|Posted on 3 February, 2021 at 4:10|
I can’t believe it is nearly Ash Wednesday! Lent is almost upon us. Our first YouTube service of lockdown was for Mothering Sunday – the mid-point of Lent. Ninety-five services have subsequently been filmed and made available on YouTube. Some of those services have been recorded in front of a live congregation, others in an empty church or the vicarage sitting room. The course of this pandemic has taken us through the full cycle of the Christian year. And so, we come to Ash Wednesday. The words of the prophet Joel (one of the set readings for Ash Wednesday) seems very apposite – a day of darkness and gloom! We might replace the word ‘day’ with ‘year’. I did not expect when we first started recording services that, a year later, we would still be in lockdown but I did expect the virus to mutate and create new variants. I was a clinical microbiologist before ordination and worked with Coronavirus in the past – its ability to mutate and create new variants was not unknown! At the time of writing there has been no news about when this lockdown will end, but I suspect that even when the restrictions are eased the reality will be little more than that – an easing.
I am glad that vaccines are being rolled out across the country and that the most vulnerable are getting vaccinated, but this is little more than the beginning of the end of the pandemic. The passage from Joel might cause some to think that events like the pandemic are a punishment from God but that is a misreading of the prophet. Joel speaks of the day of the Lord as a day of judgement for our sinfulness and disobedience. He uses metaphors of ‘this-world’ catastrophes (darkness, earthquake etc) to help the people understand the awfulness of God’s judgement. His message is primarily to encourage the people to turn back to God. Perhaps it is only when we are in the midst of a fearful pandemic that can we appreciate how far, as individuals and as a nation, we have turned away from God. The call of Lent encourages to turn again to God and walk in his ways, for it is in hm only that our hope and salvation are founded.