The Reaping

Back in the days when it was still deemed safe for teenage girls to go in pairs down back streets of our home city distributing Christian literature, there was a particularly notable tract called ‘Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment’. Its contents have, in the main, dissolved into the haze of memory, but oh, how we long for these precious elements nowadays, to settle like healing balm over our troubled world.

The late News could be renamed ‘Disturber of Sleep’. Question Time and political analysis programmes degenerate into verbal warfare. Those who have authority over us engage in power games for personal recognition, distracted and diverted by rumours of past misbehaviour and the compensation culture. We search in vain for leadership with altruistic motives that can be trusted, and we wish that common sense might prevail as once we thought it did.

Threatened with human extinction from global warming, our young people build barriers in city centres and demonstrate against the powers that be. It is not always easy to discern, historically, whether some youthful minds truly grasp the authenticity of their cause, or whether some will join a good protest for any reason to leave their mark on society and to enjoy the adrenalin rush of battle. May they seek wisdom. What can we tell them? How many have ever heard that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” and as we push aside His guidance and precepts, we pay a heavy price in misused resources, neglect and greed.

An old man sat breaking stones when a friend passed by. “Well George”, he remarked, “that pile doesn’t seem to get any less.” “No Sir,” replied George, “them stones is like the ten commandments – you can go on breaking them, but that don’t get rid of them.” Instead of good stewardship, we have embraced the misconception of ownership of the earth and its plenteous resources.

As long ago as the Reformation times, Martin Luther offered a note of solace and encouragement in trouble.

A safe stronghold our God is still,
a trusty shield and weapon;
He’ll help us clear from all the ill
that has us now o’ertaken.

A paraplegic minister recently wrote, “Though life is full of challenges, remember this one truth, and don’t let go of it – God is faithful. He has this world in his hands!” This comforting reminder does not exempt us from personal, national and global responsibility, but it does offer a light upon the pathway back to humility, reverence and the safe-keeping of the Sovereign Lord who still sends goodness and mercy in our stumbling wake. A large billboard outside a church building reads TRY PRAYING. It does not advocate ritual repetition but the true supplication, repentance and re-commitment of those who are in earnest about changing their ways under God’s watchful care.

The voices of those who are suffering and displaced cry out to us in fear and helplessness, but we struggle to differentiate between those who simply cannot stay where they belong and those whom we fear intend to cherry-pick our economic benefits. Doubt subsumes compassion.

Then, we have also to contend with the invisible hordes who take pleasure in dispatching anonymous messages of hate, insult and threat, dislodging the peace of anyone from schoolmate to politician and celebrity. C S Lewis once urged respect for each soul with this viewpoint; “There are no ORDINARY people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization – these are mortal and their life is to ours as a gnat. But it is IMMORTALS whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit.”

Booker T Washington, who founded the Tuskegee Institute when racial prejudice was at a peak stated, “I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.”

Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment- impossible aims?

Here is a prayer-hymn.

Lighten our darkness, breathe on this flame
until Your justice burns brightly again;
until the nations learn of Your ways,
Seek Your salvation and bring You their praise.

Iris Niven