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  • Ross Moughtin

Image of spring, too brilliant to be true


Hard frost this morning. As the day begins, the entire field behind our house is whitened by the frost; cold and stark. I look at the hoar frost over on the tree line. Stunning. This calls for a quote from Cecil Day Lewis: White lilac on the window-pane, each grass-blade Furred like a catkin, maydrift loading the hedge. And as I write this, looking now to the front of the house, I see the milkfloat leaving its track on the frosted road – while at this very moment (honestly, I’m not making it up) our aptly-named Iceland delivery arrives. (Just give us a few moments) (Actually, it’s so cold the easiest thing is to leave it all outside for the time being – it’s as good as putting it in the fridge. That can wait) An early start so that I can conduct a burial of ashes later this morning, not to be a very long service I trust in this temperature. I recall years ago asking our mission partner serving in the hot, humid climate of Bangladesh what she missed most about home in the UK. Without missing a beat, she replied “Those mornings with the hard frost!” Of course, we owe a lot to these hard frosts: they break up the ground and kill bugs and slow down the growth of bacteria. To stay healthy we need cold weather, at least for a few days. After all there is no Liverpool School of Arctic Diseases. However, sadly this cold spell doesn’t see off the Covid-19 virus. In fact, in a roundabout way, the very opposite as we close all our windows to stay warm while avoiding fresh air. And tragically this only worsens, considerably, the usual winter crisis in our hospitals. As it happens I went to hospital this week, to the Aintree University hospital – for my regular check as part of the Oxford phase 3 trial. They take my blood and give me a further supply of testing kits. However, I was hugely impressed. This particular building has now been transformed into a vaccination factory with people queueing to be checked-in for their jab. It all seemed very well organised. I had a short chat with one of the organisers who explained that now they have got their act together, they are currently vaccinating 700 people a day. I guess that 1000 would be a reasonable aim. Going back to Lewis’s poem, he writes of a precocious

Image of spring, too brilliant to be true.

Here in this vaccination queue I could see hope, not that the vaccine will work perfectly for everyone, and not until we all have our second dose. But like the early signs of spring, we know that summer is on the way and this savage Lockdown will be no more. We need an image of spring, of hope, especially those living alone and apart. I dread to think what life would be like if no vaccine was in development, We would have to come to terms with this pandemic winter continuing into the foreseeable future. I shiver to think whatever that would mean. The Bible writers, of course, were familiar with shivering and cold. So the Psalmist can write of God: He spreads snow like a white fleece, he scatters frost like ashes. (Psalm 147:16) These are cold, dark times. In the words of another Lewis, Clive Staples in fact: “It is winter in Narnia,” said Mr. Tumnus, “and has been for ever so long…. always winter, but never Christmas.” As Steven Garber from the Washington Institute comments, even before the horrific events from his city this week, “Like every other son of Adam and daughter of Eve, I feel the winter of this weary world.” But not for long, going back to the Psalm, God will banish the frost, melt the ice with his breath: Then he gives the command and it all melts; he breathes on winter—suddenly it’s spring! (v18) In a word, God is in control -and not just of the weather. The Psalmist has already made it clear who God is and what he does: He heals the heartbroken and bandages their wounds. (v3). This pandemic has caused much damage to our mental health and impeded our relationships. Many people are wounded. No doubt we will see the sad results for some time, even for some over the decades. However, we have a God who gives us hope, who promises spring and summer – and more. God puts the fallen on their feet again (v6) How does he do this? Through his people, those entrusted to him, open to his word, relying on his Holy Spirit. It is he who warms our hearts and entrusts us with his ministry of hope and healing.,“too brilliant to be true.” As Cecil Day Lewis’ poem ends: But deep below where frost Worrying the stiff clods unclenches their Grip on the seed and lets the future breathe. #hope #CecilDayLewis #frost

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