Reflection from Eryl for Sunday 14th June – 1st Sunday after Trinity

As lockdown eases how are we going to cope with crowds? Many of us, I am sure, have found ourselves calculating the distance between individuals in TV and film scenes – and shuddering when we see people not respecting two metre distancing. You cannot help doing it, though you know that most of these scenes were filmed months or even years ago! And as for those of our church family, who are out at work, and for some of our children, who can return to school, the crowd situations they encounter, will be hugely different. Safe distancing will be respected at entrances and exits, at workstations and desks and in corridors and perhaps there will be staggered times. Hardly crowds at all and scarily quiet and controlled.
The crowds which Jesus encountered as he went about all the towns and villages must have been pretty terrifying – noisier and uncontrolled. They pressed forward desperate for words of hope and elbowed and shoved each other out of the way to get to the front of the queue for Jesus’ healing touch. But Jesus looks beyond their jostling, anger and grumbling and sees only their need and confusion. He feels their hunger for justice and mercy. His compassion for these crowds makes him long to reach out to all, as he heals and teaches them about God’s love. Crucially, though, Jesus recognises that he cannot do it all by himself. God’s kingdom must be one where everybody works together for each other, regardless of how much or how little talent we have. There is so much need that Jesus urges his friends to follow his example and he trains them up! Each friend is called by name, into a caring relationship with the nameless, anonymous crowds.
The healing challenge is immense – bodies, minds and souls are crying out for health, hope and inspiration. And the demands on the healers and teachers is huge. When Jesus sends his friends out, he wants them to blend in with the communities into which they come as they travel along. They are to do what they can to help, freely and not for pay. They are to travel light without money, extra clothes, or sandals – they cannot even carry a staff to lean on as they negotiate the rough roads. If things do not work out and they meet with too much opposition and no help, they are to move on. It is always a question of being sensitive, engaging with others and meeting their needs.
Interestingly, sensitivity to the needs of others has been very evident during lockdown from all sorts of people who were once part of the nameless crowd in my part of Chippenham – in your part and every part of Chippenham. Sensitivity, shown in little things, and often by people you might think were too young or too old to notice – think of all the wonderful rainbow drawings – we are the proud owners of one created by a 5-year-old great-niece! Such little things certainly raise our spirits and make us smile with delight.
Perhaps we are learning once again that nothing that we do for others, no small kindness, gesture, word or smile is ever wasted. They bring us into the kind of relationships that Jesus wanted his friends to have, as went about telling the crowds about God’s love for them. Many little things help heal bodies when we build societies and communities where people have clean water, enough food to eat and good medical care. Many little things heal minds when everyone knows that they matter and are valued, and everyone has the chance and encouragement to learn skills and develop talents. Many little things heal souls when people experience God’s love in action and discover that love and forgiveness are what his Kingdom is all about.