Monks Risborough, Buckinghamshire, England
Thought for the week from Canon Rob, 11th April 2021
Last June, in this series of web pages, I wrote about freedom and referred to Michael Ramsey who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1961-1974. He was a very holy, humble and wise man and one of the articles he wrote was about freedom and whether we see freedom for something, or freedom from something. How we see and use freedom affects how we live and that in turn can have a great impact on many people, for good or evil.
From this week, thanks to the reducing numbers of people suffering with, or dying from, Covid-19 in this country, the restrictions placed upon us are slowly being lifted. We will be able to have a haircut! We can visit a pub and have a drink outside! We can, once again, borrow a book from the library! These freedoms are surely something to celebrate but as the Prime Minister, and others tell us, we must remain careful. That will probably be more difficult for some than for others. But it is clearly true as we see from the third wave of the virus hitting countries throughout Europe. It isn’t enough to pray that we won’t go into another lock down. We all have to do our best to ensure we don’t! Freedom is in our hands and that is a huge responsibility for each of us.
The more I have thought about the word freedom, the more I realise how much it is used in many different contexts and I wonder what freedoms you value most.
Here are some of the freedoms we talk about – or perhaps even experience. Freedom from pain. Freedom from prison. Freedom of speech. Freedom from disease or serious illness like cancer. Freedom from debt. Freedom from drug or alcohol dependency. Freedom to worship. There are many more that you can think of. Some of the freedoms are personal: some are national; some are international; some can be for two or even three – like the pandemic or shopping. Many of them we have control over. Many we don’t and these are the ones which mean we are ‘out of control’ and that in turn can make us realise how vulnerable we human beings are. That can be really scary and being scared can make us feel very alone: isolated from others, even those we love. Over the past year there have been many articles and news reports about individuals and groups around the country who have responded to the pandemic by calling on, and telephoning, those who live alone.
Coming out of lock down is proving to be really difficult for many people and the longer it continues the longer it will take to recover and enjoy freedom once again.
So the implications of freedom, and it’s opposite being ‘imprisoned’ or ‘restricted,’ can be enormous. For even something very personal, like being free from cancer, will be a cause of thanksgiving and relief not just for the person who has suffered with that disease, but for those who have been involved in the treatment and those who love the person who has been ill. Again the opposite is true: when someone is ‘imprisoned’ by, say, an addiction, others are likely to be affected too. As the saying goes “No man is an island” and for some the fear of being alone is enormous.
In these days after Easter, one of the recurring themes in the Bible Readings set for Services is that of fear: or rather freedom from fear. Those who went to the tomb in which Jesus had been buried and found it was empty were told not to be afraid. When the risen Jesus met with his close friends his first words were, “Peace be with you.” He knew how fearful they were because they were not expecting him to be alive. All they knew was that he has been executed by the Romans on a cross. Now he was alive and with them again, and promising to be with them always. This is what Christians celebrate at Easter and for centuries millions have known that to be true. Believing that Jesus is with us brings a freedom to live fulfilled lives and that includes being free from fear.
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