Letter from the Vicarage - September 2016
BLESSINGS FROM THE VICARAGE
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…"
When I was reflecting on the happenings that had occurred in the world in August in preparation for writing this letter for the September magazine, and following on from my book reviews of last month, these opening dualistic lines from Charles Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ came to mind.
The positives: It was the best of times: it was the age of wisdom; it was the epoch of belief; it was the season of Light; it was the spring of hope… what wonderful results we have attained in the Olympics – well done Great Britain! Well done all those who broke world records! Well done to those who exceeded their personal bests! Well done those who managed to get to Rio - that in itself is an achievement… Not only in winning many medals but also simply by participating, the Olympians have embodied the true ethos of the Games which is the endeavour to develop, to improve, and to compete not in a divisive way but in a way that cherishes and celebrates human accomplishment in life…The IOC gave a talk at the start of the games about the ‘True Spirit of the games’ which stands apart from politics, economics, etc. There was a call for belief and self-discipline in the deep truth of what the games are really about, in order that corporate joy in achievement could be attained and shared to bring hope to the world.
The negatives: it was the worst of times; it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Darkness; it was the winter of despair… Whilst there were wonderful things going on with the Olympics, there was the absolute opposite going on in many other people’s lives: the worst of times with ethnic cleansing and devastation in Syria and particularly Aleppo; the apparent ‘foolishness’ of the coup in Turkey which led to so many unnecessary deaths; the incredulity that singular isolated vulnerable and often mentally ill and possibly brainwashed fundamentalist people can cause such darkness, despair and grief when they set out to murder innocent families with knives (London), guns (France, Germany, Belgium, America), bombs (Hua Hin in Thailand) in so many devastating attacks all over the world…Life has not been cherished or celebrated by these people and groups – indeed they seem to be working against creation as a whole and trying to make people regress with fear and hopelessness.
There is a saying that it is easier to believe in God or that God exists when the sun is shining than when it is raining or worse. But with God there is no separation of being – God is ‘I am’ – God is therefore in the good times and the ‘not-so-good’ times and does not abandon us (or anything for that matter) in the ‘worst of times’. This would be contrary to God’s existence. Indeed, if we understand the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit correctly, the entire point of God pouring the Godself out into the world in Jesus Christ was to show the intrinsic Spiritual connexion God has with the world (indeed universe) as a whole through the energy of Love. However we try to understand God, in whatever language or medium – be that science, music, psychology, spirituality, religious words, relationships, etc.; by learning through all life’s experiences both good and bad, we can ultimately gain the wisdom that, as the author of the first letter of John writes, "God is love, and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them". In our troubled times we often hear people ask, "How can God let this happen?" This question itself can then bring discernment of what God is about (which is Life in its fullness of Being), and stimulate action that enables protection of the innocent, promotion of knowledgeable, positive, inclusive attitudes and also an embodiment of the dignity of difference that reduces fear and segregation.
Although in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ the plot centres on the years leading up to the French Revolution and culminates in the Jacobin Reign of Terror, towards the end Dicken’s writes, "I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out." This reminds me of a passage in the last book in the Bible, Revelation 21: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new."
It will take much time and hard work to cope with the negative global atrocities that have occurred recently, but in looking forward to September and beyond, let us take heed to the discipline and determined practice of the Olympians, let us not lose hope; let us endeavour to develop, to learn, to improve, to change poor attitudes and cherish all life. God is with us...and because of that we can be amazing…
With love and prayers