I seem to spend most of every day on Zoom. It is brilliant to see and hear people and we get a surprising amount of work done, too.

But, having also recorded a brief video for each day of Holy Week and Easter (to go on our diocesan website), my mind keeps going back to the theme of exile. Remember, thing about exiles is that they keep alive the songs of ‘home’ while working out how to live in the ‘now’ whilst also hoping for a return one day. The trouble is they have no idea whether they – or future – generations will actually ever return.

But, that isn’t the end of it. The exiles romanticise ‘home’ and assume that when they do return, it will be as it was before they left. Which is, of course, nonsense. By the time they do go home, they will find that those who hadn’t been exiled have carried on with their lives. They have moved on. And when the expats come back they simply complicate everything by bringing with them assumptions rooted in memory or romantic imagination.

What we learn from a reading of, for example, Isaiah in the Old Testament is that ‘return’ does not end the pain or the struggle. It doesn’t resolve all the challenges. It simply creates a new set of problems or challenges. How now will they live together – the leavers and the remainers? What sort of common society will they now build together when they hold differing visions of what that society should look like? You get the point.

So, it is interesting to listen to some of the language around today in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. It feels like a sort of exile when you are in lockdown and the whole world seems to have stopped. And we have little idea what this world will look like when we eventually move on. The economy will be considerably smaller, several million people might be jobless, and money will be in short supply. Businesses will have expired and national debt will once again be enormous. We are going to need a new, fresh and bold vision of what a new society might look like. Not that it will simply happen; we will have to build our new society together and that will involve both cooperation and conflict.

No one knows what might happen in the next few weeks and months. We are seeing a massive explosion of altruism in the UK, but it is accompanied by a huge injustice whereby the poorest pay the price of disaster while the wealthier hold onto their cushions. The source of potential division in the future lies in this sort of inequity and injustice.

So, in the midst of the immediate challenges we all face, we need to be thinking and arguing for a big vision of a just and equitable society which has been recalibrated following the destruction of the old one. The end of one way of life is simply the start of another, and we need to be bold, confident, creative and diligent in establishing strong foundations of relationships, values and mutual commitments for the sake of the common good.

There is work to be done and it cannot wait until the virus has been squashed.