It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it – is no longer effective… We need a story that will educate us, a story that will heal, guide, and discipline us.
Well we are into a New Year and its designation sounds like something from a science-fiction movie. Of course 2020 vision is being able to see with clarity and precision (although I need to go to Specsavers soon!) so the question is will human beings manage that this coming year, given the challenges we face globally, nationally and even personally? Furthermore, will the Church of Jesus Christ manage this too!
History is full of drama much of which bequeathed to the modern world a mixed bag of good and bad. We have just finished a year of political turmoil in our own country and however we voted let us pray that some stability and progress can be made in social and political terms for the good of all. Unfortunately none of us can stop the world and get off so we have to make do with the situation we find ourselves in. Yet, drama is at the heart of existence. Nothing worthwhile, novel, unique, important, interesting or radical happens without struggle, effort, sacrifice, and creative tension. It is so in nature; it is so in history; it is so in our own personal journeys of life and faith.
Many of us enjoy a good drama on the TV and appreciate the twists and turns of a clever plot line which keeps us in suspense and is full of surprises. These usually involve competing characters, motives, behaviours, unforeseen events, and action packed incidents. From the point of view of entertainment this is all well and good, but what of our own lives. Are we part of a narrative bigger than ourselves? Are we engaged and participating in a plot line that is exciting, enriching and purposeful? Are we going anywhere? It’s a “vision” thing as opposed to a Homer Simpson “stuff” thing. Are our lives all about the “stuff “that is in them or that happens to them or, are we able to transcend all of that with a larger and more expansive “vision” of the world and our place in it?
The Biblical narrative is an Epic from the Creation to the Consummation of all things. It once undergirded the way we saw the world and our role within it but that has been lost. Perhaps we need to recover that.
Interestingly, a survey conducted in August 2019 indicated that 89% of 16-29yr olds felt that life had no meaning or purpose and headlines like “Millennial Angst” appeared. The influence of the Judeo-Christian worldview has ebbed away and we are all fumbling about trying to adapt to a brave new world. Perhaps it’s time to get back to our roots. We can’t recreate the past and who would want to, it wasn’t perfect anyway, but we are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater… something we do with Jesus every year along with the decorations when tidying up in the aftermath. But then as they say, “The trouble with Christmas is the bills come in January and the Baby grows up!” Every church building in the country is a testimony to something bigger than itself and to the longevity of a message, a hope, and a faith that has inspired and guided many generations past and present. How much longer will that be the case? In the epigraph quotation above by the late cultural historian Thomas Berry, we have the common assumption today that the Biblical worldview is past its sell by date. I could not disagree more.
The Christian faith has, in ways apparent and hidden, shaped and nurtured our culture. At its centre there is an amazing person who challenges us personally and individually. It is the Jesus of Easter (crucified yet Risen) we have to reckon with: the one who started a revolution; the one whose influence and impact on the world is second to none. The great Napoleon once said that “Jesus may have won men’s hearts but I control their destinies.” Then he marched into Russia and was defeated by the snow. Hitler once said, referring to Jesus, that “No anaemic Jew was worthy of the worship of any good German.” His Reich which was to last a thousand years ended in catastrophe after only twelve. Joseph Stalin once vowed to eradicate the name of Jesus from the land of Mother Russia. Yet immediately after his death, it was his name which was removed, and even the city of Stalingrad was changed to Volgograd.
The Monty Python Team were right: “Brian” wasn’t the Messiah, only a “very naughty boy!” Jesus however, was and is. Will 2020 be the year when the Church regains its confidence in its own message once again? Yes, to be concerned with social issues is right and commendable, but we have a worldview to promote and defend: one which deals with origins and endings and everything in between that is about identity and destiny for the human race. This encompasses science, history, philosophy, politics and morality. What an epic! What an adventure! What a message! To this challenge we can only posit these questions. If not this, then what? If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
by Rev Dr Russel Moffat
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