.
- God continues to be in a relationship with mankind and his creation, both the whole of his creation and us as insignificant individuals in it.
- God is present with his people in all disasters — floods, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, pandemics or personal tragedy.
- Whatever disaster happens God stays in control. He promises to maintain the world and all in it.
Perhaps the most profound message from this story is that it tells us that God (not man!) sees the rainbow and remembers his covenant.
God sees the rainbows!