The 25th Sunday after Pentecost

Eric Bogle’s song ‘The Gift of the Years’ is about an old Aussie soldier returning to a ceme-
tery in a foreign land, 75 years later, talking to his friend who had died. In the song, he says:

And the country that you died for, mate, you would not know it now,
The future that we dreamed of, mate, got all twisted up somehow,
The peace that we were fighting for, the end to stupid senseless war,
So it couldn’t happen to our kids – well, old mate, it did.

We can imagine the two friends together in the mo-
ment but a bullet, a shell, something happens and

one returns home and one is buried.
Recently I was struck again by the unevenness of the
consequences of the pandemic. The reason we store
up assets and alliances is to ‘weather the storm’. And
that has certainly happened but there have been
many unexpected things as well. Working from home
was more do-able for some than others and not to
mention that many occupations and roles cannot be

‘done from home’ – which hopefully we now appreci-
ate more. There has been considerable corruption

happening as well – sadly, one can expect greed and privilege or opportunity to be active as
well but one hopes for accountability and justice to be enacted and for the world to improve
its behaviour. There are also extreme weather events happening which affect harvests; work
patterns (especially in shipping and supply chains) no longer are optimal; and here in the UK
there are still details of Brexit being worked out. Some businesses have struggled, some
have closed, yet others have thrived (and some of them are not exactly sure why – but
pleased nonetheless).

As we head into the last weeks of the Church Year – a time of endings and a time of reflec-
tion – I was also reminded that in the crisis times the Bible recognises that it affects us differ-
ently. ‘And alas for women who are pregnant and for those nursing infants in those

days’ (Mark 13:17). A long term crisis such as climate change – not as immediately destruc-
tive or as obvious as a war perhaps – now has a strong sense of what will our children and

grandchildren face in the decades to come?
One might look at the news or the trajectory of the recent decades and scream, ‘It is not fair!’.
Once that is done – and the cry may be correct – what we are still left with is life – our life, our

beating heart, our relationships, our behaviour – now. We will live through today – and tomor-
row – that’s what we plan to do in the circumstances we face. I know it can be easy to be

overwhelmed or despondent by events.
This has always been the case – and God doesn’t abandon his people – he hasn’t, doesn’t,
and won’t. As I have said many times, all people would love a ‘genie-God’ to make things as
we want them but Jesus calls us to ‘follow him’. He teaches us to seek God’s will and live
according to it. And we can live each day with worship and prayer and also action and service
– with a confidence that Jesus can and does help us with both. Karl Barth once said that
Christians should read the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other (this was long
before the Internet!). The idea was that you could be reminded of your identity (in Christ) and
get the needs around you so you might serve others. That is the lifestyle of Jesus’ disciples
no matter the days and how fair or unfair or calm or stressful they be – and Jesus is with us
with his blessings. GS