|Published on Tue, 24 Mar 2020 08:46|
As I lay awake last night I wondered who in the Bible might speak into this situation? The Bible isn't full of examples of global lockdown, and most of its stories are of people interacting, either well or badly. But my mind turned to the prophet Elijah.
In the cycle of stories at the end of 1 Kings, Elijah comes across as determined, cussed, hard to get on with, passionate, inspired. He condemns injustice, kills numerous prophets of the alternative religion, Baal ... and famously lambasts Jezebel, Ahab's wife, to the point where she and King Ahab try to kill him. Eventually it all overwhelms him.
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors." Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, "Get up and eat." He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, "Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you." He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.
At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by."
Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
Here we are in our caves, either alone or with our housemates. I guess one of the challenges is to answer that question - what are you doing here? We will have to find God in the silence, in the sheer murmuring sound I can hear outside my window - occasional cars and trains, the sun on the cherry blossom in the churchyard... And another challenge will be that of managing the relationships with others with whom we are at close quarters. And keeping our other relationships and our communities strong.
I'm finding it hard to pray at the moment, to be truthful. But it feels more important than ever that I do - because prayer takes us out of ourselves and brings us into a wider place of infinite dimensions. So I have set up Morning Prayer on Zoom and will be saying it at 8.30. The link is here and I hope some of you can join me. There is an App you can download on to your phone - it's called Daily Prayer and is free - or, if you haven't got a smart phone, please watch or listen in. We'll say some familiar prayers together as well as the psalms and readings.
We will also have Coffee, Chat and Prayer at 11 a.m. Many of you joined yesterday. It was fun and good. If anyone has a passage or something they want to share, bring it along!
We will keep the Virtual Services website updated with current links.
The church is closed but I am checking that the Foodbank will be open tomorrow, and thank you to those who have volunteered to come and help later today. I will email you separately.
We will do church on Sunday, by hook or by crook! It may be Zoomed from our homes though.
I understand that clergy have been designated Essential. So we are, under certain circumstances, permitted to go out. So if you have a need or are aware of anyone who has, which Lisa or I may be able to fill, please let us know.
It would be good to set up a cascade of contacts for isolated people. If you are in touch with someone in the congregation who may not be receiving these emails, could you let me know?
And the Zoom account can be used for a variety of meetings and contacts. It doesn't have to be me or Lisa who sets it up. Do please feel free to offer or suggest ways of keeping in touch and using this time as well as we can. My love and prayer is reaching out to everyone.
There are two fundamental questions for me - how can we help each other, and what good can we find in this situation? Answers to both are welcome! firstname.lastname@example.org. And suggestions for this daily email - which, tomorrow, will be written by Lisa.
Finally, a poem. This is one of my favourites - by George Herbert who we mention often. I offer it those who, like me, are finding it hard to pray
Prayer the church's banquet, angel's age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth
Engine against th' Almighty, sinner's tow'r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood.
With my love,