We seem to have been walking under the shadow of death for many months and here we are locked down once more and watching the Prime Minister and experts in the build up to lockdown 2 This small phrase from psalm 23 has been on my mind. These have been and continue to be worrying times. The media is walking a fine line between keeping us informed and seeking not to cause further fear, hits and misses.
I am reminded that in psalm 23 God doesn’t take ‘The shadow of death’ away but he does walk with us through it. Many people long for a superhero God who will swoop down and make everything alright for us. Indeed some of us were taught that idea of God. Yet that image of a superhero God is not biblical. The bible speaks much more of a God who journeys beside people in times of need and times of plenty, in times of danger and in settled times.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. As I have contemplated this line my mind has been drawn back three years to a hospital ward in Leeds where my mum’s life was drawing to it’s close. In mum’s last hours my brother and I had the opportunity to make sure she realised how deeply loved she was. We could do nothing to prevent her death from happening but we could be right beside her speaking words of love. That’s the type of God I recognise in the words of psalm 23. I realise how lucky my brother and I were to be allowed without any question at mum’s bedside, it is very different today.
In this new lockdown there will be many opportunities for us to speak and act with deep love. There will be many opportunities to put into action the command to love our neighbours as ourselves. That care and service will have many faces and expressions. One of those expressions will be the active protection of our church and local communities and so as a church we must take very seriously the need to follow expert guidances, to play our part in protecting everyone and ourselves as well as we can. We must remain faithful to our central calling to speak of God and to reveal his love in the midst of fear and darkness, even when we might be afraid ourselves.
Self- isolation and social distancing bring unique challenges to faith communities for whom gathering is central to our corporate life. The cessation of public worship once more is very hard, but thankfully we do have the technology that can help us remain a close community, praise the Lord for Zoom. It is important that we are praying for all those who are involved in national leadership and local governance, for our health care professionals and carers, for our teachers and schools, for community and for each other. We have a much celebrated sense of community in Framlingham and we must live that deeply now. We as a church will strive to play our part.
The end of the line of the psalm I have been reflecting on concerns not fearing evil which begins in remembering or discovering who God is. Challenging and unprecedented times do not speak of punishment or abandonment by an angry or absent God, but times to remember a God who, in deep love, walks beside us and who in the deepest of darkness continues to whisper deep love to anxious and fearful hearts.
Though I walk through the Valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
With love and prayers,