The View from the Vicarage

Tuesday 24th March 2020

Lockdown Day 1. When you use the word ‘Lockdown’ it immediately creates a negative impression – the curtailing of life at someone else’s command or instruction. This last week events have moved rapidly: self-imposed isolation to enforced isolation.

For some people, including some of my family members, they might say, ‘nothing new there. This is how my life is’ – isolated for much of the day with little contact with other people. One benefit of this time might be that we have greater empathy and understanding for those who live alone.

The Apostle Paul was often in lockdown, but for a different reason. He was imprisoned for sharing his faith in Jesus, the Son of God, on numerous occasions as well as suffering all kinds of hardships. He writes from prison to the Christians in Philippi,

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
Philippians 1:12-14

He sees his confinement as an opportunity to build, encourage and share the news about Jesus.

My hope and prayer is that this time of upheaval and uncertainty might create the same kind of opportunities for us.

We may have more time to pray, so

May we nurture our own prayer lives and use this time to move on with the Lord – further up and further in.

May we look for the ways in which we can encourage people in faith.

May we use the time we have to pray for those who will find these days difficult.

O gracious and holy Father,
give us wisdom to perceive you,
diligence to seek you,
patience to wait for you,
eyes to behold you,
a heart to meditate upon you,
and a life to proclaim you,
through the power of the Spirit
of Jesus Christ our Lord.                                 St Benedict

God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday 18th March 2020

It is said that every human experience and emotion can be found in the Psalms. This morning, reading Psalm 38, which is a Psalm set for this day in the Church of England’s lectionary, I came across these words which raised a smile:

 My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction;
    and my neighbours stand far off.  Psalm 38:11 NRSV

‘Self Isolation’ is a positive encouragement to keep away from everyone as much as is possible. It’s a term which sounds positive, but it has a negative impact on the quality of life. Of course, many people in our society are already isolated because of illness or infirmity and they will be all too aware of the problems caused by a lack of meaningful contact.

Coronavirus hadn’t appeared in the days of the Psalmist, but there were many diseases and conditions which made people keep their distance from those afflicted. Social exclusion was a normal part of life for many.

The Psalmist, out of his pain and anguish calls out to God:

O Lord, all my longing is known to you;
    my sighing is not hidden from you.    Psalm 38:9  NRSV

He takes comfort from the fact that God is with those who cry out to Him, and that nothing is hidden from His gaze. He goes on to pray,

Do not forsake me, O Lord;
    O my God, do not be far from me;
make haste to help me,
    O Lord, my salvation.          Psalm 38:22-23 NRSV

These days of upheaval to the normal life provide great opportunities for us to remember with the Lord God, those people whose world has shrunk, who feel isolated, alone and fearful because of the coronavirus crisis.  We can pray that they might not feel to be forgotten, and even better, we can pick up the phone or knock on the door to ask if we can help in any way.

And we can pray to God, knowing that He hears us, understands us and offers His peace and grace to those who cry out to Him. He is bigger than any crisis – personal, national or global. Whenever you find yourself overwhelmed by life, you always have two choices: you can focus on your circumstances, or fix your eyes on the Lord God Almighty and His Son, Jesus.