March 2021 

Written by Rev Canon Nigel Mason - Rector of Rotherfield with Mark Cross

One of the headlines in the Church Times of 5th March 2021, a report by Hattie Williams stated: “Record numbers give

their time.” 

They say every cloud has a silver lining and one such lining has been seen during this present pandemic.  Of the estimated 12.4 million people who volunteered during the pandemic, some 4.6 million people were volunteering for the first time.  A report, Our Chance to Reconnect, suggested of these new volunteers, 770,000 were aged between 18 and 24 years old.  Alongside this, there were 360,000 with either a disability or a long-term illness and 740,000 lived is some of the poorest communities of the UK.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, commenting on the report said, “This period of forced separation has also prompted a new appreciation of social contact with others…where there has been despair, there has also been hope – and that hope has come from the care we have shown each other, the possibility of stronger, kinder and more loving communities.”

I have heard this hope and understanding several times during the last few months, where villagers have intimated their hope, desire and even expectation that the care for one another shown will continue as we emerge from this pandemic.

For me, I see much of what has happened as a fulfilment of the hope God has for people, the hope that they “love one another.”  When this is lived out and people look to the needs and welfare of their neighbour, and beyond self-centredness, then we all benefit and our communities are good places to live.  Several have expressed what good places Rotherfield and Mark Cross are to be; of course, many other places feel the same.  It is when people step-in to help others a difference is made and felt.

We are now in the season of Easter, when we recall the occasion someone stepped in and made all the difference; an action prompted by love.  The events of Good Friday recall an act of rescuing, a ‘game-changer’ to use a modern phrase; something to bring hope for all mankind and change the lie of the land.  The Bible tells of God’s great intervention and impacts human history.  From heaven’s perspective people were in a serious position and in some ways not too different from the crisis of Covid-19.   Jesus put it this way: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill.” (Matthew ch9 v11). 

Whether, we realise it or not, we are all in need of a spiritual vaccine to deal with something that had affected everyone, leaving all people in a critical condition before a holy and righteous God; namely our failings, the pain and anguish we had done to one another, the wrong choices, what the Bible refers to as sin.   We are all affected by this condition and are in need of help; someone to step in and rescue us from its effects. 

In the Easter story God steps into human history through his son, a supreme act of love, which brings about the help and rescuing we need.  The antidote to our sin is the death of Jesus on the cross.  The NT tells us: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans ch5 v8)

And when we receive the divine vaccination, we emerge from the darkness of pandemic of our sin to the Day of Resurrection, a day of hope, a day of freedom and into new relationship with God.

As Michael Mayne wrote:

“Can there be a more hopeful, life-enhancing message that this: that the man of the cross is the embodiment of God’s love; that, through an act of sheer, undeserved grace we are reconciled to the God who not only creates us but redeems us, and that out of this terrible death came a new quality of life, a new relationship with all who wish to claim it?  And from Calvary* the healing power of God still flows within our sick and broken world.  That is why, of all the possible words the church could have used to describe this day of Christ’s death, the word they settled on was ‘good.’” (Dust that dreams of Glory – Canterbury Press)

*(place where Christ died)