Phil on ... 

So how are we all doing eight weeks into the lockdown enforced by Covid-19? Keeping busy with books, films, jigsaws; getting to grips with new technology allowing us to communicate with family and friends? Has anyone discovered some positives from the situation; a new hobby maybe? My one hour of exercise per day has led to me discovering footpaths on the meadows behind my house that I never knew existed. Not only that, I’ve learnt that nine species of warblers live there. I’ve only lived here 23 years and usually travel to Berryhill or Doxey Marshes near Stafford for bird-watching!
I’m also getting used to working from home. What I’ve learnt is that using Microsoft Teams allows our salesforce, technical teams and clients to very efficiently get together to discuss potential projects. Combining this with use of email to send draft documents back and forth has resulted in us getting quotes out to clients so much more quickly. In hindsight (which I know is a wonderful thing!) I cannot understand why we haven’t adopted this approach before. It’s not as if video conferencing didn’t exist before this crisis. Sales staff spending three hours on the road for a one hour face-to-face meeting with a client then driving all the way home was the norm. Now it seems complete madness. It will be interesting to see whether companies retain this way of working or revert to type after all this is over. Given the associated environmental benefits from fewer car or plane journeys it seems a no-brainer to me. It’s almost as if God is using Covid-19 as an opportunity to make us think about the way we live our lives and the need to achieve a sustainable life/work balance.
The WordLive daily bible reading notes have recently been looking at Hebrews and comparing the old way and new way of gaining forgiveness from God. The parallels with old and new ways of working highlighted above are interesting. Before Christ’s life on earth, Gods chosen people the Jews used to do things in a protracted way that was only ever temporary. Basically, the Priests needed to recognise they were not without sin themselves and so had to give offerings/make sacrifices to gain forgiveness from God. Then, having been made perfect, they could act as a conduit for God and give offerings/sacrifices for the sins of the people. Temporary is the key word here, for the Priests and people would soon sin again and need to repeat the exercise. Also, each Priest would eventually die and need replacing with another imperfect Priest. All very unsatisfactory but, like the methods of doing business described above, it is easy for humans to get into a ritualistic way that provides us with a sense of comfort, purpose, and achievement.
Christ gave us a far superior way to deal with man’s imperfection. First of all, he represents eternity. He existed before the world did, still exists today and will continue to live forever. Secondly, he is without sin, even spending time on earth to experience what it’s like to be human whilst (uniquely) living a perfect life. By dying on the cross he became the sacrifice for all our sins. So, by acknowledging we fall far short of God and asking forgiveness for our sins through Christ’s death we are sorted for ever. End of. Leaving us free to live/experience a richer life.
I did a little background reading on what Jews believe concerning the after-life. Admittedly, my research was brief, but it seemed to me there was at least some lack of reconciliation amongst Jews. They seem to believe in heaven but not necessarily hell. The Old testament written in Hebrew describes Sheol, but that doesn’t really appear to represent the place of fiery torment we consider as Hell; rather some Jews believe it is a place of “grey, shadowy existence” such as dead animals might experience. They believe that righteous people “merit additional life”. Some believe in the concept of a spiritual destination following death where souls can work through their sins before going to the next world (I quite like this “last chance saloon” concept!). Two things that strike me as valid amongst Jewish beliefs are (i) people of any race/faith can get to heaven and (ii) entry to heaven in based on actions, not beliefs. These two pointers are central to Christian beliefs. Whilst accepting Christ’s gift of forgiveness for sins (and acknowledging the futility of our own efforts to gain God’s acceptance) is essential, that act should spontaneously lead to a desire to live a life on earth that better reflects Jesus. We have of course the Holy Spirit to guide us rather than, again, relying on our own feeble efforts.
So, in summary, maybe, the God who sent his Son to die for us and make forgiveness an easier process, is helping us again through Covid-19 by signposting us to a better way of living on earth?