Could 2020 be our Annus Horribilis (horrible year) or perhaps it could our Annus Mirabilis (wonderful year). Sorry to appear to be showing off by spouting Latin to you, I can assure you my Latin is virtually non-existent – as Peter Cook said “I didn't have the Latin for the Judging”.
The first 2½ months of this year were fine for Sue and I. We were going about our lives as usual and had holiday plans and had already had a short break in Yorkshire to see family and friends. Talk of a nasty virus in China had already hit the headlines, but it was 7,000 miles away and was not considered a problem for us, then it was in Italy, then we were suddenly in a pandemic and told to lock-down (probably more than a week after we should have been). Suddenly our world was a different place, it was quiet and one of the first things I noticed was the absence of aircraft. You have probably noticed that we live under a main East/West air route with a few North/South planes as well and even if they are too high to hear, their vapour trails give them away. We had some beautiful clear blue skies in April and May, the like of which I find it hard to remember. In 2010 you might remember that a volcano erupted in Iceland that cause absolute chaos with air travel due to volcanic dust in the upper atmosphere. The volcano was called Eyjafjallajoekull if you can pronounce it. The skies were free of aircraft but there was a dust haze that meant that the sky colour was a sort of bluish-pink, but after a few weeks flying was back to normal. Whilst we still do not see the number of aircraft crossing our skies as we did in in February they are coming back.
We are so used to being able to travel anywhere in the world in 24 hours, that we forget the great distances involved and that without aircraft we are at a loss. Before I was ordained I had to travel around Britain for my job and could put 35,000+ miles on the odometer of a company car each year - the thought now makes me cringe, but I was a lot younger then. Without our cars or good public transport, life is very difficult today. “The world is a small place today”, is a popular saying. However, a tiny virus or a small volcano in Iceland can make us realise that it is still quite large if we are not flying around it at 500 mph.
It seems to me that the human race is so greatly reliant on technology that we forget how dependent we all are on services that are provided. I believe that most people in the world (7 billion current population) now live in cities or large metropolitan areas, with their food transported to them, and in the richer countries it is conveniently packaged. Our electricity is produced in remote power stations and our gas comes from who knows where: our water is pumped to us and our sewage taken away through unseen pipework: our entertainment relies on electricity, together increasingly also our communications. We also forget about all the mess leave behind that has to be disposed of or recycled.
Science has brought us many blessings and will continue to do so, but we must never think that we are in control.
Christians believe that whatever happens God is there with us.
We may not understand the workings of God, but through faith we can see the magnificence of the world and allow God to be God. A wonderful story in the Bible is that of Job, who when things go really wrong for him, questions the fairness of God.
God answers him by asking about his understanding. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” God asks, and Job has to admit his folly. When you see the beauty of this glorious summer give thanks to God and enjoy.