The Fifth Sunday in Lent

I am writing this when the cross party political talks in Westminster are entering another day, when there is criticism that a backbench bill cleared all the stages in hours in the House of Commons when such a process is usually months and is now to be debated in the House of Lords, when the ELCE is undergoing a big task of restructuring its charitable ‘side’ and when I’ve heard news of family being ‘medi-vac’ed to Australia. I am writing these words aware of trajectories, of my interpretation of things, of possibilities, of hopes, of fears. When you read these words, the events will have moved on. We might all look back at these matters and assess whether my concerns were credible or ludicrous, my hopes laudable or selfish, and my behaviour consistent or inconsistent. The clarity of hindsight, of course, is that it has 20/20 vision.

I have little input and impact on much of these things. They are happening around me and will affect me in various ways but my ability to have things go ‘my way’ (a la Frank Sinatra) is very small indeed. This is nothing new, of course. Imagine living in an absolute monarchy or a dictatorship and I’m sure we would all be negotiating the best way for us and our families to survive – and if things turned hostile then perhaps getting away – becoming a refugee – might be the best option. Who knows? Hindsight would give us some answers but we don’t have those answers when we need them!

What do we do when life is uncertain? When the future is bleak – or could possibly be bleak? What do we do when we feel in a vice – powerless? I don’t know whether there is an actual rise in depression but it seems to me that I am hearing more and more that some young people are looking at the world and finding little or no reason to get out of bed, or out of the house, or to do anything.

I am not about to write magic words to solve things! Nevertheless I do think that how one approaches things affects what we think and how we behave and it occurs to me that the Lutheran understanding of vocation is a good place to start – or stand. Because that in effect is what this teaching is about – asking us to look at where we stand and who is around us and consider the relationships we have with these people. We stay the same but our relationships highlight different ‘parts’ or ‘dimensions’ of who we are. So I am a citizen in relation to Westminster (and a ‘ruler’ when I go into a ballot booth), a worker in the ELCE, and a family member (husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, nephew – but only a son in terms of memory). And because I say I am a Christian then I am also a disciple – a follower – of Jesus and I place this identity together with all the others.

So when I am in the vice, unsure of future things, feeling powerless, wishing I was in control and whatever else, I can stop look around and think about who am I in this situation and then seek what a follower of Jesus might do. That’s why prayer is a big response in living – not begging God to throw some crumbs – but talking to God about the matter and seeking and wanting his will to be done knowing full well that God already loves and cares for the people for whom I might be praying – and for me too – even when I am despondent or disgusted with myself. And then having prayed there is also the matter of whether I need to roll up my sleeves and do something. Maybe. Maybe not. But I am no longer a victim or insignificant, feeling nothing or impotent, and just raging against everything and everyone. No, I am a child of God – Jesus died for me – and that means something! GS