As I write this, there are ten days to go before a general election but as you read this you will know the outcome and have begun to live with it for a while though you may not be content with the result! During this time I have tried to hold in my heart the slogan promoted by JPIT (The joint public issues team made up of the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church) which is LOVE, PRAY, VOTE. And while I hear you say ‘It’s a bit late now it’s all over’, there is still wisdom in using this to guide our thinking and decision making processes.
We are influenced by many things in our world and as Christians it is especially hard to keep our focus on what it is that God desires for us as individuals, for the communities in which we live and for the world and to know who to listen to as we make decisions.
The ‘Vox pops’ so popular on radio and TV where ‘ordinary people’ are stopped on the street and asked their opinion can become enormously influential in the hands of the media with some clever editing and extensive airtime.
The way in which we are often influenced by the ‘headlines’ but delve little into the detail is perhaps a symptom of the busy lives we lead which seem to demand that we know about everything to some degree but rarely spend the time exploring deeply what are often complex issues without simple answers.
Jeremiah was one of those prophets who was hugely influential in his day. The reading for the first Sunday of January includes these words:
Watch what comes next: “I’ll bring my people back from the north country
And gather them up from the ends of the earth, gather those who’ve gone blind
And those who are lame and limping, gather pregnant women, Even the mothers whose birth pangs have started, bring them all back, a huge crowd! Watch them come! They’ll come weeping for joy as I take their hands and lead them, Lead them to fresh flowing brooks, lead them along smooth, uncluttered paths. Yes, it’s because I’m Israel’s Father and Ephraim’s my firstborn son!” (Jeremiah 31:8-9, from The Message version)
Jeremiah’s prophecy is about God who brings restoration and comfort to a people who are suffering and yet in the previous chapter speaks of the fierce anger of the Lord which will not turn back. Jeremiah risked his life to bring God’s liberating but also challenging message to the kings of the day.
We may not be as bold as the prophet Jeremiah and our influence may not seem to reach government and kings as his did but we can still begin this New Year by demonstrating a way of living which uses love, prayer and action in a closely linked and effective way.
Blessings and peace for this coming year. Deacon Richard Beckett