Today is the 1st of April, traditionally a time when many of us would try and prank each other, and for many of us we would become the focus of a prank. It would be a time of humour. But today, for me, feels ever so slightly different. As the world comes to terms with what has happened since Christmas it has taken on a more serious note. Now humour definitely has its place, even in the hardest and harshest of times, it has a restorative power few things can match, it is a relief valve found in pressured environments – it is the gallows humour found in emergency response staffrooms up and down this country. Humour is so important, don’t let go of giving it or receiving it.

Psalm 133

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore

Just a quick thought for the day today…

I wanted to start this week, following our acts of worship on Sunday, with a beautiful reminder of where our protection comes from.  It is inevitable that as the days and weeks roll by the true impact of COVID 19 is going to become very apparent, in ways many of us cannot imagine yet.  Some of our lives are going to be impacted in ways we do not foresee, either through the impacts on our health, our jobs, our houses or our finances. 

Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)

I love these words from Nehemiah, especially the last line in the verse which says "Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength" – they are a reminder that though times may be very weird for some, and very painful for others we are reminded where our strength lies… it lies in our 'joy of the Lord'.

Joy doesn't mean be happy, although that's what the word has come to mean in today's usage. It originally meant having a deep-seated assurance in something unshakable.

As I was thinking and praying about the current situation we are all facing at the moment, I was reminded of how different we all are, how wonderfully individual and unique each one of us is. Yet, at the same time, we all carry the amazing image of God within us too and as such we should do all we can to look after ourselves. This is going to be a long road, so we do need to accept that how we look after ourselves, and how we look after our ‘neighbours’, in these days is going to be very important indeed. In fact, this need to look after ourselves is going to become more important as the days and weeks go by.

I wanted us to think today about a question Jesus is posed in Luke 10:29-37 when he is asked the following by an expert in Jewish Law “and who is my neighbour?”…

In times when we are stressed and pushed one of our natural instincts is to gravitate to what we already know, and who we already know. To connect with people close to us, those most like us, but this leaves quite a problem. It means that those on the edge of our communities, those who are more often on their own, those we may not naturally connect with, are much more at risk of being forgotten.

So, it’s finally happened… lockdown has become more restrictive and I think the country is now collectively holding its breath… waiting and hoping that these tougher actions will help slow the infection rate enough to help the wonderful NHS staff cope with what is undoubtedly going to be a very tough season.  There is an air of surreal disbelief that this could happen in our country, this pleasant and green land… yet here we are.

And as I have spoken to people over the past couple of days there is an underlying sense of worry, and understandably so, I can resonate with that… so when I rose at 6:30 this morning for the first virtual, over the internet, prayer meeting I have ever been part of, I did so with a sense of trepidation – what would today bring…? and God answered in the best way possible.  To open the curtains in my office and be greeted with an amazing and beautiful morning, crisp and fresh, fabulous blue skies, was a true gift.