Socially distanced and in exile…

This morning 7 of us met and stood at a distance around the perimeter of the bandstand in glorious sunshine and a bitter wind! So much had happened since meeting last week: the ground had shifted, workplaces left behind, holidays cancelled, routines lost, social events shut down and certainties now a thing of the past. We had joined the human experience of the majority of those who have ever lived – we had learned vulnerability, lack of control of what was happening and reminded of the fragility of life.

We began by reading the lament of thee exiles in Babylon in Psalm 137, alternating verses from the NIV and The Message:

1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.

                                      1-3 Alongside Babylon’s rivers
banks; we cried and cried,
                                         remembering the good old days in Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’

                                            Alongside the quaking aspens
                                                we stacked our unplayed harps;        
                                            That’s where our captors demanded songs,
                                                sarcastic and mocking:
                                          “Sing us a happy Zion song!”
4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?

                                          4-6 Oh, how could we ever sing GOD’s song
                                                 in this wasteland?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.

                                           If I ever forget you, Jerusalem,
                                              let my fingers wither and fall off like leaves.
                                          Let my tongue swell and turn black
                                              if I fail to remember you,
                                          If I fail, O dear Jerusalem,
                                              to honour you as my greatest.

We remembered just how devastating it was for the Jews to have lost their homeland, Temple, homes, routines, imagining that the God of Israel was well and truly defeated by the Babylonian gods. But out of that disaster, they learnt (as they were reminded by Isaiah) that the Babyonian gods were crafted by men adn carried by men through the streets at times of festivals. Their God created them and carried them! He wasn’t defeated – he was, in fact, the only God. They learnt so much more as a result of that exile.

An earlier exile was that of Moses. Having killed the Egyptian slave driver he lost his family, friends, routines, hopes and dreams and found himself in a wilderness doing what he could to get by. We all know the story of the burning bush and the call to become a person he had never imagined being…

This time of testing for us

Some of us receive emails of art, poetry, music and reflections for Lent from Biola University CCCA. One day last week included the following poem that we walked around the park with to see how we might respond:

Blessing at the Burning Bush
by Jan Richardson
© Jan Richardson.

You will have to decide
if you want this—
want the blessing
that comes to you
on an ordinary day
when you are minding
your own path,
bent on the task before you
that you have done
a hundred times,
a thousand.

You will have to choose
for yourself
whether you will attend
to the signs,
whether you will open your eyes
to the searing light, the heat,
whether you will open
your ears, your heart
to the voice
that knows your name,
that tells you this place
where you stand—
this ground so familiar
and therefore unregarded—
is, in fact,

You will have to discern
whether you have
defences enough
to rebuff the call,
excuses sufficient
to withstand the pull
of what blazes before you;
whether you will
hide your face,
will turn away
back toward—
what, exactly?

No path from here
could ever be
ordinary again,
could ever become
unstrange to you
whose seeing
has been scorched
beyond all salving.

You will know your path
not by how it shines
before you
but by how it burns
within you,
leaving you whole
as you go from here
blazing with
your inarticulate,
your inescapable


We considered the question: In these unchartered, unsettling times, in our own exile, what might I be invited to say YES to?

We spread petals and blossom on a map of Matlock and area, praying for those here and much further away and shared bread and wine to these words from Steve:

If only for today…

If only for today, this singular day, I want to live gratefully, without resentments and what ifs; to play without regret.
If this were the only day, this single moment, I want to commit generously, love lavishly; to invest as if for eternity.
If this day were the last day, I want to live without fear and without anxiety because I’d send Jesus out to bat because he can sort the googlies from the flippers and the bouncers from the yorkers.
If this were the final innings and all was to play for, one final session after tea, I would gather my companions around me and I’d break the bread as we’ve been taught. And we’d look from person to person and we’d know, we’d just know.
And Jesus would be there, quiet in the heart of us.
And there’d be wine – not too much – ready poured – to fortify, to en-courage for the final battle. And we’d remember those who had gone before and we’d toast them.
And Jesus would be there, quiet in the heart of us.
If only for today, this singular time, we choose to bless not curse, to hope not fear, to dance and not be paralysed because the team Captain leads us out and his Spirit indwells. And we were born for this day and we give thanks.


We finished blessing each other – those present and those not with us – with the words ‘Strength and support’ and ‘Blessings on you and you and you…’ So if you are reading this – Blessings on you too!