A couple of days ago a news reporter walked down a narrow street in Italy that was totally deserted – not a dog, cat or human being in sight. They were all there, said the reporter, waving a hand at the walls on either side, except now they are in their own homes sheltering from the coronavirus.
It was a narrow street with terraced houses and apartment buildings jostling up a slight incline. The colours were warm and mellow. It reminded me of streets in the Welsh valleys and of the old communities in Wales. There weren’t so many mothers working outside the home then, and neighbours knew each other better then they do today. When the weather was good, people would bring a chair and sit outside. Sometimes they would sit and chat and watch the children as they played.
And now our streets are silent, too. Despite the sunshine and warmth after weeks of cold and rain, we too, are sheltering from the coronavirus. We’re being imprisoned by something so tiny we can’t see it. We’ve been exiled from our streets, like the Italians, and shut in our own homes.
Then, the same day as the news report, I came across this verse: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘old men and old women will again sit in the open spaces of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.’
Jerusalem was in a poor state when Zechariah wrote this, following years of captivity in Babylon. Zechariah means ‘God remembered’.
And it will be the same for us, too! In morning prayers today we heard again the Easter story, how Jesus Christ allowed Himself to be taken captive and crucified because of our sins. We thought, again, of the despair and grief of His disciples. They had shut themselves away. But that’s not how it ends! Jesus, the source of all life, rose from death and life began again for the disciples with more colour, more zest and more purpose than they could ever have imagined.