There is an old tradition that tells of Abram (his slight name change came later), looking after his father’s wood carving studio one day. Abraham (knowing that the wooden statues were only idols and that there was only ONE God), smashed all the idols to pieces.
It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall when Abram’s dad returned.
The tradition continues that Abram explained to his father than when his (Abram’s) back was turned, all the idols got into a fight which finished only when one (the biggest) won. “Yeah, right” his dad might have said! But the point was made, and today we know Abraham as the Father in Faith for the three great monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Today’s psalm tells of the Israelites forgetting the many blessings they had received from God and turning to the worship of idols. They had seen their God part waters for them (remember the Red Sea?) enabling them to escape to freedom. They had so much proof that God was with them actively and regularly working miracles for them, but their own busyness and concerns caused them to forget the only God who had the power to save them:
“They fashioned a calf at Horeb
and worshipped an image of metal,
exchanging the God who was their glory
for the image of a bull that eats grass.
They forgot the God who was their saviour,
who had done such great things in Egypt
such portents in the land of Ham,
such marvels at the Red Sea.
I heard someone suggest today that these next few weeks of lockdown in New Zealand proffered an unprecedented and extraordinary opportunity for our growth.
Over the next few weeks most of us will not have to work as much as we usually do. Even if we want to, we won’t be able to. If we use the weeks wisely we will have more spare time and even free time than an annual vacation gives us. The occupations and escapes we usually have (including work, school and study) will not be available to us. Families will be able to spend more time together.
So what do we do? What can we do? What might someone who speaks of these days as an opportunity be thinking?
Here’s my thought.
In these weeks we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn to live without the compulsive busyness and idol-worship that usually fills our days, surrounded by others who are having to live the same reality.
My suggestion is that a great place to start living, especially in difficult circumstances, is by counting our blessings.
These weeks are an opportunity to live fully, giving time to the things that really matter.
I can’t imagine how hard it was for people who lived and suffered through the 1918 flu epidemic in which 50 million people worldwide and over 8000 people in New Zealand died. In that tragedy there was little communication and people living in Fairlie had no idea if their family and friends 100km away in Waimate were still living.
Today we enter lockdown with easy and free communication by phone, text email and Skype.
In 1918 those living in isolation had a pack of cards and a few books for recreation. Today we have every game, movie and book imaginable at our fingertips.
Now that’s a bunch of blessings to start with.
I’m not suggesting that these days will be easy. Living in a confined space with a small group of others even family and friends will be a hot-house of growth as relationships are tested, pressing us to deeper appreciation of what is truly essential in life.
Without Christ these days will be very difficult. But lived with Christ these weeks are a grace-filled opportunity.
Today let’s make a decision to call on Christ in every moment of this lockdown, every tension and every opportunity, letting Jesus turn our hope for survival into a deeper desire to thrive.
Just as I was finishing typing this reflection a WhatsApp message came through from a young friend in the north of Italy. I was moved and inspired by what he wrote. I know he won’t mind me sharing his words with you:
Dear John! How are you? Very tough time over here. We are all fine, but many people not because of virus. It’s a time for conversion, a great opportunity to “deepen our self-consciousness” using Giussani’s words. The sacrifice of staying at home and is becoming a possibility of looking at details especially in my family, never experienced before or taken for granted up to now. We pray a lot together, we do School of Community via web, with a new intensity as an evidence of 2 main things among the others:
1) i feel naked and disarmed, so in total need of an answer, a sense, which is NOT in my hands;
2) Christ is present and our fellowship is a more clear evidence that; This Lent time is totally different, possibly a way to live the in a new way the passion of Jesus.
Take care my friend…
I replied to him and a minute later he responded adding:
I feel useless too, every morning especially. My works should be travelling the world and I’m here preparing breakfast for my family. My criteria of being useful are not the same as God’s, thanks be to Him! I’m discovering much more for me, hidden behind that breakfast! I wish you the daily living together with others could provide this possibility of being beggars before Christ…
- You might find it helpful to take a sheet of paper and draw a timeline for your life up to now marking high points and low points above and below the line. Then take a few minutes to breathe deeply and know that Jesus is with you, asking him to reveal to you the moments, experience and people that have helped you to know and experience the reality of God with you throughout your life. Remember some of these might be the easy moments and the friendly people, but God also comes to us through the enemies and the unwanted circumstances. You can also do this without paper and pen…whenever you get a chance today, invite Jesus to reveal to you a blessing that you have received in your life. A little later ask him again and let him remind you of another blessing.
- How is the LEGO building of bible stories going? Remember the post last week – at this link. Send your pics and I will post here as a daily inspiration from children to all of us.
- Thank you to all who offer comments (below) which are now the most inspiring part of these daily posts for me and for many others. You have little idea of how much your few words are helping the faith of others.