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Today: Friday, April 10, 2020



First published 05 Apr 2020

It’s called ‘social distancing’, the requirement to keep our distance, to keep two metres or three paces away from everybody else, apart from our household members, as a means of restricting the spread of the coronavirus.

It is not easy and it doesn’t feel natural, it creates not only a distance but a suspicion between us.  But of course it makes sense to keep away from a danger that we cannot see and cannot control.

This is the beginning of Easter week.  In the account of Jesus’ crucifixion there is a verse which speaks about distance.  Crucifixion was brutally cruel, awful to watch.  As Jesus hung and died on the cross, the gospel writers tell us: “There were many women there, looking on from a distance” (Matthew 27, verse 55).  These were the women who had followed and supported Jesus throughout his ministry.

Now they were faced with a desperate and tragic moment where they were powerless and afraid.  There was nothing they could do to change the situation.  All they could do was look on with anxiety, compassion and heart-broken grief.  

There are moments when that is all we can do.  Like them, we may be at a distance from trouble, at a distance from each other.  But at least they were there, as we are here for those around us, deeply concerned for those suffering, thankful for those who offer some relief and help, especially those not able to keep at a distance because they are caring.

Yet being at a distance is not a permanent state, whether in our relationship with Jesus or with our neighbours.

Some of these women in fact took the risk of coming very close to the dead Jesus: they were powerless but not totally distanced.  They were close enough to watch as men did what they could, taking the body of Jesus down from the cross, and when Joseph of Arimathea and his men removed the body to the tomb in the rock.  They were there.

Then on the Sunday morning, it was some of these women who came very close to anoint the body of Jesus, to do what they could for him, honouring him in death and burial.  Which meant that they were there for that astonishing moment when the risen Jesus met them, and as Matthew tells us,  “They clung to his feet, and worshipped him” (Matthew 28, 9).

In the present epidemic, when we are forced to be at a distance, we look forward to the day when the sickness, suffering and death are over, and we can again hold those from whom we are now separated.

But that is also an Easter journey, when we are challenged to travel with those women, from being distant grieving observers, to being devoted believers; those who having watched Jesus from a distance, become those who have come very close to him, are totally committed to him, and who are filled with joy at his risen presence.

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Lord Jesus, in the midst of trouble, I pray for those affected by the coronavirus, for those suffering, for those who have lost loved ones, for those threatened, and for all who care for them.  From our enforced separation draw us nearer to each other and nearer to you, and fill us with resurrection hope and joy.

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