3rd May 2020

I don’t know about you, but I think I have almost reached saturation point when it comes to listening to the news, and particularly anything to do with Covid-19.  This is not because I don’t care, because I do.  It is not because I am not interested, because I am.  It is really because I think I have reached information overload.  There is so much to take in, different voices saying different things.  Some of the advice, or musings are helpful, many are not.  The only constant is that social distancing will remain for the foreseeable future, and I believe that is the right thing to do for now if we are to help stop this virus from spreading further and taking even more lives.
Situations like this can be overwhelming.  When we find ourselves in a position with lots of conflicting , competing, even compelling information it can flummox us and we find ourselves either blowing with the wind or sat firmly in a dark room closed off from the world and all it’s ills.  Neither response is helpful or healthy.
In John 10:1-10, Jesus shows an awareness of the way competing ideas and notions can pull us this way and that, especially when it came to faith and recognising the true way forward.  So he spoke to his followers about sheep and shepherding, something the listeners could easily relate to then, and still can today in our rural settings.  
He spoke about the importance of listening and recognising who was speaking truthfully.  The sheep, he said, would recognise the shepherd because he would lead them to a place of safety and well-being.  Listening to anyone else bar their shepherd was potentially dangerous and could lead to destruction and loss of life.  Speculation about who Jesus was and what this meant in matters of faith was rife for the religious leaders of the day said one thing, and those who followed Jesus were saying another.  
His ways certainly seemed challenging at times, and yet, when they questioned him, his explanations seemed to make sense.  He wasn’t telling them anything new per se for it was all there in their scriptures.  He wasn’t challenging their beliefs so much as he wanted them to think beyond what they were being told about the meaning of scripture, to think about the actual words, not someone else’s interpretation of them.
Using shepherding as a metaphor he told them, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep… whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come and go out, and find pasture.”  Jesus’ whole ministry provides us with an example of what we need to live in a time of turmoil.  There were times when he was extremely busy, bombarded with the questions and demands of people who sought hope and a future.  What is important to notice though is that he also took time out.  He made it a priority to seek silence, quiet, and peace to commune with God, an act that undoubtedly renewed his strength and revived what must have been a weary soul.
I suspect most, if not all of us can relate to this.  There are times when we are overwhelmingly busy.  The demands made on us and the expectations we have placed on us, by ourselves as much as by anyone else, can cloud our vision.  It sometimes feels like you are juggling balls all the while hoping that something would drop so that you can take a wee breather.
In response to this, I think Jesus would be saying to us.  Put the balls down.  Just for a moment, lay them to one side.  Sit down, and rest for a while.  Take time to look at what you are doing, take stock, and let me (ie Jesus) show you the way ahead.  And having done this, at least in my experience, having taken that moment to stop and reflect, I am ready to get up and get going once more, renewed in both strength and spirit.
If you are feeling overwhelmed right now, because of all that you find yourself doing or frustrated by what you cannot do, take a moment to realise that Jesus understands.  You are not alone, many of us have had or are having similar such moments of anxiety.  Enjoy some silence, do something relaxing, like reading a book or going for a walk, listen to some soothing music.  Take time to witch off from the world, just a moment, to recharge your batteries, refocus and rise again ready to get n with the day.
These are difficult days, but they will pass.  In the meantime, rest in Jesus and the knowledge that he is right here with us, encouraging us to trust him.  He is the good shepherd.  Follow him.

Lord, in the clamour of all the busy-ness and noise, and demands of our lives, when we long for peace, may we make time to listen for your voice.  So often you spoke through the Psalmists and prophets of old telling us to “Be still”.  You encourage us to listen to your still small voice amid the storm. When we are anxious, fill us with your peace.  When we feel overwhelmed, give us a sense of your calm. 
We thank you for the many ways you are speaking to us in this time of crisis, for the signs of healing in the world of nature, for the comfort and support you are offering to us through friends and strangers alike, bring us closer together, and ultimately closer, we pray, to you.
We thank you for the gift of time, unexpected though it is, and pray that those who are busier than ever find moments in their day to be still, to be restored, to be revitalised.
All this we pray in the precious name of Jesus, amen. 

Please click on the line below to listen to Aled Jones sing the 23rd Psalm.

Aled Jones