The worm and the fork

The day of the Lord is near (Joel 1:15)
Being at home without permission to go out, has given me time to dig over the vegetable patch. As I dug I noticed that the worm count is dramatically reduced in some parts and quite high in others. On reflection it seems to be that where I am digging over areas that have been uncultivated for some years and are clogged with weeds, the worms are thriving. Where I am re-tilling last year's well used soil the worms are few and far between.
One reason could be the quality of the soil, but as we are fortunate to be living on very rich land that doesn't seem the answer. No, what I've noticed is that worms, like any of us, like to have a home. In the undisturbed areas they have built what I can only think of as nests. In the well-tilled areas they are roaming without protection, like travellers across an open moor.
So I've made a decision. Somewhere on the veg patch I'm going to institute worm hotels. Areas that will remain untilled…

A dreadful day

What a dreadful day! (Joel 1:15)
Yesterday was a day of devastation, a dreadful day. A man died. Now I know every day people die, not just of COVID-19 but of many other things, including old age, but this was different. A man we had been praying for, with young children, lost his battle with the virus and died.
As a vicar I am, of course, well acquainted with death. I have had to help a number of people over the last few years say goodbye to their loved ones. And I am not one of those vicars for whom this has become routine. Every time I share in their loss. I grieve with the family. Sometimes, in this close community, I have also grieved for myself, for I have been helping the family to mourn someone I have come to know as a friend. But this felt different.
In my life I have not been someone who avoids risk. I've climbed snowy mountains, canoed white-watered rivers, waded flooded streams and driven fast down narrow roads. No more of course and my children will laugh at the idea t…

Finding Fun

What a dreadful day (Joel 1:15)
Well, my day was anything but dreadful. Caleb is following the school timetable at home. His lessons include Humanities, in which he make flags to show to the Grandparents every evening on Zoom, Social Activities, in which he plants something in the garden, and PE. For PE yesterday we had swimming. Now we don't have a swimming pool, surprise, surprise, but we do have a trampoline. For 18 months this wonder of the modern world has been left untouched in the garden, but, given a choice between a walk and a session on the trampoline, Caleb chose the easy option. And rediscovered an old joy.
When he was young we invented some trampoline games. 'Food' involves me chasing him around the trampoline on my knees, calling out a home made rhyme, "I like toes for breakfast, I like toes for tea, I like toes for supper, now bring those toes here to me". It's not going to win any prizes but never fails to produce squeals of laughter. And ther…

Tears of hope

Summon all the elders...and cry out to the Lord (Joel 1:14)
I have just received a shock. It was a very minor thing that had gone wrong, but it got under my skin. I felt like crying. It didn't make sense until I came to ponder today's reading. Then I realised. For all the calmness of the present moment, the lack of rushing around from one meeting to another, the empty diary. For all that blankness in my schedule, I am very much on the edge.
I want to summon all the elders and cry out to the Lord. 'Lord what are you doing? How can you allow such a thing to happen in our time? A disease that picks out the weak and vulnerable, that attacks the elderly and infirm, can never be your will, can it? Lord, where are you?'
Yes, I know there are memes going around that remind us of all the good that is happening around us as a consequence of this crisis. CS Lewis words on the effect of the Second World War are particularly pertinent. And I know that even the greatest of evils oft…

Finding our way

Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn (Joel 1:13)
This morning I intend to go to church twice. Well, not really go, of course, but attend, remotely, via the internet and live feed. One service will be Holy Communion. Now, I'm not really sure how Holy Communion can work at a distance so I think it's worth pondering for a bit.
It doesn't seem to me that there's a huge problem with the communion part. There are many different kinds of community, and, while virtual communities may not be quite as valuable to our health and wellbeing as physical ones, they are certainly real gatherings of people. The greater difficulty might come with the Holy part. By that I mean the sacramental element. There are of course Christians for whom Holy Communion, or the Lord's Supper, is purely about remembering the last supper and the death of Christ on a cross but I am certainly not one of them. Something happens when we bless and receive the bread and wine beyond remembering. Somehow i…

Full of joy

Surely the joy of the people is withered away (Joel 1:12)
I wonder if you were clapping the NHS on Thursday evening. I had missed the memo and was alerted to the event when I heard the fireworks going off somewhere in the village. Such a simple, joyful moment. In one little close I know well the neighbours came out of their front doors and were, I believe, cheering as well as clapping. It seems that this disaster, while estranging some people, is bringing others together in ways they never thought possible.
I was intrigued by the word 'surely' in today's text. Almost as if Joel can't believe that all the misery of this great disaster could leave any joy left. Then, when I looked it up, I found that it's not in the Hebrew. One word root, B-SH (if what's left of my Hebrew is working), is repeated 3 times: dried up, dried up, dried up. Vine, pomegranate, palm, apple and joy are all dried up. The fig tree, interestingly, is withered or enfeebled (which is as much a…

Nothing is ever wasted

The harvest of the field is destroyed (Joel 1:11)
I have been having mid-life crisis thoughts this morning. You know, those half awake ponderings, where you wonder what on earth you did with the last 20 years. Mine focussed on a choice I made many years ago to move from a job where I was happy and settled, to a job where I was stressed and uncomfortable. I, well we really, came to the conclusion that God was calling us to make the move and so we did. And it was tough. It is an occasional recurring concern but this morning I was bothered by two thoughts: had my unhappiness rubbed off on the children and had my choices been the cause of my unhappiness. If only I had done things differently everything would have been so much better, or so my sleep befuddled brain was telling me.
I made my usual responses: a reminder that God does not always call us to easy things, and that there is as much, or even more, good in hard times as in easy and that God has his hand in all our choices for our g…