“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
These are times of confusion and weariness. People I have spoken to this week are not sure who they are allowed to meet, where they are allowed to go, where they need to cover their face. Our Prime Minister suggests we may be nearing normal by Christmas. Other voices suggest the winter may bring another wave of infections.
I have spoken with people who have been furloughed, returned to work, then placed on furlough again. They don’t know if their job will still be there in another month’s time.
I have corresponded with two seafarers sent out to ships but then confined to a hotel room under quarantine whilst the ship has sailed. They have no idea how to get home, or when that might be. One of them said he probably wouldn’t see home or family until 2021. If you drove here today you are linked to this person, he sails on oil tankers.
A friend shared a story – “Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.
But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.
A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts.”
We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized. Be kind.
In his letter to the Romans Paul was writing to people who knew that keeping faith in a turbulent world is no easy thing. He acknowledges for example that we don’t even know how to pray. Don’t worry, he says, the Spirit prays for us, with sighs too deep for words, and God understands.
The worst thing of all is to be separated from those we love, and at difficult times, when prayer is hard, to feel separated from God.
These difficult times make prayer hard. If this is something you know listen to what Paul says – God understands, and there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ.
But, how can we know this? Yes, we can listen to what Paul says. Yes, we can think these are very fine words. Yes, we can know that nothing in this world can separate us from the love of God – because love is a gift nothing can take away.
But still, how do we know this? Really know this, not just in our minds but in our hearts and in our souls?
And I remembered the story my friend shared about Margaret Mead. The first sign of civilization is an injury healed. A hurt cared for. Time given to another. One person tending to the needs of another. We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized. Be kind.
And it doesn’t matter how small an act that is. It doesn’t matter how many people if affects, or how many know about it. The Kingdom of God has its roots in the smallest of beginnings, it is made of the tiniest of things.
In his first interview as our new Bishop – Bishop Mark referred to the task of the church during Covid – 19. It said it was mostly doing the tasks that are invisible, the things that won’t make the headlines, but things that matter and things that change lives for the better.
I hear a weariness in people as this difficult time drags on. For most it is not exhaustion, though there are some whose workload and responsibilities have worn them down. But there is a sense of weariness, and there is a sense of confusion.
Jesus points us to the small things we can do, things we perhaps overlook, or perhaps don’t think are very significant. In reality, and if we stop to think about it we know this, it is the small things that matter. It is small kindnesses that people remember. In times of weariness and confusion it is small acts of kindness that give us hope and remind us who we are.
It is in small things we discover the truth, that we are not, and cannot ever be, separated from the love of God.
you give us gifts and make them grow,
though our faith is small as a mustard seed
make it grow to your glory
and the flourishing of your Kingdom,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.