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St Johns Southgate

06 May 2020

Livin’ la vida lockdown

By Tom Hoffman - Pastor

I turned and locked the front door. No way in or out. This was it. Isolate. Flatten the curve. Save lives. It was time to start living the lockdown life.

Walking back up the stairs I felt almost excited, I’m embarrassed to say. It seemed like our family of six, while sticking to ourselves, were going to be a part of something important – like we were participating in something that, paradoxically, branched out beyond our four walls. But, of course, that feeling didn’t last long. I might have started riding high among the waves, but waves tend to come crashing down, don’t they?

Once reality set in – that of working from home while two of the kids home schooled and the other two pre-schoolers ran riot – things started to sour. I knew the temperature was rising to cabin fever levels when my wife found me leaning against the kitchen bench eating hot mango pickle from the jar – which, incidentally, in isolation I’ve decided is the only condiment and needs to be eaten with everything! “Is there something wrong?” she said, looking from the jar to the spoon entering my mouth. “Of course, there is!” I said with that crazed, exhausted laugh known to any parent.

I know my experience isn’t unique (except, perhaps, for the mango pickle part), but that’s precisely the point. Lockdown, while it is, at its core, a loving separation – something that we’re doing out of concern for each other – it’s doing funny things to us.

Now, I am lost, I’m no guide. But what I can do – at least in spirit and via technology – is assure you that I’m by your side in solitary solidarity. I’m prepared to admit that (like many of you, I suspect) I’ve been sneaking chocolate from the pantry when the kids aren’t looking, and that my exasperated parental mutterings are becoming a little too audible for my, or anyone else’s, liking. Are these things that need to be overcome? Are they things that even can be overcome in these uniquely challenging times? I think I would rather keep shovelling chocolate into my mouth than try swallowing poison until I grow immune to COVID-19 as Donald Trump might have me do. My self-preserving conclusion is that we’re all just doing the best we can – and that our messy best, even if it feels like the worst, might have to do for a little while. That being said, as a Christian, one neat and tidy thing I am sure of is that Jesus is with us in the messiness.

We’re currently in the Easter season of the Christian calendar, and in this period, one of the stories that we’re drawn to is of the risen Jesus appearing to the apostles while they were out on a lake fishing. It’s quite a comical scene, because Jesus – with more than a touch of tease – asks them, “Haven’t you caught any fish?” To which they eye-rollingly had to reply, “No.” Jesus saw their ineptitude, he saw their failings but he was able to give a wry smile about them, and perhaps even let out a chuckle. But at the same time, he didn’t leave it there. Graciously accepting the fact they didn’t know what they were doing, he helped them out. He showed them the way and made for the currents to shift so that a huge haul of fish could be caught and dragged to shore.

A big part of the Easter message is that Jesus meets us in the place between death and life, between failure and victory. He meets us in the uncertainty and insecurity between the nervous now and whatever’s next. When I’m halfway through a jar of hot mango pickle, he’s shaking his head, smiling and saying, “Come on! I’ve got some proper food for you.” That’s Jesus!

Finally, you don’t need my advice. That would be like trying to give you a raincoat when you’re already wet! You know the drill. Like I do, you at least know what you should be doing: Get exercise; eat properly; look out for each other; do the right thing and all that jazz!

What you won’t hear from every other person, though, is that even in isolation – even if you’re completely alone or you’re together alone, there’s someone who rose from the dead just so he can come to you, look at you in your all-day-pyjamas, give you that wry smile and a chuckle and pull you into his loving, eternal embrace •

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