For almost a year I have spent much time offering comfort and consolation to people who have felt a profound sense of loss and disappointment. Sometimes that loss and disappointment has manifested itself in anger and resentment, at other times it has led to sadness and the shedding of bitter tears. The rule of law has led many into rethinking or abandoning many of the celebrations and remembrances that would have marked out their year in pre-pandemic times. The conduct of baptisms, weddings and funerals have been severely curtailed, if not banned altogether. Similarly, other moments in the Christian calendar which have traditionally brought people together have had to be cancelled or, at best, postponed indefinitely. Within our communities there are babies that have not been baptized, that is they have not been brought into that very special lifelong relationship with God and the Church which was shared by Jesus himself. Couples have not been able to publicly demonstrate their lifelong commitment to each other by asking the Church to bless their union in the service of Holy Matrimony. Families and friends have had to turn funerals from services of celebration and thanksgiving for a life well-lived into quiet reflective moments of closure and farewell. Christmas, Easter, Harvest and Remembrance Day were either cancelled or scaled down to a safe and manageable size which left people with a profound sense of there being something missing in their lives. And then, of course, comes the pain of separation from loved ones and friends, from colleagues and acquaintances. Separation from all that makes our everyday lives feel worth living. For almost a year I have spent much time offering comfort and consolation to people who have felt a profound sense of loss and disappointment.
Having focused on what we have not been able to do during the passage of the last eleven months, it is also good for us to pause and reflect on why we are so affected by the rules and regulations that have brought us to where we find ourselves today. Human beings have always had a special place in the wonderful creation of God. Humanity was created in the image of God himself (Genesis 1:26-27). Humanity is blessed with intellectual and practical abilities that place it far above other creatures that exist in this world. But, along with all of those marvellous skills and talents, comes a great responsibility. In the story of creation, God created everything in heaven and earth and then he gave humanity ‘dominion’, that is responsibility, for those less blessed than itself.
As the last eleven months have unfolded, as I have journeyed with those in need of comfort and consolation, I have seen many examples of people overlooking or forgetting the responsibility that was laid on our shoulders at the moment of creation. Throughout the earliest of times there grew up a way of living that was very much centred on ‘the self’. Humanity quickly betrayed the trust God had invested in it when it sought knowledge beyond that with which it could cope. The biblical account of the Fall (Genesis 3) shows humanity seeking to place itself on a par with God, rather than accepting his unconditional generosity and love as a gift. It is that restlessness that has caused so much of the upset I have seen in recent months. We like to be in control. We like to think that we know best. We do not like being told what is best for us, even if the evidence is overwhelming.
God created the heavens and the earth, and humanity, in the very earliest of days, betrayed the trust God invested in it. However, that was not the end of the matter. God knew that he needed to be patient with humanity, and that he needed to offer a way back. Some two thousand years ago God did just that in the form of his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth to bring the reality of a bridge between heaven and earth to life. Jesus preached a new way of thinking and acting. Jesus showed us the power of love and service. Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves.
As those feelings of discontent and anger rise within us in the coming days, let us pause. Let us reflect on all that is wonderful in our lives. Let us give thanks for God’s generous love and let us respect and honour our need to care for those amongst whom we live. We live in a precious creation, let us honour it by setting self aside and thanking God that he is love, and that he is ever with us.
Revd Stephen Buckman