“Are We Nearly There Yet?”

I’m sure we are all familiar with the concept of the plaintive cry of a small child on a long car journey who cries out – “are we nearly there yet?”, usually when going on holiday or travelling a great distance across the country. Well, this week we heard plenty of other distressed ‘holiday cries’ as people discovered that the government was imposing a 14 day quarantine period upon all travellers and holiday makers returning from Spain who it feared might be harbouring the coronavirus. Not only did the suddenness of the announcement take holiday makers by surprise, but holiday companies, travel firms and airlines were all equally caught out and swiftly started to complain that the government was being too heavy handed and extreme in its response which they thought unreasonable. Naturally, the Spanish authorities were indignant that they had been singled out in this way, and upset about the effect that this restriction would have upon their tourist industry and economy, arguing that many of their choice tourist locations were better protected and managed than their equivalents in the UK. But within a few days and with the number of Covid-19 infections rising in Germany, France and Belgium, it became clear that the government’s concern was far wider, fearing that a ‘second wave’ of the pandemic might be looming and swiftly sweep across Europe towards the UK.      

Apart from the obvious imperative of the government to protect its citizens, this episode demonstrated the sombre truth that despite the relaxing of lockdown restrictions and greater public freedoms, the virus had not gone away, and these latest measures politically symbolised the government’s resolve and willingness to act. Indeed, despite huge progress being made in terms of testing and the development of a vaccine, it was abundantly clear that as far as this particular journey was concerned, we weren’t ‘nearly there yet’; in fact we would still have to keep travelling and working together for some considerable time if we were ever going to reach our final goal and long held desire and ambition of a virus free future. This was a point made by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organisation who despite telling the World’s media that the pandemic was accelerating (16 million cases of coronavirus had been reported to the WHO), still insisted that “We are not prisoners of the pandemic. Every single one of us can make a difference. The future is in our hands.”  If we are going to achieve our goal then we need to work together.

St Paul reminded the early church at Philippi that if they wanted to successfully overcome the trials and tribulations that came their way, then they needed to become more like Christ in both their attitude and outlook, for Christ had not avoided suffering but pushed his way through it in order to win the greater prize of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins for all those who put their faith and trust in him. It was Paul’s ambition to become more like him, thinking about and loving and caring for the world in the same way that Christ did. Now of course, nobody wants to suffer or likes it, but it is the manner in which we face it and lovingly support one another through it that makes all the difference and will ultimately help us overcome the trial before us and reach our destination.       

Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4.13-14


Patience Is A Virtue – Even In ‘Lockdown’

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Every Thursday evening my family and I, like many others, have stood outside our house clapping our hands, applauding the sterling work of the NHS whose doctors and nurses have been battling on the ‘front line’, looking after and caring for sick coronavirus patients. But over the weeks our appreciation has grown as we have become more aware (and thoughtful) of all those who are playing such a massive part at this difficult time, not just the doctors and nurses but all employees of the NHS; alongside care workers in care homes (the new and perhaps previously forgotten front line?); ‘key workers’ in so many various and different fields (supermarkets, schools, and utilities) and not forgetting the increasingly significant part played by funeral directors, whose own personal ‘risk’ is not inconsequential.

The panic buying of the first few weeks has been largely forgotten by the many acts of kindness that we have seen by members of the public as they look after and support one another, especially the vulnerable, at this difficult time. We have seen real acts of courage, bravery and sacrifice undertaken by those whose professionalism and dedication to public duty and care has put themselves at risk in the service of others. We remember especially all those doctors, nurses and care workers who have died, largely and inexplicably from the BAME community. All this has been coupled with massive acts of generosity as people have rallied to support one another and the NHS behind such inspirational figure heads as Captain Tom Moore.

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But of all the virtues we have witnessed there is one that seems to be in increasingly short supply (particularly in the media) and that is – patience! Despite being told from the outset that this crisis would be more like a marathon than a sprint, we were barely ‘locked down’ for a fortnight before the media started to ask as to when the lockdown might be lifted. This question gained momentum from business and opposition parties as the cost to business and the economy started to bite. In one sense these are natural questions to ask and no one underestimates the very real pain and uncertainty that people are feeling and experiencing. The costs and pain to peoples’ lives and livelihoods at this time is immense, and yet I would suggest that it is nothing compared to the pain of losing a loved one. For many life will go on, even if it is different, but once you have lost someone you can never get that life back! That’s why it is crucial that we all pay attention to the rate of infection (the ‘R’ number) and follow the government guidelines. Until we have ‘flattened the curve’ and this number becomes ‘1’ or ‘less than 1’ it would be irresponsible to lift the restrictions. The cost to the economy and people’s lives would be much, much worse if we allowed this rate to increase again – which it could easily and very rapidly do. At the time of writing 26,771 people have died of the coronavirus in the UK alone, a rise of 674 from the previous day. These are unprecedented numbers which is why we must hold on to our nerve and our courage! We must bravely hold on to our resolve and our dedication. We must continue to have faith, courage and patience! As tempting as it may be to return to work, to enjoy the sunshine and pick up our normal lives once again, we can’t until it is safe to do so. Neither can we allow the sacrifice of others to be wasted, nor destroy our hope for a better future.

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The Christian will be aware that Jesus also undertook a very long, arduous and painful journey towards the cross. The shadow of his looming death must have been a constant and fearful presence, and yet he bravely continued on, knowing that it would be the only way by which others might be saved. So, at this time of national crisis, let’s continue to embrace the path which is set out before us, doing so with the same love, resolve, determination and kind generosity of spirit – and let us be patient!  


4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

            1 Corinthians 13.4,6-7


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Easter, the Coronavirus and ‘Doing Whatever it Takes’

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“Every single person in the country is affected by this” I was told and so we are. Who would have thought that our lives could be so dramatically transformed by a disease that nobody had ever heard off until a few months ago? All social gatherings have been banned and people have been encouraged to work from home. Schools have closed and Churches have had to cease all acts of public worship. Prime-ministerial news briefings have spoken about ‘flattening the curve’ to give the NHS the time and space to cope with the rising number of infections and those who are over 70, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions have been encouraged to go into self-isolation. Social distancing has become the new social responsibility and the nation has been put on a ‘war’ footing. The health crisis has also become an economic crisis with the Chancellor of the Exchequer pumping £330 billion pounds (15% of GDP) into the economy to help businesses pay their rent, salaries and suppliers – the largest ever injection of aid in ‘peace time’ Britain. The Chancellor is clearly committed to ‘doing whatever it takes’ to overcome this crisis and yet the Prime Minister’s frankness has been clear from the start ‘many more families will lose loved ones before their time’. It’s a truly nerve-racking and terrible situation, a situation outside of our experience, and which has brought out both the best and the worst in us. Many people are kindly looking after their neighbours whilst others are sadly and selfishly panic buying in the supermarkets and shops.

If we ever needed a reminder of the imperfection of our world, then surely this is it! For many of us, calamities and disasters usually happen to other people, somewhere on the other side of the world. We are not used to the fact that in a global situation and in a truly global pandemic this one might actually affect us.

And yet for the Christian this all rings strangely true, for the Christian will be aware that in many ways, theologically speaking, we have never lived in a perfect world; for Genesis reminds us that when we think we are ‘masters of all that we survey’ and are in charge of our own destiny perhaps knowing better than even God himself, then something always happens to trip us up and we are destined for a fall. Now God has graciously gifted us with many wonderful qualities and characteristics, such as knowledge, skill and intellect and we are constantly amazed at what human endeavour and intuition can achieve, but fundamentally the heart of the problem is always the same – it’s the problem of the human heart, which wants to do things our own way and keep God out of the picture. This bias to self (which affects us all) the Bible calls sin and spoils our relationships with God, with one another and even with creation. It’s the worst of all social distancing! What we need is a new start and a new hope!

Fortunately, the Christian is aware that despite the fact that many of us may have forgotten God, he doesn’t forget us, for in the person of Jesus, God steps into this broken and fallen world of ours and bears the brunt of our pain and our sin in his own body upon the cross. He’s the one who truly does ‘whatever it takes’! He dies the death that we all deserve precisely so we don’t have to when we put our faith and trust in him – and he does this because he loves us. Christ’s death is awful and frightening, and if he were just an ordinary man then it would be the end of the story, but it’s not – because Christians recognise that Jesus isn’t simply human, he’s divine, he’s the Son of God, God made flesh, God incarnate and his resurrection proves it as witnessed by so many of his day.

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He is therefore as the risen Lord, , a man of the ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5.17 / Revelation 21.1), a man of the new life and  perfectly restored order, which is promised eternally to all who believe. This is the joyful essence of Easter Day and it provides us not just with the courage and strength to meet the challenges of this moment (however dark it may be) but hope for the future, for as the Bible reminds us ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3.16).

So, yes, despite the difficulties of the present moment, may I take this opportunity for myself and the parishes I represent to wish you all a very happy and joyful Easter.


May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all … this day and always. 2 Corinthians 13.14


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The NHS, Brexit And The ‘Magic Money Tree’

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Sometimes I find myself feeling a bit incredulous! The Prime Minister has just announced a £20 billion pounds funding increase for the National Health Service (NHS) after Brexit, partly funded by tax increases and partly from money that will no longer be going to the European Union (the so called ‘Brexit Dividend’). On the face of it, this would seem to be good news, but immediately, the politics has kicked in by those who would wish to either undermine the Prime Minister, the Conservative Party or derail Brexit. Yes, I completely understand and accept that more should have been paid to doctors and nurses years ago; I also understand that merely referring to the controversial ‘£350 million per week’ quote painted on the side of the now infamous red Brexit bus is like ‘waving a red rag to a bull’ to some – but the point remains that this is still good news! Especially, when one accepts that according to recent opinion polls 66% (2/3rds) of the British public are in favour of paying higher tax to fund the NHS regardless of whatever may or may not come back from Brussels. Admittedly, during the election campaign Amber Rudd had accused Jeremy Corbyn of believing in a ‘magic money tree’ – a phrase which the Prime Minister herself had also used, but now (ignoring the inconvenient truth that the government has produced loads of new money via loans to business through its process of ‘Quantative Easing’) critics have accused the Prime Minister of ‘pulling a rabbit out of a hat’, of finding a ‘magic money tree’ after all, albeit through increased taxes and money that would have gone to the EU. However, putting Politics aside – why can’t we simply celebrate the fact that new money is going to the NHS in time for its 70th anniversary which is precisely what so many people have wanted, waited and called for, for such a long time? This is still good news! Or must it always be part of our human nature to criticise and complain?

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Ironically, it would seem so, for as the Christian can testify, the greatest example of good news being stifled by the politics of the day is perhaps the coming of Jesus himself! Which is strange, because for centuries having been conquered by a series of foreign regimes, the people of Israel were only too aware of the fact that they lived in a broken world, where ‘might seemed to be right’ and where their lives were not their own. Society was often cruel and unjust, and the lives of weak and the poor were often treated shamefully or neglected. What they needed, and what they longed for, was a hero, a Saviour, a Messiah who could lift them out of their suffering and save them from their plight. And of course, the biblical notion of salvation is a lot broader than we might imagine, for it refers not just to rescue and restoration – but to healing! Just like modern day clinicians, Jesus was not just concerned about the presenting problems but the underlying causes. In other words, he was concerned about the whole person! And for Jesus, the main underlying problem of the human condition spiritually speaking was – sin!

It was sin that spoiled people’s lives, their relationships with one another and their relationship with God, and it was because of sin that Jesus had come into the world, so that through his loving death upon the cross our lives could be profoundly changed, restored and healed when we put our faith in him. We would be saved! This is good news! Sadly, the politics of the day prevented many from appreciating what was happening before their eyes. May our minds and our vision be open to all that is good and praiseworthy.


“On each side of the river stood the tree of life …. and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Revelation 22.2