According to the mediaeval English poem, ‘Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu! Groweth sed, and bloweth med, And springth the wude nu.’ But is summer really coming in? As I write this it is a beautiful, sunny, late May day and it seems as though a good summer is a real possibility despite the fact that most of May has been very wet with weather reminiscent of April showers. So what can we expect of summer. Astronomically speaking summer is the period from the summer solstice to the autumn equinox (this year 21st June – 22nd September), and is a time of hot weather, ripening fruit and grain, and holidays. The British summer however, has always been renowned for the unreliability of its weather. As one traditional saying declares, ‘An English summer: three fine days and a thunderstorm.’ And Lord Byron wrote in his poem Don Juan, ‘The English winter – ending in July, to recommence in August.’
Last year after a warm spring it seems we hardly had a summer at all, and so far this year spring has been very uncertain with the weather being more changeable than usual and temperatures well below average. In the gardens it seems that everything started three weeks or more later than it ought to have, although it is now catching up quickly. At the beginning of May several parts of the country even had significant amounts of snow falling in a short period overnight! What on earth is going on?
Many scientists blame our increasingly unpredictable weather and its wider extremes and greater violence on global warming which affects the course of the jet stream (the high altitude winds) bringing more of the Atlantic deep depressions directly over the British Isles instead of steering them round us, and this was very obvious on the TV weather maps. This, together with melting ice caps, can have a knock-on effect on the north Atlantic drift or Gulf Stream, which prompts fears that it may be diverted away from Britain. Losing the warming effect of this stream of water from the Mexican Gulf paradoxically means that global warming could make Britain colder! Although it is fluctuating wildly the general trend seems to be towards wetter and cooler weather in the west and much drier in the east, with the south east having very hot dry summers.
Jesus accused his opponents of being able to predict the weather but not being able to read the signs of the times (Luke 12:54-56). Nowadays it seems that the weather itself may be one of the signs of our times. Could it be a warning that we must take better care of the planet and think about the impact our actions have on the environment, animals, crops and raw materials, and ultimately on human beings suffering because of ‘natural’ disasters or exploitation and exhaustion of natural resources?
Jesus also told his disciples that terrible things would happen. He told them that they must stand firm and ignore the doom mongers who would say that such things were signs of the end of the world. Does that mean then that we should take no notice of the disasters that are going on around us? I hope that your reaction to any such suggestion would be of course not! To do so would be to ignore Jesus’ commandment, ‘love one another’, and an even older one, ‘love your neighbour.’ And even though it is such a huge task, even a seeming impossible one, the little that we can do when added together does make a difference – the stories we’ve heard during the pandemic over the last year have shown that.
The Holy Spirit coming on the disciples at Pentecost enabled them together to do great things. Now as we move past Pentecost and into that long period of what the church calls ‘ordinary’ time which takes us through summer and autumn towards Advent, let us pray that it will indeed be ‘ordinary’ time for us as restrictions are finally ended. But equally, let us not get too comfortable or complacent for, like the disciples, we too have a great task ahead of us as we seek to bring the Good News to all in a post-covid world.
And whatever the weather I hope you have a good summer and happy holidays,