February 2019

The joy of uncertainty.

I am writing this on the day after the historic vote when the government suffered a heavier defeat that any other in living memory. By the time you read this, who knows what the situation will be? This country may be part of the Warsaw Pact.

There are very many people who, for perfectly understandable reasons, find the uncertainty at best unsettling: and there are obviously people who fear for their livelihoods. Uncertainly is challenging - and the best thing to do with a challenge is to meet it as best as one can.

Uncertainty can also be good, because, ideally, it can make one face up to this things which we feel are really important in our lives - what our true values are.

We have just finished our celebrations for Christmas and will, all too soon, begin our observation of Lent, leading up to our celebration of the resurrection at Easter. During this time, we follow the ministry of Christ. And, as we do so, it is good if we feel unsettled. 

For he is asking us to look at ourselves and see if we truly love God and love our neighbour as ourselves: if we are happy that, in doing so, we are making ourselves weak and vulnerable - for nobody can give themselves truly lovingly to others if they are not prepared for others to take advantage of that. But people give themselves lovingly to others because they know that that is the only way in which God’s kingdom of peace, justice, love and reconciliation can be here on earth. And if Christians are not about that, then I don't know what they are about.

But all of that brings uncertainty, and that uncertainty will be numbing, unless we are prepared to trust - to trust other people, recognising that any untrustworthiness on their behalf is a sign of their weakness rather than strength - and to trust in God - for if the story of the life, death and resurrection means nothing else to us, it means that we know that God is always lovingly with us.

One of the carols we sing at Christmas has a chorus speaking of ‘tidings of comfort and joy’. ‘Comfort’, in this context, does not mean ‘there, there, everything will be all right’: it means - and I fear my background as a Classicist boringly comes to the fore - being strong ‘fort’, together ‘com-’. And that is a really powerful message. We are called upon to be strong together - for the Christian faith has always been one of community: we are called upon to be with each other as we each try to be loving to God and to our neighbour: we are called upon to support each other as a community as we try to make the world a better place. That is how we address uncertainty in our Christian faith: it might have been a good way for the House of Commons to have acted as well.