It has been an interesting experience to write a reflection every week for this twice a week series of reflections between Easter and Pentecost or Whitsun as we used to call it. I have sought to bring some words of hope and comfort at a time when the whole World has been suffering from the terrible COVID 19 crisis. Hopefully achieving what Paul urged us to do in 1 Thessalonians – to “Encourage one another and build one another up!”  And I tried to bring out the need for Christians to be prepared to suffer in my sermon last Sunday. I have also attempted to compliment Michael’s excellent reflections on Tuesdays.

Although, thankfully, there now seem to be fewer deaths each day as a result of the pandemic and the restrictions on us all are beginning to be eased ever so slightly, it does seem that the crisis is going to still be with us for a while – and the memory of it for a lot longer.  We need to go on trusting in the Lord.

The Bible Society recently sent me a little booklet entitled “Words of hope when times are tough”. Several of the quotations in it are from the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah, who also had the nickname of the “Weeping Prophet”, frequently foretold gloom and doom. To be a Jeremiah was to be one who was pessimistic about the present and gloomy about the future. There are plenty of pessimists about at present. But among the quotations that this little booklet from the Bible Society gives are two from Jeremiah that are positive and demonstrate God’s love and concern for his people:

“I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness in exchange for sorrow” (Jeremiah 31 v 13)

“I alone know my purpose for you, says the Lord: prosperity and not misfortune. ….. If you pray to me, I will listen to you:  when you seek me, you shall find me.” Jeremiah 29 v 11/12

These are wonderful words of comfort for us all. God has been with us through the difficult times so far and he will continue to be with us in the future. The church buildings may still be closed, but the worship continues. The Zoom services on Sundays have been attracting a good number of people, including people who might not normally be able to join us – our late friend Nigel’s brother joined us from Missouri on Sunday for example.

We have a wonderful faith that supports and sustains us. What more could we want than a God that loves us and cares about us? He is always with us as promised in the words of Jesus in the last verse of St Matthew’s Gospel – “I am with you always, until the end of time”. And that makes everything worthwhile!

To finish with – the first verse of one of my Grandmother’s favourite hymns:

Be thou my Guardian and my Guide,                                                                                                           And hear me when I call:                                                                                                                                  Let not my slippery footsteps slide,                                                                                                             And hold me lest I fall.

A hope and prayer, certain of a positive result!

Richard Austen