Many of us across the world are now living under restrictions that we have never known before, possibly mainly confined to our homes, queuing for essential supplies, prevented from work or travel.
These are difficult times and we are having to learn to live in new ways. Perhaps we are just getting some inkling of what life may be like for seafarers for so many months of the year. Confined to a limited space, choices significantly reduced, unable to access family and friends in the normal way, time off the ship restricted and controlled.
Many of us are now unable even to access our churches, the Sunday worship which sustains us and gives such an important reference point in our lives. We are reminded again of parallels with the seafaring life. Perhaps we have an enforced opportunity to learn something about standing in the shoes of others, in this case seafarers. They too face many issues at this time of international crisis, as I report elsewhere.
Back in Old Testament days there was a time when many of the people of Israel were exiled to Babylon. They lost everything with which they were familiar. As the Psalm reports, “there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion”. It was a time of desperate sadness and alienation. It was also a time when prophets emerged to remind the people that God had not abandoned them. Yes, the times were difficult but brighter days lay ahead. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God”. So promises the prophet Isaiah as he seeks to rally Israel from despair.
We cannot understand all the whys and wherefores of this current disease and the cruelties it has brought to so many. As Christians, however, we seek to remain faithful to the God who walks with us through history, who engages with us in love, in forgiveness and in hope. In Babylon, the people of Israel learnt new things about life, about faith. They learnt to do things in new ways, ways which continued to sustain them once the crisis had passed. This difficult period will pass. New hope will emerge. Let us be open to learn new things and let us do all in our power to sustain hope and love.