HOW MANY TIMES?

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dandelion blowin in the wind

Over the past weeks, a song has been regularly popping into my head. I first came across it as a Guide, sitting round a campfire in the New Forest on a training weekend. Known as being a protest song, some of the words have recently taken on a deeper significance:

... Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind

Yes, 'n' how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take 'til he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind

Bob Dylan

In these days of so many 'unknown unknowns', I have a sense that many people are asking this same question: How many times?
* Will I see people not keeping their distance?
* Will I hear that the number of positive cases of COVID-19 have risen again?
* Will the Government change the advice and the slogan?
* Will I think 'I'd love to give you a hug'?

Dylan's answer to his own questions was to say that the answer was 'blowin' in the wind'. In some respects, it still feels as though that is the answer to so many of our questions, with contradictory answers and advice coming from all quarters and our fellow human beings then deciding which version suits them better.

My concern is that, because there is no one clear path to take which will cover the competing concerns of public health and the economy, we become disengaged from the statement that "we are all in this together". A feeling that can be compounded when news reports come out of public figures apparently doing their own thing, with apparent disregard for others.

In what ways can faith fit into a world view at this time?

When we ask God, "How many times?", God's response will always be, "Just one more...". Whether that is about forgiveness of others as it was with Peter, about how long to pray for others even when we don't perceive an answer to those prayers, about the door of our neighbour on which we knock for assistance and the parallels with our prayer life or any of the aspects of faith that require our attention, our perseverance and our commitment.

In all three of the synoptic gospels there is the story of Jesus being in the boat with his disciples. A great storm arose, the disciples are afraid and wake Jesus up. Jesus' response is to calm their fear by stilling the storm. The disciples are left wondering about Jesus' identity again, "Who is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him". (Mark 4:41)

Perhaps then, as we continue to face considerable uncertainty about the future and experience something akin to a storm in our own lives, we can take comfort from the humanity of the disciples and seek the reminder from God that all is not 'blowin' in the wind' in his Kingdom and that ultimately, "the earth is the Lord's and everything in it." (Psalm 24:1)

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