Monthly Letter to the Parish - May 2020
Locked Down or Opened Up?
Fed up with being enclosed, wanting to do the 'normal' things in life, nervous even to go shopping? Lots of reasons to be less than content at the moment even for those who are not ill.
But perhaps there are opportunities as well as deprivations. During this extended celebration of the Easter story - it continues through May - we are reminded of the events of another lockdown. Shortly after the resurrection the close followers of Jesus were locking themselves in a room to avoid contact with the religious leaders who might recognise them and take hostile action against them. It is hard to know what they were feeling or quite what would happen next, or when: so some parallels to our current situation.
Then the unexpected happened. They became aware of the presence with them of Jesus - well, not the Jesus in the same form as they had previously known him, although transformed, undoubtedly him. The walls of the house were no barrier to this experience which opened their eyes to a new way of seeing themselves and the world around them: it was the first phase of their inspiration and motivation for devoting the rest of their lives to spreading the spirit of Love into an often difficult and sad world.
We might ask ourselves whether, and how, our lockdown will change us. Perhaps there are thoughts, ideas, feelings, experiences that we are having during this time that are worth holding on to and developing in the future.
It was also during the disciples' lockdown that Thomas was elsewhere when the others first experienced the presence of Jesus. When he returned, he was reluctant to believe what they told him - perhaps not surprising. Elsewhere we read of Thomas being his own man and being open and honest with others about his thoughts and feelings.
When the experience of Jesus again comes to the locked room Thomas is there, probably expecting a telling off from Jesus for expressing his previous doubt. However, that is not what happens, instead Jesus invites Thomas to see the crucifixion wounds. Thomas does not need to, he is overcome by the presence and immediately convinced. So it is at that moment, when Thomas is being most genuinely himself, that God comes to him. Perhaps our current situation is reminding us of the sort of people we really are, warts and all, doubts and all. Being open to that is an invitation for sacredness to make its mark on us.
Another story that we hear during this Easter period is that of the two travellers making their way home, meeting and chatting with an apparent stranger. They invite him into their home for a meal and it is only when he blesses the food set out in front of him that they realise his true significance - "didn't our hearts burn as we talked with him" they say as they realise they had experienced the risen Christ. We might look back on some past experiences and appreciate within them a significance that was not apparent at the time. The divine comes to us unannounced and unrecognised at the most unlikely times and places.