There is quite an industry at the moment in trying to second guess what the future will look like. What will life and the world look like when we come out of lockdown. On one level, this is such a disorientating experience that it is very difficult to think beyond where we are and taking each day as it comes. The immediate has led to crisis management and response, because that is where we are.
This time is very hard to bear, and so just like the story of Noah on his floating art feeling lost at sea and wondering where home is, so we long signs of land. Uncertainty, while it is always with us, is something we prefer to cover with the known knowns. This is a time of exile, enforced. We have not gone on a spiritual pilgrimage into the wilderness to find ourselves, or even to find God, we have been wrenched from where we were and endure enforced incarceration, distancing and separation. I find the images of exile speak more to me than those of exile at the moment.
This time though will come to an end and there are some twigs beginning to appear, of signs of coming out the other side, at least in some limited way, and we are expecting a major announcement at the weekend about what is likely to emerge in the coming days. As we enter that it is unlikely that we will return completely to how life was before – this virus has not gone away, and without a vaccine or immunity we will still have to take care of ourselves and others; take care of one another.
Whatever the new normality looks like, as it is being termed, it will not come from no where. So, some have been asking us to think about what we are missing and therefore want to see restored. Equally, what are we quite glad to see the back of, even if we’d have chosen a less dramatic way of being shot of it. These are windows into what we treasure and what we value. And somewhere in there will be the operating system we use to access it.
Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in America, him of that high octane royal wedding sermon a few years ago, spoke recently about what he was looking for. He spoke of the new normality being shaped by the rubric of love. Let the rule of love be the defining character of the new normality. If we do that we will find a more compassionate, more embracing, more open world, one where people flourish and grow in the warmth of the sunlight rather than being weighed down with clouds and darkness. It will be a world that is more inclusive, that looks to count people in and not count them out. When we are going around keeping distance, lest my neighbor infect me, this is a challenge and an important counter to the suspicion and fear that distancing can bring.
The rule of love doesn’t mean that we don’t ask critical questions of those who run things, including governments. Accountability means that we hold up a measure by which to take stock. But that measure needs to be the rule of love not the rule of hatred or fear. The rule of love means that the hungry find food, the homeless shelter and therefore we need to commit the resources needed make this happen. And again announcement today is that there will be a major review of provisions for the homeless and as resources have been committed over recent week we hope and pray that they will be found for what is needed going forward as well – and I welcome that review.
The story of Noah, with its rainbow and floating zoo, is only a temporary fix. The new normality in that story doesn’t last. And within a few pages the old sins continue. Unless we address what lies within that divided, that sent us off down rabbit holes of endless consuming and frenetic activity, we will not change. The love we need is the love that sets us free with hope, with generosity and thanksgiving. This is the love that will change us, the love which we see in Jesus Christ. And it is healing in so many ways.
Reflection for a service of wholeness and healing during Night Prayer, Live-streamed Wednesday 6th May 202