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During this period, where we are unable to meet together in church, Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday Sunday 3rd May 2020.

Two Sundays ago, the theme of my ‘Thought for the Day’ was Faith. Last Sunday it was Hope. Today, it’s Love. I would like to share with you some thoughts arising from reflection on a few Bible passages about love.

Speaking of Faith, Hope and Love, one of the most well-known passages in the New Testament is of course St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13. I will not repeat it all here, but it ends with those well-known words: “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

One of my favourite passages from the Old Testament is in the Song of Solomon, a very short book, which you will find tucked away just before the much larger book of Isaiah. If you haven’t ever read it, do give it a go. It’s quite unlike the rest of the Bible. It’s really a sort of love poem. It’s message is that marital love is a reflection of God’s joy for his people, though, strangely, the book never mentions God at all. Here is the passage I like. I occasionally use is at a funeral (and I have used it occasionally at a wedding). It reminds us of the power of love, and that love is eternal. For example, when someone very dear dies, the love we have shared with that person does not die with them, but endures beyond the time we have shared that love on earth.

The Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Set me as a seal upon your heart,

as a seal upon your arm;

for love is strong as death,

passion fierce as the grave.

Its flashes are flashes of fire,

a raging flame.

Many waters cannot quench love,

neither can floods drown it.

If one offered for love

all the wealth of one’s house,

it would be utterly scorned.

Returning to the New Testament, in Chapter 13 of St. John’s Gospel, Jesus says to his disciples (and to us): ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’

During the difficult times we are facing at the moment, it is difficult to express our love for one another in the same ways that we have always been used to. Although most of us are separated from our families and friends by distance and isolation, thankfully, we have the technology that allows us to pick up the phone and telephone someone we love, or speak to them using social media, to keep in touch with our loved ones and to let them know that, although we can’t be with them, we want to let them know that we love them.

But I’ll bet a £ to a pinch of incense that the one thing you are all desperately missing at the moment is a good, old-fashioned hug! Sadly, this is currently not possible with those members of our family and close friends who don’t live with us. This week our son delivered some bedding plants and compost and felt he had to stand 6 to 8 feet away from us as we chatted

to him from the door. And my wife’s first words after he left us were: ‘I just wanted to give him a big hug’. We all need hugs, don’t we!

I expect there are many people longing to give their children a hug (and vice versa), and perhaps to cuddle a new-born grandchild. We are not able to visit loved ones in care homes. And many recently-bereaved people have not had the opportunity to give their dying loved ones in hospital a final hug and say, ‘I love you’.

We just have to tell ourselves that this distancing will not go on forever. We need to live in faith, hope and love, and keep telling ourselves that the restrictions will eventually be over, and we can then express our love for those nearest and dearest to us in the way we are all missing at the moment.

So dust off your virtual Hugometers, fit some new batteries (the ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Love’ brands are good), and be prepared. Because, come the end of isolation and social distancing, I am sure that hugs are going to be off the scale!

I look forward to the time when we can all meet again in church and sing the hymns that remind us of the love of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we look for comfort and support through this difficult period – ‘Love divine, all loves excelling’, ‘The King of Love my shepherd is’, ‘Come down, O Love divine’, and many others. It will be a day when we will also no doubt take the opportunity to catch up on the hugs with family and close friends that we are all currently missing!

God bless you all.

Fr. Ray