A Sign of the Times

Saturday, May 30th

Rock formation at Sandwood Bay, Sutherland and Buzz at home in lockdown.

The sea stack Am Buachaille (the shepherd) is in the distance.

Ever since I first saw these rocks on the beach, I saw our dog's favourite pose reflected in them. Perhaps you can see why! It can be fun spotting shapes in the clouds, deciding who a particular piece of wood reminds you of or what a wonky carrot or potato resembles.

From the time humans first appeared, we have been looking at patterns in nature. The stars in the sky became constellations, the phases of the moon became a way to mark time and the advent of Spring or the rainy season told farmers when to sow their crops.

The onset of adverse weather conditions became a sign of the gods being displeased with us. Patterns in tea leaves told us who we were likely to marry and the lines on our hands told us how many children we might have. Even in this modern, digital age, we are still a superstitious lot. Some people still throw salt over their shoulder, take care to go around ladders and watch out for lucky black cats.

Why is it, then, that we are so reluctant to acknowledge the likes of David Attenborough when he shows us in spectacular images how the climate is changing at an alarming rate? Melting ice-caps, failed rainy seasons in Africa and dying coral reefs are the signs of the times. It doesn't need a clairvoyant to read them.

I wonder what signs we are reading during this period of enforced isolation, when we have lots of time to stop and reflect on the state of our world. Is the absence of factory smoke and aircraft trails in the sky speaking to us? Is the ability to hold conferences online an indication that we could reduce our need to rushing around the country for hours at a time to have a two hour meeting? Is the unanticipated quality time some of us have had with our partners, children or parents suggesting a change of priorities? Is the separation from family and friends telling us what we should be valuing more in the future?

Stop, look and listen! No, not another government slogan, though it was used as part of a safety campaign many years ago. Covid-19 has stopped us in a way we never imagined possible. And the whole world has had to stop. We are looking at all the signs that suggest we must do things differently in the future. But who will we listen to at the end of the day?

I hope we will listen to our own best intentions born of this time of crisis. I hope we will not only acknowledge the bravery and sacrifice of so many in our communities, but turn it into a pattern for how we behave towards each other for all time. I hope we will treasure our family and friends like never before. I hope we will embrace the whole world with open arms, desperate to hug the planet whole.

Jesus said, 'I have come that you may have life, and have it in all its fulness.' He also showed us what it takes to make that happen. The cross is not a sign of death - it is a way to life.

Just Suppose

Suppose we're not a fallen people at all,

but a people on the way up;

not caterpillars that once were butterflies,

but actually the other way round.

Just suppose we have this wonderful God

who is so much in love with us,

He has drawn us out of the animal kingdom,

giving us the divine spark of His love

to grow into a fire within us and eventually

to bring us to oneness with Him.

Just suppose this wonderful God

so totally, crazily, in love with us,

first becomes one with His beloved,

taking on a human likeness

to join us in our growing pains,

suffering everything we might suffer,

to show us the truth of the empty chrysalis.

And just suppose that our words of fear

like disobedience and judgement and condemnation,

belong not to a God who is total love

but to a half-grown people

trying to explain their incompleteness.

Suppose that the only ultimate truth

is that God is the source

and destiny of every soul.

Suppose that everything we are,

all our light and shade, our sin and celebration,

belongs wholly in God's love.

Suppose no one is ever lost to that love.

Wouldn't that be Good News?

Joy Cowley from Aotearoa Psalms


Mother, Father God

You gave us a sign two thousand years ago,

You offered us a pattern to follow, a road map to a better world.

If we're feeling lost, remind us of your true coordinates,

Give us new batteries for our torches to see through the darkness

And, ignoring a safe distance, walk beside us until we reach our goal,


Ulster CLCGB leaders in the Mourne Mountains

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