Back in February I wrote in the local newsletter (the last we managed to publish between then and November), ‘The world it seems is changing – fast!’ At the time I was reflecting on matters of climate change, political, and societal change and wondered how could we cope? Change is of itself not so much a problem to be solved, though it brings problems with it; change is more of a condition that requires learning to live with. If only I had known in February what changes 2020 would bring!
What, I wonder, have we learnt from the changes of the past 8 months? New words like Covid and phrases like ‘Lock down’ – it is such a horrible phrase! It suggests oppression, an imprisoning, a loss of freedom. We may be out and about again at this time but for many there is still much loss and of oppression from restrictions that remain for the good of everyone’s health and wealth. The story of God’s people recorded in the Bible is one filled with oppression, with imprisonment and deep and overwhelming loss. At one point in their history they find themselves chained and taken into slavery by the Babylonians; they utter the famous line ‘by the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept and wondered how we could sing the Lord’s song in such an alien land’.
Even though the people found themselves in strange and bewildering times and lands they were determined to be who they were and undertake their core values and beliefs; ‘to sing the Lord’s song in the strange land’. In their ‘lock down’ they discovered again who they were and what really mattered and I wonder if our lock down has enabled our own re-discoveries. Have we not seen again that at heart we care for the elderly and the young, the vulnerable and the poor? We have seen respect given to those who give in service for others, often at their own cost –thank you Teachers, NHS and Care Home staff! We have seen that the smile of a face matters along with the shake of a hand or the hug of a loved one. We have remembered that money and work are needed in life but not at the expense of our lives and families. We have discovered again the gift to all that volunteering brings; thank you to all the Ilchester District Community Volunteers (you know who you are) who have ensured every house in need is helped over these past 8 months.
Sometime after their Exile to Babylon the prophet Isaiah came to God’s people and said ‘When you are set free, you will celebrate and travel home in peace. Mountains and hills will sing as you pass by, and trees will clap. Cypress and myrtle trees will grow in fields once covered by thorns. And then those trees will stand as a lasting witness to the glory of the Lord.’ The people’s captivity would end and so will ours! It may take a while longer, but end it will and I am sure 2021 will bring celebration and new life!