My text today isn't taken from the Bible, but from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado: "I have a little list....."
Though you might also like to read The Gospel of Saint John, Chapter 11 verses 38-53.
When lockdown looked imminent some weeks ago, I confess I made a little list of things to do, "just incase."
Go for a haircut.
Stock up on dog food.
Make sure I had sufficient stocks of loose Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong tea.
Order some of my favourite Almond Oil Soap from Harris's, St. James' St., London.
(I won't mention Rioja, but I am sure you will work that out for yourselves !)
Perhaps you did your own version of this, made a little list of those things you thought you needed to do or buy in order for lockdown to not be as bad as it might otherwise be.
At some point lockdown will end and we will stumble like Lazarus from his tomb, into the light of a new reality and a new "normality". When we do, I wonder whether we will also make a little list of things which we will then need to do, the better to cope with our continuing lives? If you do make such a list, inevitably your list will be different from mine, but so far I have a note to:
Consciously take the good bits about lockdown and seek to incorporate them into my ongoing regime.
Try to find some way of thanking those who have helped me over the past weeks, practically and psychologically.
Try to spend as much time praying in the future as I have over recent weeks.
Continue taking photos of the river, even when I don't have Pastoral Letters to take them for.
Continue living more simply and buy less "stuff" I realise I can easily do without.
Still take the dogs for as long a walk in the morning!
Remember to ration my listening to the News, for my own sanity's sake and for my mental health and wellbeing.
Try to forgive those politicians and others who may not have made the right decisions at the right time and have therefore caused distress or even death to others.
Remember with gratitude those politicians and others who took the right decisions and helped prevent the suffering of others.
Continue to thank the NHS staff and all those who have been there for us over the last months, in my heart if not on my doorstep, at 8pm on Thursday evenings.
Be aware of those who followed the guidelines and thus protected others, at some cost to themselves, their livelihoods and relationships.
Not take things like trips to the theatre, the cinema, art galleries, antique fayres, restaurants and shops for granted.
Relish and take pleasure in meeting up with friends again for meals, drinks, conversation.
Not recoil from people when they come within 2 metres of me or reach out their hand to shake mine.
Recognise and take strength from the fact that I found resources and resilience within myself over recent months, to reassure me that I may similarly be able to cope with challenges to come.
Remember those who took the trouble to keep in touch with me during the last few months, especially those I didn't expect to do so.
Still eat regularly and sensibly and not revert to eating too quickly or "inadvisably" between appointments.
Carve out more evenings free from work commitments, having recognised the benefits to my mental health and sleeping patterns as a result of not having evening meetings.
Work for a world where there isn't so much pollution, having now glimpsed and smelt the difference in London since the beginning of lockdown.
Try to use up and not waste the extra food I bought "just incase"!
Appreciate what we have at St Mary's more, the opportunity to be with each other each Sunday, pray with each other, sing with each other and delight in each other, especially the energy and enthusiasm of our children!
You will all have different things on your list, should you compile one, but may I suggest that you look at what has been good about the past few weeks for you, what you will remember most as having given you strength and hope and inspiration and recognise and celebrate these for the valuable things they are.
We have all been on an amazing learning curve and there are bound to have been challenges. But I am heartened by stories I have heard of how you have each in turn dealt positively and constructively with those challenges, in ways which will stand us in good stead as we forge a way forward.
And as a worshipping community, we too have been challenged and have learned much. Whoever would have thought we would be worshipping on Zoom for a start?!! I think we may all be subtly but significantly different as a result, but from what I have seen so far, I believe those changes will be for the benefit of our effectiveness as disciples of Jesus Christ and His invitation to love and serve others, and for the enhancement of our lives as we realise anew what really, lastingly matters, and pour all our energies into serving those ends.
It remains the greatest privilege of my life to be your priest.
With blessings and best wishes
Meeting with you has always changed people's lives.
The lame, the blind, the sick felt your healing strength flow into them
And experienced wellbeing such as they had never known before.
The unloved, unaccepted and rejected knew the liberation
Of being loved by you, filling them with a sense of belonging.
Those with questions, doubts and mental struggles
Encountered in you a truth which enlighten their minds and hearts.
So many were transformed through their meeting with you.
Though our experience of lockdown may not have been so dramatic,
Many of us have found that our hearts and mind have been more
Open and receptive to you in recent weeks and, like Lazarus,
When we too stumble into the light and space
Beyond the confines of our homes when lockdown is eased,
May the steps we take, be taken in a new way.
May we walk in the energy and at the bidding of your Holy Spirit,
May we be guided to move toward your future for us,
May we sense and serve those ends which enhance the common good,
May we build your kingdom in the opportunities that become open to us,
May we value once more the extraordinary, ordinary things of life and
May we make a compassionate and creative difference to others.
All this we ask in the light of your presence,
And in the power of your holy name.