2020 the year the world changed beyond measure and a new era dawned.
My thoughts and feelings revolve paradoxically between hope and despair.
Hope that out of the tragedy and the challenges of the present there may come affirmation of the things that truly matter: our relationship with God, our neighbours, ourselves and the world we live in. Hope that we might find new ways of living that bring greater justice, peace and compassion to the world. Hope that the remarkable global collaboration that has seen nations run the race together against the ravaging enemy of Covid-19 will fuel a greater sense of belonging and solidarity across the world. Hope that in the fields of science, economics, the environment, education, technology, community and the beleaguered arts, new ways may be discovered that bring life to many. Hope that lessons learned during lockdown will lead to wiser choices, more life-giving patterns of working and relating to others and the environment. Hope that people of faith will be bearers of the Good News and play their part in shaping the future with the values and virtues that serve the good purposes of God in bringing wholeness and peace to the world. Hope that churches and Christian communities will engage in the reimaging of what living out faith means in a changing world, being co-creators of a new age rather than curators of a past age with its religious museums and memorabilia.
Despair arises from the failings and calamitous handling of the crisis by various Governments, not least our own. No one would have wished upon any governing body what has emerged with this global pandemic which continues to claim the lives of hundreds of thousands and continues to cause a major global recession. The complexities and challenges are immense and there are no easy answers or quick fixes. The first definition of leadership is to define reality and the reality is that we are living through a major crisis that is by no means over. The paucity of wise and honourable leaders is stark. There are few leaders who bear the hallmarks of integrity, servanthood and truthfulness. Despair over the lies, propaganda and false promises are portrayed on a daily basis. From the threat of spin, we now have deceit, fake news and foolish bluster. Martin Luther King’s assertion that, ‘Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity’ continues to resonate deeply. As the USA loses its way and the world sees the emergence of very different superpowers like China and Russia, the prospects are uncertain. Despair over leaving the EU and the ways in which this was engineered and delivered by its chief proponents and architects. Despair over the rise of nationalism, the fuelling of independence and exceptionalism where sovereignty and national self- interest are valued more than solidarity, collaboration and unity in diversity. I will mark our leaving at 11.00 this evening with a very heavy heart and much sadness but I accept that the decision to leave has been made and is now enshrined in epoch changing law. It is now incumbent upon us all, in the words of the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “to play our part in rebuilding our common moral foundation”. We have, as believers, the mandate to work for the transformation and blessing of the world, where again, according to Sacks, “a nation is strong when it cares for the weak and rich when it cares for the poor”. Despair and anger that we have cut Foreign Aid, reneged on a firm promise made to the neediest, poorest nations in the world. Despair over the the endemic racism within society and a failure to appreciate the reality of White Supremacy.
We are still in the season of Christmas and with it the familiar narratives and perhaps more so than ever this year, the prophetic writings that speak of hope amidst despair, of light penetrating darkness, of love conquering where hatred reigned, where a kingdom that promises justice, mercy and compassion would overturn the empires of power, greed, nationalism, exploitation and corruption.
And it is that Good News story of a God who demonstrates his love and identity with the world that hope is found. In the coming of Christ, hope is born, transformative love is realised and the prospects of the dawning of a new day, a new world era is born.
2020 held for many of us limitations, pale imitations of what we would truly like to have done. We have been inhibited and while 2021 promises us some hope it is not yet a reality. We face continuing uncertainty and there will be more to lament and grieve before the coming year is over. The enduring story of God’s love revealed in Christ lifts us out of every limitation into an abiding confidence that all things are possible with God. The prospects and potential of a different hope-filled future is possible. Hope can overcome despair.
In the words of the late Corrie Ten Boom, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God”.
A benediction of peace – the peace of all peace encircle you this day and throughout the coming year.
Bless you and take care