Both Old Testament and New Testament readings this morning (Exodus 24 and Luke 1: 39-56) end in someone having travelled a distance remaining where they are, and then, in that place, spending time preparing to go to others with news and direction. The communing within their own hearts, which was inevitable, preparing them for where they going was important. The Exodus reading ends with Moses spending forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai, the Luke reading, which relates the story of Mary visiting Elizabeth, and includes the Magnificat, finishes with Mary remaining three months with her relative as they prepare for the birth of their sons.
Most of us are familiar with the pattern of a journey and a stay for a season in a place that has some meaning or significance for us. It may only be for a while, but it may also be a formative time. I was thinking this over while considering a sandwich tern flying back and forth between the pier and the Mowlem in Swanage yesterday evening. It was diving here and there with speed and precision, but little success, as far as I could see. This small bird has arrived from the tropical coast of west Africa and is ready to spend the summer with us. In the rain and cool last night, I wonder how it felt.
Spending time in the midst of changing circumstances, and all the examples above relate to that situation, can bring us comfort, but also concern, if we feel helpless at the same time. Many, many people must be in this situation at the moment, as they are stuck self-isolating or simply locked down in the current circumstances. What it does inevitably teach us, if we can cope with the frustration, is patience and the never-ending lesson of managing each day as it comes. Moses and Mary must have been full up to overflowing with the bigger picture of which they were an integral part, but equally for them there was the immediate situation as Moses worked with his closest team and especially Aaron and Joshua, and Mary spent time with Elizabeth as they shared their joy and anticipation of what was to come. These readings are full of human emotion and divine direction, and good to read as a new day opens.