A Homily Message from Nigel

When I was young I read a short science fiction story by Ray Bradbury called, ‘The Pedestrian.’ It centred on a man walking alone along completely deserted streets of a town, in the early evening, peering in to houses where people were watching TV screens. An empty police car pulled up and a disembodied voice from within asked the pedestrian what he was doing on the streets?

I thought the story was quite far-fetched but recently, on my hour’s exercise, that story keeps coming back to me. The streets seem eerily quiet, people are sparsely distributed and indeed there are police instructing people to go home. I pinch myself and ask if this remoteness is really happening. The planes are grounded, work has ceased for many, we are confined and contained. Nothing is the same.

These are scary days and I do so miss gathering with you as church. We are people who are designed to be relational but our togetherness is being hampered by the necessity to distance because of coronavirus. We are being split from friends and loved ones and we find ourselves excessively watching the news on TV whilst our routines are disturbed and things which we relied upon and deemed valuable now no longer have worth, no longer function. Is this the end of the world? What are we to do? How should we respond? Where is our hope?

There have been many times in history when plagues and diseases have devastated populations; those communities knew the value of life because it was so immediately fragile. Those who were ill or contagious in the middle ages would only be able to witness a church service from a distance, through windows (Not Microsoft Windows), viewing from outside the mystery of the sacrament which was so precious to them.

Now churches are closed we too seek ways to view in and as the website shows there are many places where technology can take you to have virtual experience of worship. In time I’d like us to do this but for now I rejoice in the collective worship which I have seen in action in the community this week. There has been the neighbourliness, expressions of compassion and in an alien situation love has broken out. The applause

for the NHS workers drew me to tears, the volunteers to befriend and shop and the cooperation between shops and organisations gladdened my heart. After bringing out the worst in us as the shops were raided, this crisis is now bringing out the best. Within us is a Godly awakening to fellow travellers in our lives, our family, the neighbours, our village, our country and the world. We sense what really matters.. As C. S. Lewis said: Aslan is on the move and the selflessness of Jesus is seen in many places.

And in our days, if we are not on the front line, there is an instinct to appreciate the simple things. A walk, a meal, the smile of a loved one. Some have more time to exercise and many are taking the opportunity to question what life is all about. With the ephemeral things disappearing people are looking for something eternal.

When our loving heavenly Father is mentioned some will ask why God allowed this virus. Within a broken world I don’t actually believe God did put this virus upon us, but I do believe he is making something from the wake up call it is giving us.

The face and full nature of God was veiled to mankind until it was revealed to us in Jesus of Nazareth who was the perfect gift to a hurting world. God was not prepared to be remote and He did not want us self isolating and distancing ourselves from Him. He wanted a full and eternal relationship with us. So He gave us Jesus.

He cares for us with all His heart and this was shown when Jesus visited a beloved family in Bethany as He made his fateful journey to Jerusalem. Hearing the news that Lazarus, his friend, had died, even though He knew He could heal him and bring him back to life, in that pained moment of sadness and loss, Jesus wept. Yes, Jesus wept, demonstrating an incredible closeness with our human condition and our predicament.

In a short time Jesus would follow a parallel path of death followed by glorious resurrection and then life beyond measure. Our journey must be a day at a time but it must be a journey which we plan for. Stripped of the giddy things of life that are ultimately worthless we need a good guide to show us the way. Jesus is that guide. He is our hope at this time. We can’t afford to be lone pedestrians.