Yesterday was one year since the beginning of the first lockdown began. Up and down the country people engaged with a National Day of Reflection instigation by Marie Curie. Here at Barking Riverside we joined together online in the evening as people of different faiths and none to spend a time of reflection and hope. At the centre of that evening was a video of a Tree of Hope planted in the Community Garden near Swan Lake.
Personally, I found it a surreal and moving day. Back on 23rd March 2020, few of us would have expected to be marking this day a year on…and remain in a level of lockdown. We are very much in the midst of this journey through Covid19…and, if we’re honest, though we can be encouraged by how far we have come with vaccinations and community response…we also don’t know how long this will take or what any kind of ‘new normal’ may eventually look like.
That’s why it was so important and moving to spend yesterday together. To have space to acknowledge the pain and loss that so many of us have had to face and that means our lives are forever changed. Yet also to give thanks for the good that has been seen despite (even because of) the crisis we have faced….the bravery of frontline workers, the kindness of neighbours, the renewed appreciation of the simple things we took for granted.
And we ended yesterday evening looking forward with hope. The planting of the tree resembled these three stages…the breaking of the ground, the placing of the good tree in the place of brokenness, and then recognising that this tree is alive…made to grow, blossom, to live.
But where does our hope come from?
Perhaps for some of us we find it in a new found resilience. The discovery over the last year of a strength in ourselves to face truly challenging times and keep going, keep living, keep loving. Not always perfectly…but truly.
Perhaps we find it in others. In the random kind actions of neighbours, the stirring up of community support, the dedication of frontline workers, the joining together of people across divides of race, religion, or any other creed. Truly one of the most moving aspects of last night’s time together was sharing it with so many others from across Barking Riverside, hearing the voice of different faiths and experiences.
And for many, we have found hope in our faith…sometimes a faith we didn’t realise or had forgotten we had. That is certainly the case for me. Jesus is my hope. In the Bible we don’t find neat explanations for the pain and crises of life, there are no ‘reasons’ that ‘validate’ something like a pandemic…or neat solutions that will simply ‘fix’ the problem. Instead we discover a God who does not remain distant, but steps into the brokenness and mess of this life becoming a man, Jesus Christ, living through the pain, uncertainty and loss, and even dying in our place of the cross. A God who’s love is so great He promises never to leave us, even to the place of death….and yet whose love is so powerful that in that place of deepest darkness he brings new life.
This is what we celebrate so very soon at Easter. This is the firm foundation of our hope that isn’t dependent on the continuation or ending of Covid19 or any other circumstance. This is our hope that acknowledges the full tragedy of this last year, the inability for us to go ‘back to normal’ in the way so many seem to talk about…and yet the incredible promise that our loving God can bring new life and fullness out of this place of such loss and pain. Thank you Jesus.