Dear Church Family
Once again greetings from Carol and myself. We hope you are all keeping well as we approach the month milestone for lockdown 3.
First the splendid good news. +++ Stop Press +++ Ruth Hartley has joined the ranks of the grandparents. Lovely baby girl 7lbs: No name yet (more details to follow)
We were all saddened by the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore. It is particularly cruel that he should have been taken by the very disease he has helped the NHS combat with his amazing and inspirational fundraising and his equally inspirational words of encouragement. I encourage you to take a moment to remember his rich contribution to his country and his family over a century of life. We can do that together by following the link to his No. 1 record and maybe singing it in our hearts or out loud. (just skip the advert)
If you get through this clip without moist eyes you’re a more resilient man/woman than I am.
Last week I mentioned one kind of storm that I had a small taste of (a health scare). This week it has been a different storm. Just a year ago I lost a much loved older sister. On the anniversary, I had lengthy phone conversations with my other two sisters about her and about our brother who died a few years ago. Lockdown has provided the opportunity to go through and sort all those old boxes of photos and even to scan ancient slides and to feast on the memories. It is cathartic and painful in equal measures.
In our daily readings Carol and I have continued to journey through the Old Testament book of Job.
It is a difficult book.
For those who are not familiar with it, it is the story of a godly and righteous man that went through a terrible time. One crisis after another hit him and left him reeling.
His possessions were stolen by raiders, his crops destroyed and, worst of all, his family were murdered. In his low state his health also failed and he was stricken with a painful skin disease that covered him in boils. Job was not without friends which, at first impression, seems one small blessing. However, his friends did not get it all right in their care of him. One good thing they did was spend time with him, just sitting with him in his grief. When there are no easy answers it can be best not to try and offer hollow ones.
What came next was not good, at all!
One after another they embark on long discourses about how Job found himself in this state. It was quite clear to them that Job’s problems were the result of bad things he had done. Their thesis: bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. They felt that if he acknowledged his failings and repented of these bad things good things and blessings would come back into his life. As readers of the book as a whole we are permitted to insights that none of the players (including Job himself) were aware of. We are permitted to know what was going on in the eternal realms. We know that God was both pleased with and proud of Job. He was human but he was basically a very good man who always tried to do his best. The bad things that happened are portrayed as an attack on him by the powers of darkness that wreak evil. That evil can hit good people as well as bad and it hit Job, full force. Job was remarkable in the fact that he never lost his trust in the goodness of God. At times he lost hope and even despised his life so much that he wanted to die. We read that he cursed the day he was born!
Over the past months we have heard so many stories from people who have been through what feels to us to be unbearable times. I would say that my view of human nature has gone up during this past year. Ordinary people have proved to be good, strong and brave.
I have been inspired.
The wonderful climactic moment in Job for me comes when says: –
(Job 19:25) I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
This does not come at the end of the book when Job is restored to health, wealth and position. This comes in the middle of the book at the height of his loss. He reels because of his bereavement and his personal pain. He reels at the relentless attempts of those who called themselves his friends but say ‘you brought this on yourself.’ He looks beyond all that, in trust, because he knows that in the end faith wins, love wins, trust wins.
Captain Tom was so fond of saying ‘tomorrow will be a better day’. Job had trust in a redeemer who was bigger than his current pain. He knew who holds the future. Even if he had not been restored in ‘this worldly’ terms his ultimate future was secure. After all he had lost things that could never be restored in ‘this life’ i.e. his family, but he had a bigger perspective. We all struggle some times to get hold of that. As St. Paul said ‘We grieve; but not as those with no hope’. Christian hope, literally, springs eternal.
In closing (as I have most weeks) I commend the bishop’s ‘start the day’ reflection from the psalms. In this week’s issue he and Sarah handle similar issues to those I have reflected on.
Bishop Paul and Sarah read from Psalm 36 and talk about how focusing on God’s goodness is the only way to overcome despair when we are struggling against something we know is wrong: ‘For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.’
Joanne Arton and Neil Wilson also sing the song ‘Who am I that the highest King would welcome me?’
May God bless and keep you all.