I like to do crosswords. Usually the quick or simple versions from the Guardian or the i newspaper. I rarely get very far with cryptic crosswords.
Normally I answer a few clues quickly – but the grid remains depressingly full of empty squares. I’ve read every clue, but the mind feels dull and no more answers come to me. Then there’s a second phase as I revisit each clue and ‘get my brain in gear’. And each answered clue then gives letters to help with other ones. And so I grapple my way to the final few.
Mostly I get them in the end. Sometimes going painstakingly through the alphabet letter by letter. Or getting help from Janet or Tim. Sometimes I grumpily resort to Google for specialist knowledge. I mean how can anyone be expected to know the answer for ‘An Eskimo boat’ (Umiak)? Or Madagascar’s currency (the Ariary)?
And I enjoy this?!! Well yes, mostly. Like a physical workout (unless it’s running after a ball which I could do for ever) it’s the satisfaction of having done it that keeps me going – or the shame of not completing it!
I try to do a crossword most days to keep the little grey cells working. The process is enlightening. Some answers come easily to us in life. Others need a bit more work and there are always things we need help with.
But I think I see something else at work. It’s this ‘getting the brain in gear’ bit. It’s the sort of momentum that is gradually achieved after a slow start.
Watching a goose take off recently from Fewston reservoir, the goose started by flapping its wings without making much forward progress. Then it ran on the water for a country mile and just when we thought it might give up and not take off at all, it rose into the air and soared gracefully above the bridge it had looked in danger of crashing into!!
I often find it’s the getting going that stops me getting going, if you know what I mean. If it doesn’t come easily, it’s easier not to do anything. Have you ever sat around (physically or on Zoom) in a small group and had a discussion? Like in our Lent Groups? It can be hard to start a discussion as the question hangs awkwardly in the air. Then we make the jump into ‘brain-engaged’ space, usually by someone saying something interesting or stirring, and we get up and running. Sometimes even flying. I hope there’s something in this that mirrors your own spiritual momentum through this past year.
There’s a real momentum now as we come out of ‘lockdown’, with the vaccines in particular enabling the roadmap out of the current grave restrictions. But it’s a momentum that needs constant nudging towards positive change, not a return to old ways that have been found wanting.
There has been extraordinary momentum that has allowed and caused drastic change in so many areas of life, not least in the general acceptance of previously unimaginable restrictions on private and public life. And in our appreciation for the NHS, carers, teachers and so on.
And there’s huge momentum in the readiness to address key questions: How do we …. look after the most vulnerable, … treasure the world we live in … recognise how interdependent we all are on this small planet, … think again about who and what we most value … face our own prejudices … address the massive inequality at home and internationally and so on.
So many issues require urgent action now, we can be overwhelmed into inertia – doing nothing. Whereas we simply need to do what we can, building on and generating further momentum. You never can tell whether something will fly or crash until you try!
Never have so many people of good will on our planet been so united in knowing what needs to be done. God is surely speaking loud and clear to all who will listen. But it is costly, requiring sacrifice. And the forces ranged in opposition are many and powerful, turning up in every quarter, not least in our own hearts.
And so each of us grapples with what we are called to do, and how we are called to live, as part of God’s missional loving of the world. God’s model for bringing in his kingdom is sacrificial love.
And what of Otley Parish Church? Where do you see the momentum in the Church and in Otley Parish Church in particular? As we emerge from this phase of the pandemic, what have we learned? What are we being asked to do differently? What do we need to hold on to and what do we need to let go of? Do discuss these questions and share widely. I’d love to hear your conclusions.
It’s been a very difficult time, but a time of great opportunity is coming for which we need to be ready.
I wish you a very blessed Lent, and joy in the journey.