In my last blog post, I reflected on The Annunciation and what we could learn from the example of Mary in how we deal with the unexpected changes in our lives at the moment.
As I pondered on this, I was struck by the examples of a number of other Bible characters and how we could take inspiration from each of them as we navigate these uncertain times and find a new “normal” in the way we live, work, relate and worship. This then gave me the idea for a series of blogs over the coming weeks…
Last week, whilst reading the story of Esther, I was again struck by the wisdom in the words of her relative Mordecai, spoken to her as they faced the real possibility of the Jewish people being wiped out by the King and his scheming advisor, Haman. The Jews have been in exile in this foreign land for generations and, on finding herself in the King’s palace, chosen as his favourite and made Queen, Esther has hidden her Jewish heritage for her own protection.
Mordecai asks Esther to use her position of influence to appeal to the King and save the Jews, revealing herself as one in the process. When she hesitates – not unreasonably under the circumstances – Mordecai makes a bold statement: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
The people of God are being called to stand up and be beacons of hope... for such a time as this
We are in a unique position, both now and when the restrictions on socialising are eased. Advancements in technology are allowing us new ways of interacting with people, sharing ideas and resources, encouraging one another and setting up support groups to care for those who need us.
Churches are embracing opportunities to hold meetings by Zoom, to stream prayers and thoughts for the day from the Vicar’s living room, to offer Bible reading plans and daily devotionals. Entire church services are being offered live online and some churches are finding that their virtual congregations are significantly bigger than those on a typical Sunday morning when we meet in the flesh. The people of God are being called to stand up and be beacons of hope… for such a time as this
This is clearly a desperate situation for our world. Loneliness and isolation were recognised as a problem within our communities long before the terms “social distancing” and “self-isolation” came into common usage. Foodbanks were already in high demand and support agencies like CAP were already at capacity for the number of people in financial difficulty that they could reasonably help. And yet here we are, with all of these things becoming ever more important as people are unable to work, families are having to find extra meals for children that would usually be cared for at school, the sick and elderly are being told to become even more isolated, looking at the prospect of 12 weeks without significant contact…
We have a unique opportunity to bring light into darkness, hope into despair, love into isolation.
And this is where we come in. The Church. The Body of Christ. We have a unique opportunity to bring light into darkness, hope into despair, love into isolation. Telephone those people who are lonely and isolated. Help someone who is afraid of technology to get online and video-call a loved one. Donate money to foodbanks if you can’t physically contribute food items at this moment. Put a candle, rainbow or other sign of hope in your window. Wave at your neighbours each day, offering a smile and a word of kindness from the window/doorway/garden. As social media platforms are so keen to tell us nowadays… #BeKind.
The world will be a different place when we come out of this time of fear and disorientation, and people are going to need each other. How the Church, both as a worldwide institution and as individual followers of Jesus, reacts to this challenge will be vital. We are being called into action to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
And who knows, but that we have come to our royal positions for such a time as this?