One year on...
Well here we are in March again, approaching the anniversary of the first lockdown. I’m looking forward to marking that together in church with a special service on 21st March.
Looking back over the last year, I was reminded just how difficult it has been at various points in the year to try and work what the right way to behave might be, faced with a lot of opinions, counter-opinions, changing recommendations and contradictory facts. Individually and corporately, we’ve all found ourselves agonising over whether it would be legal, safe, wise or moral to do things we wouldn't have thought twice about before. Whether to visit friends or family, eat at a local restaurant, even go to church - all these decisions have involved weighing up competing risks to other people’s or our own health, mental wellbeing, education or livelihood.
And no doubt for years we will be looking back and wondering whether we got things right, and whether our employer, the NHS, our government, someone else’s government, our gym or or school or our local pub got it right.
I’m rereading 1 Samuel at the moment, which tells the story of the Israelites demanding a king to lead them, to tell them what to do and how to live. Up until then they’d tried to live with God in charge, with judges, prophets and individual tribes having to do the hard and uncertain work of discerning the will of God, the right thing to do, based on scripture, prayer and prophecy.
Maybe like us right now they were tired of having to think about the ethical implications of the way they were leading their lives, they wanted to have someone lift that from them.
The thing God warns them, which they then discover, is that having a king brings a whole load of new issues. There’s no escaping our personal and collective need to always look to what is right, not just what is socially and legally permissible.
The thing many young people are reminding us is that there have always been ethical implications of the way we live our lives. At times many of us have chosen, like the Israelites, to refuse to acknowledge them, and our choices have led to the destruction of our planet, and the continuation of racial, gender and economic injustice.
As the ethical conundrums of this Covid time are lifted from us, let’s not settle back into an ethical blindness. As we tentatively begin to resume ‘normal life’, let’s do the difficult work of discerning what it might look like to take up our cross and live, as Em reminded us this Sunday, according to God’s standards, putting love, truth and justice to the fore.
Perhaps, the words of Israelite King Jehoshaphat are ones we might consider. Faced with a difficult and insurmountable military threat, he rejects pat answers, instead seeking to discern God's will:
"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you."
2 Chronicles 20:12
God of love,
Open our minds and our hearts to the consequences of our actions on those who live around us and those who will come after us. May we look to you and your Kingdom, discerning new ways to be and to live.
In your name, Lord Jesus.