Rector's Ramblings: September 20th 2020

 

 

I’m in the middle of a book about life in 1549 and it sounds all too familiar. Henry VIII’s son Edward VI is king but too young to rule yet, so his uncle Edward Seymour is heading the country as Protector. Seymour has been waging a war with Scotland which is failing and France is threatening to join the conflict. Church life is volatile: radical Protestants are causing discontent among many who held to the old Catholic ways. Churches are being whitewashed internally covering over old colourful wall paintings; there is a new prayer book and Bible. The economy is in collapse with raging inflation. The peasants are threatening rebellion as the more powerful enclose land and deny them the ages old grazing rights for their beasts.  Reading all this, I couldn’t but help feel that our times are not that unprecedented. One character in the book, feels it is a good thing he is coming to the end of his life: ‘Seeing what England has become, the church to which I gave my life completely destroyed’.  There is nothing new under the sun. Nothing unprecedented about the present time.

    There have been many similar times throughout history around the world as the old order collapses and the new comes forward. I take comfort in knowing that the human race does overcome these times of uncertainty and disruption. I doubt though whether anyone has ever really enjoyed living in such uncertainty. How do we live with uncertainty and not be dragged down?

    This week has seen serious uncertainty raise its head again for us with the rise in Coronavirus infection rates, just as we were relaxing to a degree. Where are we going now? Another Lockdown? Disruption of plans again? We face increased uncertainty and that is tough. We are all getting tired and worried.

    I do wonder whether what is unprecedented today is not that there is turmoil as such but something else.  Has any previous generation lived with such a high degree of certainty as we have for the past 50 or so years in this country? We got used to being certain; that we could plan our own destiny. We got used to being able to decide what we would do – self determination – and having enough money to do it. Suddenly we are uncertain. How do we face this? We’re not used to it.

    I could give all sorts of answers to that question. I’ll try one. Think of an acorn inside which there is a mighty oak; the acorn shell has to crack, to be opened for any sapling, let alone any oak to grow. In the life of the soul, and of our faith life, there has to be a cracking open for growth to occur in us. To be certain in the spiritual life can mean we limit possibility: we are closed to the ongoing actions of God in our lives and in the world and can’t see the new. We have a God who so often says to us ‘see I am doing a new thing!’ He brings resurrection about of death. Without a crack or two on our shells, we can sit with absolute certitudes and unwittingly close ourselves down to the whisper of the Holy Spirit.       

      Can we sit with uncertainty and not seek to pretend it away, talk it away or so fear it that we hide it? I read this: “Uncertainty, whether in our selves or others, needs to be given space; it needs to be allowed to breathe.” Can we give uncertainty space in our lives? We could then catch a glimpse of God and his call on our lives.  Are we often so busy being certain about everything and running our lives as we want that we consign Him to the sidelines?  Can we allow the shells we build around ourselves to be cracked open? To allow God in afresh and to grow more deeply in our love and trust of him? I recognise the challenge of what I have written. It isn’t easy to sit with uncertainty when we want to know.

   So, let’s sit at the foot of the cross and look to Jesus, and place our uncertainty at his feet.  He holds together certainty and uncertainty; his outstretched arms show us that he encompassed love and hate, anger and love. He took it all to himself never responding with violence. We are safe in those arms to explore uncertainty and to follow the path with him as our guide. Knowing that he will lead us well even if to us the path is so unclear, and for us unprecedented.   That cross can be our rock and foundation place in the midst of uncertainty but also a challenge to follow him more nearly and love him and his ways more dearly.