It is the odd mixture that strikes me at the moment. Deep tragedy mixed with the strange amusement of a novel situation.
Yesterday I conducted a funeral for a lady (that I didn’t know) who had died in her 80s. There were two others present and the service ended up taking around 10-15 minutes. I did my best but it felt deeply wrong that a long life should be marked in such a fashion. And there is the fear that many other lives (perhaps of those I do know) will be remembered in a similar way in weeks to come.
Currently I am looking at a “Cut your own hair clipper set” that arrived through the post this afternoon and I am slightly amused by the potential for mild havoc.
Loneliness kicked in for the first time this afternoon in an unexpected way. It was the realisation that I haven’t had physical contact with anybody for at least two weeks and am highly unlikely to have any for several weeks to come. On my Government sanctioned walk I was left half seriously pondering the question as to whether people would think me mad if I hugged a tree.
Video calls have been strangely entertaining and enjoyable. We have had a great time in the church small groups that I lead and there really has been a sense of connection and humour that would have been impossible in an equivalent situation a generation ago.
Today the Government announced 563 deaths in the last 24 hours from Coronavirus. The figures are higher in other countries. At one level it is easy for such figures to wash over us. But somehow that’s not right. Each life matters. John Donne’s poem has been in my head this week- “No man is an island entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
Various passages of the Bible have come home to me with renewed freshness. Romans 8 has spoken to me deeply- the idea of creation groaning until its glorious freedom when Christ returns has become a much more vivid picture and fervent hope.
My suspicion is that most of us feel that curious mixture. There is a joy to have but against a backdrop that feels brooding and could get very dark.
What do you do with that? You are left thankful for the moments of gladness. But what do you do with the rest? There are a range of Biblical responses and I have written about some of them in previous weeks. But my thoughts have turned this week to the Lord Jesus as our companion in suffering. On Sunday I preached on Isaiah 50. The sermon was planned months ago but it was comforting at the present moment to speak of Jesus as the One who deliberately chose to embrace a path of suffering. At the funeral I read the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept”. I suspect most of us have already shed tears over the last couple of weeks: there may be more to come. The good news is that we never weep alone. And perhaps the phrase that resonated most came from a friend of mine. We were talking about the plagues in Revelation 6 and he reminded me of the context of that passage- such history is unrolled by the Lamb that was slain. My friend prayed this phrase- “Thank you that the hands that are in control of this are scarred hands.” Jesus is the one who is familiar with suffering and acquainted with grief.
So we continue to weep over the disappointments and the uncertainty and the death. But never alone.