Romans 8.23 – A message of Hope

Ann Atkins spoke on Thought for the Day this morning (26th) and talked of her father‘s death and the terrible trimming down of the celebration of his life in the face of our present restrictions. She also remembered her mother who frequently quoted St. Paul’s axiom, And we know that all things work together for good to those that love God and are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Ann made clear that this perception was not cheap grace, but a place of faith in the face of real difficulty. It is so easy to be trite or to read the world through rose tinted spectacles. Life is always difficult but at the present there is a peculiar strain which has been added by the presence of the coronavirus. COVID-19 has yet to hit us with its full force – pray God that we don’t have to face that. Nonetheless when it comes, there will be those and those whom we love who struggle and we will be far from them and it will be easy to lose hope and find anxieties crowding in.

Let us determine not just to ‘be calm and carry on’ but to raise our heads and remember that this too will pass and that good will come out of it. Already we have seen great kindness shown by neighbours and a readiness by the government to act to help those in distress and need. The papers may try to drag us down into snide cynicism or sharp criticism, offering the advice of a backseat driver. Yet we can be generous to those in the thick of decisions. We can pray for those around us. We can volunteer to help locally, with the Abbey and Mandy or with HEALS – as so many have done for the NHS. Let us trust in God and that He will lead us through this storm to a safe harbour.

Think are looking forward and it is worth remembering that this weekend the clocks go forward by one hour.

As we look forward let us remember that this will pass and that we will have a party to celebrate – in the summer sunshine we pray!

As we look forward we will celebrate Easter not together in the Abbey but on the Internet and linking home to home and family to family and person-to-person. Isolation will not have the last word nor this wretched virus. 

So watch this space ….. For we know that all things work together for good to those that love God and are the called according to his purpose.

May God keep and bless you all

Oliver

Bomb to Corona Virus

Have you seen this?

C. S. Lewis’s words—written 72 years ago—ring with some relevance for us. Just replace “atomic bomb” with “coronavirus.”

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

All the very best and God keep you.

Oliver

The Rev'd Oliver C M Ross
Vicar of Malmesbury Abbey
Lead Incumbent of N. Wilts. Mission Area
T: 01666 826666
M: 07879490139
E: vicar@malmesburyabbey.com

Thomas Merton’s prayer

The Lenten prayer for this week is written by Trappist monk Thomas Merton. It is from fromThoughts in Solitude (1958).

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

And here is a link to a choral setting of that prayer by Ysaye Barnwell, entitled “Tango with God.” It is performed in this video by the Minneapolis vocal ensemble Cantus.