When the Spirit sent Jesus into the desert to be tempted, it was into an experience of silence and solitude, but not one of isolation. He was not alone. He had the devil chucking temptations in his path. Both Matthew and Mark tell us that angels were waiting on him. After he had successfully resisted the temptations, Luke tells us that, full of the Spirit, he legged it back to Galilee, that stories spread about him, that he began to teach in the synagogues, and that the people praised him.
Now then, how does all that link into our current situation? I’m not sure, but let me carry on. I am sure that obeying our government’s instructions is exactly the right thing to do. There is no alternative that makes sense for the future of humanity. That said, I am uncomfortable, unhappy even, with the official vocabulary that underpins everything just now. 'Self-isolating', 'quarantining', 'social distancing' and so on – I don’t find that sort of vocabulary as helpful as, let’s say, 'supported solitude'.
My sense of solitude tells me that I am in a desert, but a desert which I share with others, a desert in which I can reach out to others and they to me, a desert in which we can and do support each other. I thank God for the increasing evidence that as community we want to support each other, that we have a greater concern for ourselves in community than we do for self in isolation.
Isn’t the 8pm Thursday Clap for Carers wonderful? And the hundreds of thousands of folk who have volunteered to make a difference? And all the other community initiatives which show that good neighbourliness – like a rash – is infecting us all?
Finally, you may be among the folk who find that you are actually spending less money at the moment. Not having a restaurant meal, not having a night out with your friends, not filling up your car’s tank? Just a thought ... have a look at the Saltash Foodbank website. Foodbanks desperately need every penny or pound that we can donate.
Revd. Bob Munro