Thought of the week
Who will lead us as we gradually move forward through and out of lockdown? The government has been sheltering behind scientists and the scientists have given varying advice. Scientists in different countries have followed different policies. Our country seems to have suffered worst of the European countries. It seems that epidemiology is not an exact science. Lesson; beware of treating anyone as an expert!
I have been wary of making any strong comments which could be taken as being political. “It’s all very well for you to say that as an ordinary priest” you might have said, ”and a retired one at that; would you be so upfront if you were a bishop?” And now our bishops have spoken! And none of the “on the one hand this, on the other hand, that” sort of thing that people associate with the Church of England. The bishops, speaking independently about the Domini c Cummings business, do not mince their words:
“The PM’s response lacks both integrity and respect and he has just made his task of leading us through this crisis much harder”, said our own Bishop Olivia of Reading.
And Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, tweeted,:
“The question now is, do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs?”
This Sunday, May 31st, is the Feast of Pentecost. It is a Christian festival superimposed on a Jewish one, when pilgrims came to Jerusalem from beyond the borders of Judaea. They came speaking a wide variety of languages. Yet on this day, seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, his core followers of just 12 men (plus no doubt some women followers too) suddenly became empowered to reach out beyond their own native speakers. Luke’s account in Acts 2 tells dramatically how they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to broadcast their saving message in a way that was clear and compelling. It’s as if they all, overnight, became prophets.
Now to be clear, a prophet is not someone who foretells the future, like some fortune-teller or astrologer. They speak truth and warn of the consequences of people’s behaviour. This might be the truth the general population needs to hear, the ordinary folk, the likes of you or me. Or it might be speaking truth to power, to the rulers, the establishment, the political or religious leaders. This is clearly what the OT prophets like Isaiah and Amos did, and in the NT era, John the Baptist. Often as not, they suffered for it. But let’s not forget; the original driving force behind Hebrew religion was prophecy. The prophets came before the Law was codified, though you might not think so from the way the OT is laid out.
Now is one of those times when we need prophets. We need honest, trustworthy communicators, people with vision and integrity, people who have been made by the sacrifices they have accepted, to lead us out from crisis into an altered world which is ripe for new opportunities and offering the chance to ditch some of the unwelcome baggage of the recent past. Thank God for our bishops who are showing the way. We pray that the Holy Spirit whom we praise and welcome at Pentecost will continue to bless them and all who lead us nationally and locally. The Anglican Church produced one of the greatest prophets of the 20th century, Abp Desmond Tutu; can we produce more?
May the Spirit inspire us to be a prophetic people.