To the people of Chepstow and beyond: These are most certainly very difficult and frightening times that we are all facing. It seems there is no escape from the news, and it is particularly disheartening when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know that we are all being forced to make hard choices; none of us could have been prepared for these horrible circumstances. It would be easy to let despair set in.
But we must continue to breathe the breath of the Holy Spirit. We must continue to extend grace, as best we can, to our neighbours, but also to ourselves. In some ways, it almost feels appropriate that this should all be happening during Lent (though obviously we’d all prefer it didn’t happen at all). The 40 days of Lent represent Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, and I think it is safe to say that we are all having our own wilderness experience right now, and probably on a scale that most of us have not seen in our lifetime and hope never to see again. Lent is normally a time for us to reflect and repent. It is a time when we attempt to sit with and try to empathise with the disciples and the pain and uncertainty that they felt on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, not knowing that the resurrection would come. Perhaps these feelings resonate with us more than they ever have before.
I don’t know if any of you are Lord of the Rings fans, but this quote is also making rounds on Facebook at the moment from a conversation between Frodo and Gandalf: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
These are still our times. God is still in these times, and God is with all of us as we decide what we will do in the time given to us. We don’t know that our time in the wilderness will end on Easter Sunday this year, but we do know that, at the end of it all, there will be new life again. It will be yet another of those ‘little resurrections’ that we all experience in life. And it will be one that we as a society will experience together, even while we are still mourning all we have lost. Our hope comes from knowing that God is with is in all of this.
I think that the words of the last verse of ‘When we were in the Darkest Night’ by Matt Redman (in the section ‘THE FAITHFUL CHRIST: LENT AND TEMPTATION’ in Singing the Faith, 241) are incredibly fitting at this time:
So, whatever lies ahead,
whatever roads our grateful hearts will come to tread,
you’ll be there, Lord.
We will fix our eyes on you,
and know that there is grace enough to see us through.
You’ll be there, Lord.
You’ll be there in the struggle.
You’ll be there in the fight.
You’ll be there all the time.
Be well, and take care of yourselves and each other… until we can all meet again.
Revd. Rachel Frank