John 13 v 34 Love one another

In these very difficult times, for everyone here in the UK and across the world it has never been more important to hear and respond to the simple straight forward words in John 13:34. These words cannot be misunderstood. As I write this blog it is the beginning of Holy Week. Confused and difficult emotions compete in my thoughts and prayers and take me from the lowest depths to the highest of elations in a matter of days.

This year, as we approach Easter, the whole world is fighting the coronavirus pandemic with many thousands of people suffering and dying because of its deadly effects. We are worried, confused, anxious, bewildered and feel so vulnerable because suddenly our well-ordered lives and routines, that we have taken for granted, have been thrown into confusion as we comply with the requirements of social distancing. This really is a time of crisis. The Queen underlined this when she addressed the nation, only done on rare occasions, and commonwealth to bring us calm words of reassurance, comfort, and focus to our minds on the better days that will return.

No doubt you will have experienced wonderful acts of kindness and consideration from friends and neighbours, perhaps some of whom you may not have previously met or spoken to. We give thanks for this selfless love that is being shown to others and to all those working in the NHS, social care, and the other caring professions, irrespective of the risk to themselves of catching the virus. It really is wonderful. 

This is the love for each other that Jesus wants us to live out every day, in all we do and say. Why is it then that we seem to find this so difficult to do in more normal times? I am constantly wrestling with this thought. Perhaps this is what we are meant to do. These words are not an easy option and coming to terms with what they really mean is challenging as we listen and understand that this is God calling us to be His people. When we live out what Jesus intended it is the most powerful and wonderful way of living together, and is the answer to all the questions, worries and concerns that beset us day by day right across our God-given world. As we embrace Easter, we pray that we will be renewed and refreshed in our faith, ready to keep on trying our best to live out that new commandment to love God and each other in all we do and say for all time by putting our faith into action.

Have you put a lit candle in your front window on Sunday evening as Churches Together in England suggested? You may remember Nigel and I mentioned this in our last blog suggesting it would be good to continue doing this throughout Easter, and beyond, and to use it as a focus of a prayer time together. 

Candle and cross image

I hope you have taken on this idea and found time to say a few words of prayer when putting your lit candle in your front window showing Jesus is the light of the world to everyone who passes by.

This is a picture of our candle in our front window at home. We have put it in front of a wooden cross that was given to me by friends at West Orchard URC Coventry when I visited them in October last year. A church member there had made it from wood taken from one of the pews removed to make room for chairs. As you will see it is unusual because the figure of Jesus has been cut out leaving a Jesus-shaped hole in the cross. Our candle can be seen shining through the Jesus-shaped which we hope makes the point that Jesus is the light of the world and he is with us guiding us in all we do day by day.

The love of God can, as we know, be found all around us in all of humanities complexity and when, as at present, we are journeying through dark and troubled times, the love, hope and promise of Easter and our risen Lord is with us reassuring and inspiring us. We can therefore trust in him as we reach out to those better days the Queen mentioned in her speech to the nation.

As always children find a way to express this hope in simple but very effective ways. For example, the family across from our house has put lots of their children’s soft toys facing out of their windows. They look like they are waving at all who pass by and every time someone sees them, they can smile and feel that little bit better. 

Lots of people use emoji’s in their online correspondence and very often use a rainbow sign to symbolise happiness, togetherness, hope and good fortune. Children have latched on to this idea and many have put pictures of rainbows in their house windows. I think this is very appropriate at Easter for our Bible tells us God used a rainbow symbol to remind us of his everlasting covenant with all living creation of every kind on earth. We can therefore be confident that by working together and living out the love of God in all we do and say all will be well.

Easter is synonymous with spring and the picture of celandines below shows new life bursting forth in the spring sunshine. This is the thought I would like to leave with you this Easter as we travel through dark and disturbing times that is causing so much sadness and worry. Better times are ahead when there will be plenty of opportunities for us to share the love of God with everyone throughout His world irrespective of creed, colour or religion.

image of abundance of yellow Celandine flowers

Wishing you Easter peace and blessings  

Derek Estill

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