The power of that which is invisible – both for bad and also, of course, for good – is absolutely tangible
Peter Seal, 29 March 2020
Romans 8: 6–11; John 11: 1–45
It feels like in a sense we are entombed, a little like Lazarus. We feel bound and restricted by Covid-19. Many of the things that Lazarus knew in the freedom of his life and which we have enjoyed so plentifully – especially in recent decades, and particularly here in the western world – are no longer our daily normality. We feel in some ways entombed and restricted.
But as with that gospel, we can take great confidence from knowing that Lazarus was released into new life. And at some point – and as yet we just don’t know when – we will indeed be released into new life. I imagine that for Lazarus, he was never quite the same again, and that surely will be our new reality in due course. Actually, pray God it is, because there are things that we know need to be different.
We can take great confidence from knowing that Lazarus was released into new life. I imagine that he was never quite the same again, and that surely will be our new reality in due course.
Meanwhile we live in the midst of all that is going on, all that we hear and see. And particularly we live with our fears. We’ve all got them; they join us together, and in some way we’ve perhaps got to embrace them and accept them as the current reality, and just try and manage them as best we can.
But of course we don’t do that alone. This service is the enduring example of the way in which we are neither alone in terms of God’s absence nor alone in terms of not being linked with other human beings. In these days it’s often ‘virtual’ but that, we’re discovering, has its own reality. We’re thinking again about that which we cannot literally see physically in front of us; the power of that which is invisible – both for bad and also, of course, for good – is absolutely tangible.
Together, dear friends in Christ, and with so many others in our communities who would not profess the Christian faith, together we are strong. We can do this through the wonderful gift of the phone, through emails and the internet, through acts of kindness that we find are permissible. We want to look after one another. We want to find ways of ensuring that people are not without vital medicine or the food they need. We can do this – we can link with other community groups. It’s all still at a very early stage, but there’s lots that’s moving. There will be more in the days and weeks to come.
As you’ll see, I’m still wearing the green ribbon that we were given just a few weeks ago– it’s seems a lifetime ago when we were together in Western or in St Matthew’s – the green ribbon, our symbol of commitment to the environment. And we haven’t lost that. It’s actually been focused in a new way because of Covid-19 and, particularly, its origins. I’m thinking again about what I eat and where it comes from and the consequences of that down the food chain. Maybe that’s one of the most profound things that will affect all of us in these weeks when we necessarily, perhaps, have less to eat, or certainly less choice, and possibly commit ourselves to lifestyle changes for the future.
Isn’t it absolutely lovely to hear that off Venice dolphins have been spotted again in the waters there because the cruise ships are no longer coming and going? There will be so many stories of nature restoring itself quite quickly, and we’ll learn from that.
Finally, friends in Christ, Passiontide. Together with our Lord we take that long view to Calvary, and beyond that to the garden of the resurrection. We travel with the Lord. In different ways we die with him. Like Lazarus we will rise to new life in this life, and like the Lord himself, for all those who tragically will die because of Covid-19, or who have already died, the triumph of Easter Day is already theirs – the resurrection life, the new life, the life of restoration, of healing, of completion and fulfilment.
And finally finally, the prayers of heaven are with us always, and especially at this time when we need them most. Amen.