Pause for thought: Stormy times
We’re not only facing storm Eunice but political turmoil, both internationally and within the UK. It reminds me of this authentic shipping transmission:
“Please divert your course 15 degrees South to avoid a collision.”
“Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees North to avoid collision.”
“Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees South to avoid a collision.”
“This is the Captain of the US Navy ship. I say again divert your course North.”
“Negative. I say again, divert YOUR course.”
“This is the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise of the US Atlantic Fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers, two subs and numerous support vessels. We demand that you change your course 15 degrees north, I say again one five degrees north or counter measures will be taken to protect this ship.”
“This is a lighthouse. Your move!!!”
Our bewilderment however has deeper roots in post-modernism (or post-post-modernism) with its characteristic lack of a moral compass and disdain for authority. Perhaps we’re in the kind of time that Amos prophesied: ‘In that day you will be like a man [or woman] who runs from a lion— only to meet a bear. Escaping from the bear, he leans his hand against a wall in his house— and he’s bitten by a snake.’ (5.9, NLT).
As struggle to recover from meteorological and political turmoil, from Covid, we may discern a time of real opportunity. Our situation may resemble that in which Queen Esther found herself. Speaking up may feel risky (Esther 4), yet failure to do so is likely to prove far worse.
I suggest that we need to speak up while avoiding the ranting style of street evangelists, members of parliament, or tweeters. It strikes me that the last thing we need in the noise of the storm is more loud strident assertions. Rather, if we can recover that ‘still, small voice of calm’ (1 Kings 19.12), we can offer hospitable space where people stand a chance to recover from their disorientation. In such a space it becomes possible to plot a mutually agreeable course that avoids crashing into the rocks.
What we bring to the table is our experience of living as servants of Christ. Yet, if our manner doesn’t reflect our message, we will find our message intercepted by spam filters or ad blockers, the very same tools that we ourselves use to avoid sensory overload and unwanted intrusions. Triumphalism and dissembling have both recently been exposed as pitfalls for the arrogant.
In contrast, Jesus’ words ‘Come to me all who are weary’ (Matt 11:28, NRSV) and his promise of rest invite us to orientate ourselves around his gracious love. Through our gentleness of approach we may emulate that same invitation to others. So, perhaps ‘a still, small voice’ that is both gentle but also confident may be exactly the balm so needed in our barmy storm-tossed world.
Revd Dr Julian Raffay