I’m getting the sense that we’re all looking for time off after such a long time of good behaviour! We have learned to be self-consciously safe in the way we interact – in the shops, in church, at home and at work. We’ve made a pretty good job of obeying the rules, following the guidance, and thinking everything through so carefully. Now we’d like some time off, and I think we’ve earned it.
We have learned a whole new vocabulary. I don’t remember social distancing before March last year, and now we all talk about having been jabbed. We have learned to appreciate little things more, such as that kind phone call, or the encouraging wave. We have celebrated key events in a low-key way – at some personal cost in some cases; but in many ways returning to the essence of them, be it the wedding, the funeral, the baptism. We have learned to adapt and keep things simple.
There will, of course, be some serious unfinished business, most of all in the area of death and grieving. We will need to give ourselves time and be gentle with one another. For what strikes me is that we have had to face our frailty. We human beings, though capable of much, are fragile. When Paul wrote to the sometimes fractious Christians of Corinth, he said, ‘We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.’ Clay jars are fragile: Corinthian clay was, it seems, particularly so, and more likely to crack. Cracked pots were no good for holding wine, for example, but brilliant for holding light, making a good lantern.
Paul suggests that we are those fragile containers, and yet are all worthy of being bearers of God’s light. Fragility can still contain much love. So in this month of August let’s give ourselves a bit of time off for good behaviour, time to lick our wounds, acknowledge our frailty, and wonder at so much love revealed in such tough times.
The Venerable Robert Jones
The Archdeacon of Worcester