What a year we have been through as a nation. Writing in February, I have no idea what we will be facing when you read this, other than the fact that the ongoing pandemic will have been affecting our lives in the UK for a whole year.
This pandemic has shown us just how hard it is to be sure of anything in the future - time and chance happen to us all. It is impossible to predict the future. Around Christmas, we were all looking forward to things slowly returning to normal and then suddenly we are faced with a new mutation of COVID which meant we went straight into another severe lockdown. As I write I guess we are wondering what will happen next. What will be announced by the government about when this lockdown will end? Will the schools return in March? Should we book our summer holidays? Will we be able to meet in groups again anytime soon? How hard it must be to make such decisions even with the best scientific data. It is impossible to predict how the tweaks and changes will play out and affect the ongoing situation.
For most of our lives we have got on with our life, confident in our ability to make plans and see them through. Yes, the unexpected and distressing happened now and again, but as the exception not the rule. In our current moment, however, we are facing unpredictability, disappointment and distress. All of us, all the time. As a world we have been reminded most starkly of the fragility of life and the uncertainty we really have about the future. We are desperately in need of hope.
In the middle of a long lament expressing bitter sorrow at the defeat and enslavement of his nation and the destruction of his city, Jeremiah the prophet writes these familiar words from the Bible, which are read at many church funeral services:
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
As we head into April, we head into the Easter season. Easter is the season of hope in the life of the church. As Jesus died and rose again to new life, God showed how deep his faithfulness goes. God's faithfulness goes as far as the undoing of death through his own suffering as the man Jesus. The love of God is shown in that he did not just look down on our pain from heaven, but came and shared in our sorrows, pains and suffering. He was faithful to his promises that death will not be the end of the story. And he asks us today to trust in his promise of the hope that one day he will free this world from all tears and sufferings; pain and pandemics.
What a delight it is to see the new life of the spring bulbs emerge out of the frozen and lifeless winter soil, bringing hope of better days to come. This is a picture that God has placed in his world, of what Jesus has done already and will one day do for us. That hope of God's new life that is emerging out of the sometime frozen and lifelessness of the world today. A glorious hope of a future life of fullness found in Jesus.
David Spence, Associate Minister of St. James the Great, South Leigh & St Mary's Cogges (February 2021)