Elder’s Thoughts – June 2020

Some of you will be aware that for several months I have been writing devotionals for News & Views and these have appeared on the BSBC website always accompanied by a well-chosen picture and title. I was asked by Liz to start writing these just over three years ago and am now about two thirds of the way through the book of Psalms. I was not given a brief about how long each piece should be but am conscious that they have grown in length since I started writing them! 

Invariably I have tried to comment on the whole psalm rather than just quote verses without putting them in their wider context. Ultimately though the psalms are songs and sometimes, just like other songs, there’s one particular lyric that sticks in your head. One such line is Psalm 90:4 where Moses says, ‘Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.’ That line seems particularly appropriate for the time in which we live. 

For most of us there has been a sudden rip in the fabric of normality. For lots of us it has been a bewildering and frightening time. Many have experienced the loss of loved ones, grief deepened by the inability to be with them in their final hours and to say goodbye. Some have had to postpone weddings, house moves, career moves. Many have had to cope with isolation, confined to their house, unable to see friends or family. 

We long to get back to normal. I miss not being able to see my mum and my children. I miss not being able to worship together, to travel, to see students, to pop into the supermarket and a host of other things that not long ago I took for granted. Yet as we long to return to normal there are questions about what that means. Moses’ prayer isn’t just about ticking dates off a calendar but is about our priorities. 

‘Teach us to number our days aright.’

What is God saying to us through this pandemic? Might a new normal see an end to demeaning language about unskilled workers and a recognition of their value to society? Might a new normal recognise the value of key workers not just by five minutes applause but by a decent wage? Might a new normal see an end to wasteful environmentally-damaging commutes and greater opportunities for flexible working and working from home? Might a new normal recognise the vastly different life opportunities of our children, where the most affluent have done relatively well in lockdown and do not need to think of returning to school until September while the poorest fall further behind? Might a new normal re-evaluate spending priorities – how many lives has Trident saved, and is it really so essential to cut 15 minutes on a commute from Birmingham to London? 

Teach us to number our days aright.’

What is God saying to us as a church? Might a new normal see better ways of caring for and staying in touch with those who can’t regularly get to services (which is all of us at the minute)? Might a new normal see creative ways of reaching out to people and sharing the Gospel through new media? 

‘Teach us to number our days aright.’

What is God saying to us as individuals? What are we discovering? What are the priorities that we need to reassess or rearrange? Have we just spent our time binging box sets or have we rediscovered the lost art of conversation, or prayer, or getting to know our neighbours? 

‘Teach us to number our days aright.’

It is no surprise to me that our daily email bulletins have frequently mentioned the Psalms. They are a book of prayers for all times and especially this time. 

‘Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.’