The other day I found myself among a group of grumblers. Things were not ot their liking, the structures they were working within were top heavy and growing more so, the financial costs they had to bear were too great, they were insufficiently appreciated for the impossible tasks they attempted to perform, their customers were deserting them for greener pastures, and, you have guessed already this was a group of clergy men and women.
The last verses of our two New Testament readings this morning are :
2 Thessalonians 3:13 “Brothers and sisters, do not weary of doing what is right.”
Luke 21: 19 “By your endurance you will gain your souls”
Jesus, as Luke tells us, was more than aware that his disciples down the ages would face many challenges: war and insurrections, earthquakes, plagues, famines, betrayals and persecutions. In the light of this it is perhaps surprising that his followers who personally knew his ministry and heard hs words expected His coming again to be quite soon, but they did and we know now that it was not to be and that these “in between times” are still with us”
In May 2019 the Bishop of Truro published his report into religious persecution where he concluded that Christians are the most widely persecuted community. It is an issue that stretches across 144 countries and in eleven of these the persecution is officially described as extreme. [previously this was only the case in North Korea] Alongside this the present world order is destabilising and I think we might say that at the very least there is a rise in national sentiments for example in Hungary, Germany and Spain among others. Nation still fises against nation and we read in Luke that we “are not ot be terrified for these things must take place first.”
The “in between times are difficult to live in.” This week at morning prayer we have been saying a prayer set for the period between All Saints and Advent:
Blessed are you sovereign God, ruler and judge of all
To you be praise and glory forever
In the darkness of this age which is passing away
May the light of your presence which the saints enjoy
Surround our steps as we journey on
This age will pass away and the question then is how shall we behave in it in these challenging years, what should we model? Well, Malachi the last book of the Old Testament also has something to say to us:
“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings” In other words that is what we are called to do; to continue to revere God, to endure and to never weary of doing what is right.
When I sat among my grumbling group my advice was “to be patient, to be faithful, to continue doing the work we are called to do” More simply put
“Stick to the knitting”
When I do that I feel in good company with Malachi, with Paul and with Luke.