Dear One and All,

This is one of my favourite texts and as it's about recognition, in part at any rate, it seems to fit into the unusual and almost unrecognisable times we now occupy.  The reading speaks to me of at least three things:

1: Be prepared to be surprised, things are not always as they seem.
2: Whoever said things were going to be easy!
3: Keep our focus on Christ.

 

As many of you will know I help out the chaplaincy team at Mount Gould Hospital in Plymouth. At this time it is not possible to get onto the wards because of Covid-19. Some wards have very poorly patients with Covid-19 or who are recovering from it, or, who are in-patients for other reasons whom the hospital do not want infected. It is frustrating not being able to be alongside both patients and staff, but that's the way things are. However, surprising things happen. There have been requests for prayer from doctors and nurses, staff from over the organisation. I have entered a new world of Zoom, something I never knew of before. Conversations have developed with many folk I would not normally meet. At the heart of it is a request to be heard and a need to be prayed-for; to acknowledge that what we all face is beyond us and to recognise in it there is a need to seek the face of God. In the hospital and beyond I have seen the bonds of community grow as we recognise our need for each other and the place of God in its midst.  An atheist member of staff said to me 'Please pray for us' - recognising the presence of Christ comes in many forms and is constantly surprising.

As Jesus walks with the two downhearted, confused and fearful disciples en route for Emmaus he listens to their story. I have found recently in the opportunity which lockdown offers, that I have had much time to talk with Christ. I have been able to share my fears, express my concerns, present my doubts and sometimes to shout 'Where are you, we need to see your face in this?' The other day I watched a paramedic in all his PPE going into a neighbours house. He waved at us all and went about his duties. The face of Christ surprises us in its varying forms. 

As I take my early morning permitted exercise, the spring landscape, the bird song and the beauty of the day all shout at me, 'don't make your God too small'. Reducing the Christ of Easter to the limitations of my perspective is a category mistake. The Christ I know, the Christ I follow, is the fruit of Calvary, the One who is Risen, the One who conquers suffering and death.There was never a promise that in being a Christian it would be easy and Jesus' example tends to show the reality.

I know lockdown has been and will continue to be a difficult intrusion into our everyday lives. Covid-19 has produced fear, it has killed many and caused anxiety, loss and heartbreak to numerous folk in this country and abroad. As Christ breaks bread with the Emmaus-two, in the act of breaking, in the revelation that Jesus' brokenness had been overcome, suddenly the truth broke through. In the world of Covid-19 brokenness, so may be revealed the great hope in the Christian soul; that our companion on this hard road, through all its twists and turns, is none other than Christ himself. Him crucified, him risen, who is Christ indeed!

So then, surprised? Yes constantly.
Faced with hardship, calamity and difficulty? Of Course!
Overwhelmed by the gift of grace in Christ, so that in him we might overcome, Amen!

Stay safe.

 Every blessing,

Simon