Our one daily walk for exercise yesterday took us to the coastal path once again, and, with the weather a mixture alternating according to the exposure of the particular part of the track, between warm sunshine and a chill wind, the sea was a constant blue, with the white spray cascading over rocks.
A few people were walking like us. Especially we saw others as we sought the coastal path through the access route of Priest’s Way, along which we saw our first small tortoiseshell butterfly of the year. Social distancing was scrupulously adhered to, with either us or those approaching, waiting for the other where the path narrowed; and we took care over opening gates, where we could not step over styles, which always seemed like the better option.
Spring continues its relentless pace as if nothing were wrong in the world; the cowslips are now appearing and the early orchids, pushing up their pale green spikes through the wiry turf. But, relentless pace also describes the progress of the coronavirus, and the news makes for grim listening. Standing well apart, often beyond the two metres recommended, I find that people are keen to talk, and there is one dominant subject of conversation.
As a Church in this place we are adapting, as are all parishes. Nick Viney, as Chair of Swanage Churches Together, is arranging for the church leaders in Swanage to have a video-conference style meeting this coming Wednesday and we shall learn more from each other, whilst we receive almost daily updates from the diocese, especially as we approach Holy Week.
Even in these very distressing days, there many whose positive outlook and good humour are so helpful in dispelling gloom. Often, it must be said, it is the people who have themselves suffered real tragedies in their lives who bring us perspective, and strengthen our underlying hope and confidence.
On this Passion Sunday, as we read the story of the raising of Lazarus from the Gospel of John, and of Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones from the Old Testament, we have every reason to know the power of God and the love of Christ, to transform suffering and bring life in the face of everything that appears to tend towards its opposite. This is not to deny what is before our eyes, but to re-double our resolve to prayer and action in the face of a common problem, knowing that we are not alone in this, but have one another; not just with our own abilities and frail endeavour, but in the fellowship, love and strength of God himself, as he guides and directs and works his miracles, and, as we recall especially at this time, whose Son gave his life that we may live.