New Year

31 December 2011

 

Swanholme Lakes. Lincoln

On this day a year ago I’d not heard of Harry Judd, Christine la Garde and Fukushima.

I’d heard of McFly and I knew they would have a drummer but until he became the star of Strictly Come Dancing in the latter months of 2011 I had no idea that his name was Harry Judd.

Twelve months ago our economy was as unstable as it is today but Christine Legarde was yet to be appointed the head of the IMF.  Now she is a regular feature of many a news bulletin appearing as she does like a sophisticated actress stalking the set of a gripping drama.

And in the Spring the world held its breath as theFukushima power plant teetered on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe.

No wonder we look to the New Year ahead with a mixture of fascination and fear.  There will be some events which we will have a reasonable confidence in taking place. But there are others that will come out of nowhere and take us by complete surprise.

Benjamin Franklin once quipped that ‘the two things that are guaranteed in this life are death and taxes’.  As an aside one might suggest ‘unless you are rich enough to avoid paying tax’.  ButFranklinwas making light of our inability to predict the future with any degree of certainty.

But there are many things we can predict.

  • From infancy we learn that to touch something hot is painful
  • In our teenage years we may discover that love is risky and we can get hurt if we commit ourselves to someone who doesn’t share our feelings.
  • Few of us would be so foolish as to run a marathon without the necessary preparation.  I know for a fact that any jog beyond a couple of miles is beyond me.

The year ahead stretches out before us like some unchartered landscape.  There will be storms to face, islands to take refuge upon, caves to explore, hills to climb and we may get both excited and anxious at the prospect.  From experience we can predict many things.  If I live in a certain way there will be consequences.  Live faithfully and I stand a chance of living wholly.  Live haphazardly and I run the risk of making a real mess of my situation.

But there are unknowns in all of this.  A twist and turn here and there, something out of the blue, someone acting in a way that I had not anticipated will be occasions that I cannot predict and call for a whole new game plan.

Despite this, and in certain cases in spite of this, I know that God will remain true to us.  This is something that I have learnt from life experiences thus far.  We will not be alone in the coming year.  Every month, week, day, hour and minute is filled with God’s grace which is sufficient for all our needs.  This is the message of incarnation, God with us, in us, through us, beside us and before us.

Every blessing in 2012

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The Prime Minister’s address at Christ Church, Oxford on Friday 16 is to be welcomed, providing it is to be not a monologue but an invitation to open up a genuine conversation.  It is certainly encouraging that Mr Cameron recognizes the right of the Christian Church to be a contributor in political debate.

 

Clearly Mr Cameron is correct when he suggests that there is much to be done to heal society.  But he should also know that this is nothing new.  Poverty, frustration at a system that overlooks the needy and the inevitable dilemmas that arise when seeking to mend what he would term a ‘broken society’ have long been features of the world in which we live. We can look back on the past fondly but often we do so through rose-tinted spectacles.

 

We might begin by asking what sort of society Mr Cameron envisages was the ideal.  He claims it to be one based on traditional ‘Biblical’ values.  Is it one where children and women have few if any rights?  One where slavery and servitude prevailed?  Let us not forget that the status quo at one time was often supported by many within the Church; they did so from a Biblical viewpoint.  At the very same time contrasting statements called for a radical overhaul of society; again they were from a Biblical viewpoint.

 

So which ‘traditional’ viewpoint is Mr Cameron calling us to adopt in our own time?  Does he desire one where politicians are allowed to get away without criticism because they are ‘ordained’ by God or one where every act is open to the judgment of the Church?  It is not as simple as the sound bite suggests.  Life, as any Prime Minister ought to know, is complex.

 

Mr Cameron appears to suggest that by failing to be traditional the Church is somehow responsible for so many ills in society.  The factors that have led to the present condition are many and varied.  Inequality is the single most consistent feature of frustration in our nation and world.  It is simply unacceptable that so many live in poverty while the mega rich avoid paying their full share of the tax burden.  If the Prime Minister is serious about debating this matter then it may be worth asking whether more is to be done to curb the excessive salaries of senior executives when so many of our elderly are struggling to pay for heating in their homes this Christmas.