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June 13th 2020
From the Vicarage – Trinity 1
Reaching the milestone of Trinity Sunday in the Church’s calendar last weekend means that we reached one of the important marker posts in the Christian calendar. It is a time when our Sunday readings change their focus away from remembering and celebrating the events of Jesus life, as we have done during these past seven months since Advent Sunday. Instead we now turn our attention in these next five months ahead towards Jesus’ teachings and activities during his earthly ministry. This season in the Churches calendar bears the somewhat unremarkable name of ‘Ordinary Time’.
As we well know, things have been anything but, ‘ordinary’ in life during these past three months of ‘Lockdown’, and who could ever have guessed how much we would be longing for life to just become ‘ordinary’ once again! Thankfully after twelve weeks of living through these extraordinary times under the measures implemented for Public Health reasons over the Covid 19 virus, we are now approaching a new threshold of possibilities as we are invited to begin to engage with a new sense of normality again. However, although from Monday we will find ourselves open to new possibilities in our old familiar landscape, we may find that we rediscover that we are somehow without a sense of familiarity of place. Yes, non-essential shops will reopen and our visits there may recommence, but perhaps some of the pleasures of browsing and purchasing will be lost on us, whilst we comply with the new measures of distancing ourselves physically from one another within them.
Similarly, our Churches. There was excitement in response to the unexpected announcement this week, that Places of Worship had suddenly been given permission to unlock their doors again for private prayer to recommence from Monday June 15th. Then at 48 hours’ notice, the date was brought forward again to June 13th. However, each PCC has to risk assess their own Church and agree a way forward for them with their Priest. Open Churches assume the availability of hand sanitizer, paper towels and people who are not vulnerable, to open up, clean up, and lock up after every time it is open. As we do not yet, live in a ‘post Covid’ world, any parishioners who come to sit and/or pray in any of our Churches that do choose to reopen at this time, will discover a minimalism within. i.e. that hymn books, bibles and service sheets will all have been removed, and that there will be instructions and signage re maintaining Public Health. These are measures not only to protect oneself, but for the benefit of the whole community. Hopefully the ‘minimalist’ look will continue to be a helpful backdrop to our own individual reflections and prayers made during these recent weeks. Each of us has been ‘stripped back’ in different ways through our own individual circumstances during these weeks of the Pandemic, even if we, or our families have escaped the virus in our own homes and lives. Perhaps some of the things that we formerly considered to be ‘essential’ to our daily life, will take a lesser position in our new perspective on what really matters in life, and likewise, there will be other people and situations that we previously took for granted, that hopefully we never will again. I have heard it suggested that we write a letter to ourselves now as we stand on the threshold of ‘coming out’ of lockdown, outlining what we have discovered through these past three months. That letter to ourselves is intended to be opened in a year’s time, not to remember this extraordinary time in our lives as a memory for its own sake, but also as a marker to see that we have still embraced all our new discoveries and not returned to our old feckless ways.
In today’s reading from Genesis Chapter 18 we hear of a promise to return in a year’s time too. Abraham is resting in the heat of the day at his tent’s entrance by the oaks of Mamre, when he perceives God in the guise of three strangers, and to whom he offers hospitality. His wife Sarah bakes bread cakes from their finest flour, whilst Abraham chooses a young calf to be prepared for the table. As the visitors eat their meal, they promise Abraham (age 100yrs), that Sarah, who is absent from their conversation, will bear him a Son. Sarah, overhears their conversation from a distance, and laughs out loud at this news.! However, within the year their son Isaac is born – his name meaning laughter. And so, as we prepare to step out into the new reality of our future, may that same spontaneous laughter and joy be rekindled in us by God, in the newly rediscovered preciousness of the ‘ordinary’ in life again too.