Dear Friends,

This Lent, we have taken our annual journey towards Jerusalem and its first goal in the cross (the second, of course, being the resurrection) through an alien land marked by the pandemic of COVID-19. I have found myself reflecting with a new depth on a poem by R.S.Thomas which encapsulates for me so much of what the cross is about. Thomas sees it as God’s response to the problem of so-called “natural evil”, couched in terms of asking if it is possible to call God “Love” in the face of such things as mosquitoes, tidal waves, or, indeed, pandemic viruses. In Thomas’s hands, the cross grows from a single event in Jerusalem to a continuing event in the experience of God. As such it begins to plumb the depths of love in the cost of the cross to God: in the imagery of the poem, God, embracing the universe in love, is endlessly ‘stretched’ as though tortured on a rack. It touches the mystery of the love of God as little else in literature. The poem is called “Tell Us”.

We have had names for you:
The Thunderer, the Almighty
Hunter, Lord of the snowflake
and the sabre-toothed tiger.
One name we have held back
unable to reconcile it
with the mosquito, the tidal-wave,
the black hole into which
time will fall. You have answered
us with the image of yourself
on a hewn tree, suffering
injustice, pardoning it;
pointing as though in either
direction; horrifying us
with the possibility of dislocation.
Ah, love, with your arms out
wide, tell us how much more
they must still be stretched
to embrace a universe drawing
away from us at the speed of light.

R.S.Thomas

Every Blessing,

John

P.S. The coMPass team is planning a couple of sessions after Easter to allow space to explore the lurking, disturbing questions raised for faith by the COVID-19 virus.

pdf version to download – Mission Partnership Newsletter – May 2020