27, Hazle Close
Tel 01531 634035
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May 9th 2020
From the Vicarage – Easter (5) 2020
One of the joys of the past three weeks has been the sight of House Martins whizzing around in Hazle Close where I live in Ledbury. I have a clear view of their high-speed morning and evening acrobatics between the houses from my upstairs study window, and gradually worked out which houses have nests in their gable ends. In my previously very rural home, I was much more familiar with the Swallows that arrived each Spring, characterized by their swooping at breakneck speed into an old local barn nearby. I was always amused by the rich chattering noises they made as they lined up on the telephone wire outside. I loved to hear the sound of their chatter, and try to imagine their conversations. I remember being advised that Swallows return to their ‘home’ into the same nest each year, and House Martins to the same geographical area too. What a phenomenal feat of navigation when we consider their 6000 miles journey from South Africa to the UK each Spring. Each weighing only 15-20g (little over half an ounce), yet flies 200 miles a day for a month to even reach our shores, and is then able to pinpoint the exact location of its home amidst the UK’s 90,000 square miles.! Migration is a lengthy and dangerous journey across mountains, desert and sea, and has to be undertaken again in the Autumn by these fragile yet incredibly robust creatures in reverse, back to their homes in the Southern climes to ensure a continued food supply to ‘overwinter’. I hope their arrival to their Southern homes, heralding the lengthening of days and warmth of Summer approaching, brings that same sense of delight to them as it does to each of us.
In today’s Gospel reading from John 14:1-14, Jesus speaks to his disciples about his sense of home. He is seeking to prepare his friends for the time when he will be leaving his earthly home with them, and returning to ‘my Father’s house’ to be at home with God. The time for their separation is now fast approaching as they draw near to the Jerusalem, where Jesus will be put to death by crucifixion, but also where he will be raised to new life again. Jesus speaks words of reassurance to his friends, of going ahead of them for a little while to that new home to prepare a place for them, so that one day they can be together again. These promises of Jesus undergird our Christian faith, that our true home is with God, and that as we experience our earthly life, we are on a journey with Jesus as our companion who is ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ and through whom we seek to learn to love and live God’s values. This Gospel reading is one that is often used at funerals. These are words that can help us as we gather and celebrate a life that has been shared with us in our earthly homes and communities and that we now grieve by its absence from us. Within these words we find acknowledgement of that sense of our bewilderment of grief, that is echoed in the words of the disciple Thomas ‘We do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’. Whilst together, we look to the new landscape of the future held within the fulfillment of the promises of Jesus and his resurrection, through whom we are received by God for all eternity.
These past eight weeks since services were suspended have brought many changes, not least to funerals, now only permitted at a graveside or crematorium with minimal family attendees. It was hard to imagine leading such services at this poignant time in our lives, and yet there has been a sense of enrichment in the experiences of those small gatherings, and a sense of the profound love of both earth and heaven in which each of us is held, even when physically distanced from one another, in that precious moment. We are reminded that in death and in life we are not defined by absence, but by the presence of love – a reflection of the divine love in whose image we are created.
Please do note the new FREE phone-line now launched by the C/E - Daily Hope 0800 804 8044. Please do share its number especially to those without internet