The Rev Tim Smith has been the pastor of Hele Baptist Church in Torquay since 2007.
Here, in the first of the Torbay Weekly ‘Your Thoughts’ column, he reflects on the current crisis gripping the nation and the world
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some” Charles Dickens
I guess that one of the images that we will remember when, in time to come, we look back and reflect on these weeks of “lockdown”, is that of the weekly “Thursday night at 8” demonstrations of gratitude towards those key workers, especially the many health professionals and care workers, who have been at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus. Those brief moments of hand-clapping, saucepan-bashing, (even bagpipe playing) expressions of appreciation have also enabled many of us to stand outside our homes alongside our neighbours and celebrate together; uniting with each other around something we can all be thankful for.
It’s so easy, isn’t it, to take for granted the multiple contributions that different people, mostly strangers, make to our daily lives. The places where we live, for example, would be a much less pleasant environment to dwell in if it wasn’t for the work of those who are tasked with keeping our streets clean or emptying our bins. And let’s also hear it for the people who deliver our mail, drive buses and taxis, or serve us in our supermarkets. And when you sit and reflect on all who make a positive contribution to your life, then surely a simple expression of appreciation, be that verbal or written or even a gift, to someone who has helped you or served you, never goes amiss.
When I reflect on this theme of thankfulness, I’m reminded of an event we read about in the New Testament, in chapter 17 of Luke’s gospel, where the story is told of 10 men who suffered with the terrible skin disease leprosy. Back then, if you contracted that condition you became an outcast from society; you were forced to leave home and family, no-one would want you near them; basically your life as you knew it was over and you were as good as dead already. But the Bible tells us of the day that these leprous men saw the Lord Jesus walking near-by, so they called out to him to be merciful and heal them. Jesus responds by telling them to go and find the local priest and show themselves to him (the priest would have to confirm that someone was cleansed of leprosy before they would be allowed to re-join normal society). They did as Jesus told them, and the Bible says that as they went on their way, they were healed!
But the startling conclusion to the story is this – only one of the 10 former lepers chose to return to Jesus to say thank you. Think about that - the Lord has transformed your life; he’s done for you something that was impossible for you to do for yourself, and you fail to show him any kind of gratitude!
Even in the midst of this current crisis, which has curtailed our normal way of life, you and I have much to be thankful for. It’s good to be reminded, isn’t it, that although things are difficult, there are plenty of people in our community, be they friends, family or strangers, who are prepared to go out of their way to help meet our daily needs. And over and above all of this, the Bible tells me that I have a Heavenly Father who cares for me deeply, and promises his constant, providential care. In one of my favourite verses of the New Testament, Philippians 4:19, the Apostle Paul reminds believers from his own personal life experience, that “my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”.