- Roger Cooke
Telling A Different Story
Decorating to dispel
Last Friday, I saw my first new Christmas tree of 2020. It was 15th October. The clocks have yet to change, but the festive countdown has begun! In a similar vein, many houses in our neighbourhood have already been producing their Halloween displays - they've gone early and they've gone big
As Covid restrictions step up again, we're transforming our homes to make the 'stuck indoors' experience a little more palatable. Something similar takes place every winter in the northern climes of Scandinavia. Scented candles and wood-burning stoves are lit, fairly lights are switched on, soft, colourful blankets are lifted out of storage and the tea or coffee making rituals are stepped up: familiar routines that help create that cosy, homely, hygge feeling.
In our case, it's not the cold and dark that we're trying to dispel by our early Christmas trees and extravagant Halloween decorations - it's Covid-19.
We have a story of eternal peace and infinite love that can sustain us in the now, and point us to a brighter future.
Every morning, at around 6:57, I get a dependable, daily dose of non-Covid news. It's in the form of the weather forecast on the radio. It only lasts for a minute or two - but it's bliss!
I've been a weather watcher for years, but during the past seven months my appreciation of forecasting has soared. At a time when everything - news, politics, business, sport, daily life - is dominated by coronavirus, the weather forecast has remained entirely untouched. It's refreshingly Covid-free.
Since March, it's been hard to find Covid-free spaces. So much of our lives and our thoughts have been dominated and shaped by this pandemic and, more significantly, the constant coverage and commentary about it. We are bored and gripped by it in equal measure.
As Rev Lucy Winkett observed in her 'Thought For The Day' on BBC Radio 4 on Friday:
"Covid-19 is in the dominant story of our lives at the moment. The virus is ruthless in its threat to crush creativity and destroy our hope."
In this context, the Church is called to resist such a singular focus and to tell a different story.
Heavenly hope isn't just a future promise; it is a present reality...
A different story
On one hand, we must recognise and respond to the genuine anxieties, suffering and hardships that have become daily realities for many. God's people should be at work, offering compassionate care to those in need - sharing His grace in the midst of the crisis. But at the same time, we need to create covid-free spaces. We need to remind each other and our communities that there is more to our current lives than coronavirus - there are still things to celebrate, cherish and enjoy. And, better still, there is a life beyond this one that is entirely covid-free! We have a story of eternal peace and infinite love that can sustain us in the now, and point us to a brighter future.
I see this time and again in the work and witness of CMSI's Global Partners. In the midst of crises and despite many hardships, the Church continues to share a different story, a better story: a story of God at work, offering hope, changing lives.
Lucy Winkett finished her Thought For The Day with these words:
"Just as important as physical wellbeing is the irreducible need for spiritual and emotional resilience: refusing to let our thoughts be colonised by the repetitive and corrosive anxiety that Covid brings. This is, in itself, building resilience in a pandemic: reclaiming our power to choose what stories we listen to and what stories we tell."
Heavenly hope isn't just a future promise - it is a present reality that can transform how we think and act during this pandemic. It is more dependable than the weather forecast; it offers deeper satisfaction than festive decorations, scented candles and hygge.
As this crisis continues, may we each learn to hear and to tell a different story - bringing a voice of hope to those who most need to hear it.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair...
(2 Corinthians 4:7-9)