19 June 2020

Winter Newsletter 2020: Article

Dear Friends

Who could have imagined six months ago the changes we have been confronted with in the last while? The National Lockdown in March, mirrored across the world, has changed our lives in almost every way. I certainly entered the initial 21 days with a na├»ve expectation that we’d be back to life as usual by the end of April and continue merrily on our way. This was not to be, and the initial extension made it clear life was on a new path. Much of my emotional rollercoaster over the last while has been a mix of coming to terms with the death of “normal” and dealing with the anxiety associated with transitioning to something different as it begins to emerge.

From a faith perspective, I have found that having this Lockdown period run parallel to a very different celebration of Holy Week and Easter, the journey of Eastertide, and now an embrace of life post-Pentecost, helpful in navigating our journey into a “new normal”. My devotional reading for today centred on Lazarus being brought back to life by Jesus, and what strikes me is that as Lazarus dies to life and is returned to life, on one level life itself didn’t change. However, his experience of life must have changed fundamentally. It would be so interesting to hear from him how this impacted on his perceptions, expectations, and attitudes; what renewed life was like?

For you and me, as we reengage again with life as the National Lockdown begins to ease, perhaps it is time to bury past expectations, and acknowledge these last weeks as a time of mourning for all that we have needed to let go of. We also need to take time to reflect on what we are clinging to that may be obstacles to reengaging with a renewed life, one in which Covid-19 will remain an active participant?

As we step back out into the streets life looks familiar. Are we tempted to live as we always have, with relative disregard? Probably, but the virus does not allow us that luxury! As other generations have managed in centuries past, we need to find the courage to brave a new world, a renewed world. This virus has reminded us on a global scale that we are not immortal, and that we can no longer live without reference to the needs of others and without reference to the needs of the earth. It is no surprise that within this context several social diseases are also spotlighted. Racism and gender-based violence are two global social pandemics presently requiring attention: CNN reports that violence against women in the UK, Spain and other parts of Europe has increased, that in Mexico 11 women a day are killed by partners, and in Iran honour killings are up; and in our own country Cape Talk reports that 21 women have been murdered since we moved to Alert Level 3. There are other social problems endemic to our own context, including the ongoing murder of farmers to which there seem to be no answers, the gang-violence in many of our Cape Town suburbs, and random acts of violent crime. The loss of life is never acceptable, and this Covid-19 pandemic is a broader wake-up call for our world. As we hear the alarm bell going off, how do we react? Are we turning off the alarm, and getting up to act; or have we snoozed it?

The challenges are great, but not insurmountable. Our faith teaches us that even when the situation appears most dire, there is always hope. Job 4:6 (NRSV) reminds us that our confidence comes through meaningful relationship with God, and our hope is built on the integrity of our lives:

Is not your fear of God your confidence,
and the integrity of your ways your hope?

As we journey into winter, keep warm and keep healthy! Maintain social and physical distancing, wash your hands regularly, sanitise, and wear your mask in public (properly over your nose and mouth, and not as a chin or neck decoration!!). See you on ZOOM!

Blessings

Mark


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