The Rector

   THE RECTOR

A particular memory of university was being a dinner guest at the flat of some  fellow students.  At some stage during the evening I went to the toilet and was amused to discover that the walls of the bathroom were plastered in biblical quotations.  I could only imagine that the respective bedrooms were similarly festooned for the tenants were known for their religious zeal.  It was definitely a case of one glass of wine at dinner only; certainly any more than two and suspicion would have been generated!  In spite of the paucity of wine I remember very little about the rest of the evening though occasionally I have wondered at the mindset that sought both constant reassurance and continuous instruction. In the Sermon on the Mount  Jesus warned his disciples of the dangers of anxiety and suggested that trust in God and living in the moment are the essential characteristics of the good life. Yet, no matter how many times one reads the instruction Do not be anxious ..... , it is unlikely to relieve the condition in those most afflicted. It can even make the situation worse as the sufferer asks, why does faith not relieve my anxiety? and concludes,  it must be a failing on my part. Yet very often there is no obvious cause of anxiety other than the fact of being human. Even some of the most celebrated figures in Christian history, such as Martin Luther and John Wesley, have been sufferers, and that in spite of their much celebrated spiritual breakthroughs.

If straightforward advice is of limited effect, then perhaps a pictorial image might be of some help, not, alas, that of the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness but of the tropical storms which are increasingly common at this time of year.  At the axis of each storm is the so-called eye,  a surprisingly tranquil space in the midst of massive turmoil.  It’s an image which helps us to acknowledge the reality of life as a volatile experience.  Tranquillity is the exception rather than the rule and it is unrealistic to expect it to endure.  Yet, the peace of God does endure and is to be found in the eye of the storm.  The practice of Christianity might well be summarised as life lived in the eye of the storm. The storm is manifest in numerous ways, individually, socially and politically on both the national and international stages. By contrast the eye of the storm - the peace of God - is  more elusive and yet,  it is there. We cannot easily locate ourselves in the eye of the storm, but the more we dwell on the thought of peace as a gift, and give thanks for it, then the more likely it is that we find ourselves drawn to the eye even in the midst of the most turbulent of life’s events.

External events are no indicator of our need of the peace of God. It is a gift that we all need all of the time, yet inevitably, awareness of our need tends to be in proportion to the severity of life’s experiences. When things go terribly wrong we are likely to be either alienated from God or yearning for his peace, and some people see such circumstances as a great opportunity  for the Church to evangelise and win new adherents. This is perhaps somewhat mercenary and opportunistic in a way which dishonours our common humanity, yet the gift of peace is a gift to be shared, and to be made known, even when our own knowledge of it is, at best, partial. It is as well to be mindful of this at the present time when the western world seems more unstable than it has been since WWII and our immediate future in the context of Brexit is so uncertain. Many people, especially those struggling to make ends meet,  are fearful for their future,  and whatever the outcome, it is likely that it will have a big impact on us all. The mood of national anxiety is palpable and it will only get worse over the coming months and, depending on the outcome, years.  In these challenging times, we, the Body of Christ, must redouble our efforts on behalf of the most vulnerable members of society so that they do not become mere voiceless victims, and we must also articulate a positive vision of the future. We are, after all, the vanguard of the Kingdom of God, messengers of God’s good purposes for Creation.  To live this message with thanksgiving in our hearts is to dwell in peace, buffeted yet secure in the eye of the storm.

Charles Booth


 


 Printable Version
View from the Rectory - September 2018
The Rector

View from the Rectory - July & August 2018
The Rector

View from the Rectory - June 2018
The Rector

View from the Rectory - May 2018
The Rector