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In Such Times

With all that’s going on in the world right now, the things which we fear in regard to war and disease especially, but also the small hidden fears we carry around with us, I thought these ideas, taken from my book In Such Times,might provide a framework, or foundation, perhaps, on which to build something enduring. In the book, I talk about what it means to be prophetic.

We are all called to be ‘prophets’. Prophets are people who try to make sense of the present, in terms of what possibilities may lie in it for the outworking of love. They are not people who foretell the future, even if their wisdom sometimes leads to a realisation of the inevitability of the outcome of certain actions, be they good or bad. So, reflecting on the current situation in regard to, say, The US, Russia and the Ukraine, we look at it from the perspective of our fragile and fallible humanity, remembering that world leaders are as fragile, fallible and human as we are.

            Prophets, are not set apart from the rest of humanity, but embedded within it, as Christ and the prophets who came before him, were embedded in the realities of their times, so:

To be prophetic is to be willing to go to the heart of human vulnerability and pay the price for doing so. Prophets must risk themselves (their very self-hood) in their own vulnerability for the sake of the truth, so that the hubris and sheer stupidity of the powerful can be exposed before it destroys those over whom they exercise power.

            We bring to the prophetic task everything we have. By that I mean the spiritual, intellectual and organisational gifts we have been endowed with by God. All of these gifts are purposed to what the scriptures call Wisdom. To be wise is to know how to tune into the loving kindness of God in such a way as to discern what is right and necessary in any given context or situation, as well as what is wrong. But to be wise is not about having answers to all of the world’s problems, or even to our own. It is a willingness to ‘stand’ in the most loving and sacrificial place. By sacrificial, I mean that place in which we are able to act or speak for the good of another, and for our own, so:

Being attuned to Wisdom requires that we be prepared to ‘free-fall’ into God. In doing this, we allow God to grasp hold of us as we fall more deeply into him, taking the Russia-US-Ukraine situation, and the Covid pandemic, with us. As we do this falling, we let go of the things which block Wisdom, the idolatries of power, control and status which require so much of those who worship them.

What I have described here could also be known as prayer, but it doesn’t have to be called that. The important thing is to keep doing the free-falling. Free-falling, or prayer, is not a uniquely private matter, reserved for the “spiritual” and “religious”. It can also be known by other names; those who do not necessarily think of themselves as religious may practise it through healing, various kinds of meditation, non-competitive sport, and any passion that takes a person outside of him or her self into a greater reality that is our shared life in God.

            When I say ‘our shared life’ I mean the whole of humanity and, for that matter, of creation itself. Everything that is good and born of love belongs to God and lives in God. That is the essence, incidentally, of the beginning of St. John’s Gospel. The point the writer is making though is that the life we are talking about is ‘summed up’ in the person of Jesus Christ. Those who pray, or free-fall into God, are ‘summed up’ into Christ, although how this happens is not something I can readily define because it’s a matter of allowing, of allowing ourselves to be ‘in Christ’, as St. Paul says in his letters. You just have to try it and see what it involves for you.

Everyone is welcome to this place of being, to this new reality, and all are invited to join in the work that needs to be done from that place. Even so,

Those who live within the reality of God will usually pass unnoticed, their work deemed to be without purpose, even a waste of time. It may even appear purposeless to them at times. It does not have an agenda or target. While we may be praying for specific ‘intents’, we are also free-falling into the loving purposes of God which, for most of the time, remain opaque. So,

In order to achieve anything of real purpose, we must do less so that we can listen more deeply to the purposes of God. This is the prophetic work I was alluding to at the beginning of this post.

Prophetic work consists for the most part in asking questions without expecting answers. Instead, it challenges God from a place of compassion for the world, in the face of violence and of the greed and lust for power that is all too apparent in many of its leaders.

Italicised passages are taken from my latest book In Such Times: Reflections On Living With Fear [Cascade Books] Wipf and Stock

More posts like this to follow – especially if people ask for them!

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