Morning Prayer 25th November 2015
Waiting in Hope
Readings: Isaiah 19
Over the past few weeks the lectionary for morning prayer has had readings from Isaiah, and I must admit a lot of it hasn't exactly been cheerful. As far as today's reading goes, well, I wouldn't want to be in Egypt at the time Isaiah is talking about.
War, drought, famine, unwise rulers leading the country out of the right path. Isaiah's prophesy was written to address issues thousands of years ago.
But how much has changed since then?In some ways lots, in order to find out recent news stories relating to Egypt I could use Google, something Isaiah couldn't do.
Yet the results of that Google search of news stories from the last month included stories of tension between different groups of people in Egypt, farmers concerned that their crops won't provide enough, and criticism of leaders for the decisions they take. It all sounds very like the Isaiah prophecy.
When surrounded by such an onslaught of bad news it would be easy to slide into despair to believe that things will only get worse.
That God has forgotten us, all that stuff about a loving God who provides for your every need if you only ask him, seems like an impossible fairy talevwhen faced with the world situation today. Extremist groups seem able to strike at will, and we only seem to care when it comes close tbo us.
There has been seemingly non stop news coverage of the Paris attacks and people pledging solidarity with France. Yet within days of the Paris attacksbthere were at least 200, possibly up to 2000 people killed by Boko Harem in Nigeria and I don't even know how may will have died in Iraq and Syria in the past week. There has been little news coverage of these terrorist attacks, I have seen no one pledge to stand with innocent Nigerians, or Iraqi's or Syrian's.
The start of our reading from Matthew isn't much better, we are told to go out like sheep amongst wolves.
I don't know a lot about looking after sheep but I suspect if I sent them out among wolves I would end up with very few sheep and a lot of well fed wolves. Not a very comforting image really.
We are then told, in an echo of Isaiah, that families will be torn apart, parents against children and siblings against each other.
People will be forced to flee, as they have been in Iraq and Syria, it all seems very dark and depressing.
Where is the God that cares for each of his children as much as he cares for a common bird? Does He really care that much that He counts the hairs on the head of each one of us, even as we are attacked and murdered. Even Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury has admitted that recent events make him question God.
When considering all the problems in the world today it can seem a massive unsolvable mountain. A burden that is too heavy for us each to carry without it pushing us down into despair.
.Recently I have been reading the book Treasures of Darkness by Jane Grayshon. The author is someone who has suffered from repeated bouts of serious illness, requiring hospitalisation, surgery and on more than one occasion leaving her close to death. She writes about her struggles to find God in the darkness. In one section she realises that the real problem isn't the pain and illness but the despair that it brings
“ A flicker of new understanding dawned on me. Despair. YesvI thought to myself. Thats my real enemy. More than the pain which takes over my body. Despair eats into my very soul. Instead of thinking of my enemies as surgeons or pain doing nasty things to me. I should think of them as despair which does nasty things in me. Suddenly I saw that suffering was not my worst enemy. My enemies were those things which crept unseen into my soul and fed despair.”
Jesus cautions us that it is not what destroys the body that we need to fear but what destroys the soul. To counter act the despair which seems to be all around usbin these days of 24hr news we need to go out and clearly proclaim the gospel message of hope for a better future. The recent controversy over the Lord's prayer advert, that has been banned in cinemas, seems to say that there are those who would rather us religious types just shut up and stayed quietly whispering in the darkness, where the rest of the world can ignore us.
But Jesus calls us to go out and proclaim a message of hope. A message which may not be listened to and which to proclaim may have consequences for us, hopefully not include flogging, but may well include hostile reactions and verbal ridicule. We are to face this and to remember that God is with us and will empower us to live out our faith publicly in a world that seems to want less and less to do with it, but which has an ever greater need for the message of hope to combat the despair.
When we look around the world today it can be easy to find things that will feed the feeling of despair and hopelessness in us. Isaiah talks of the expectant hope that one day Egypt will be at peace and counted equal with Assyria and Israel .
A highway will exist between Egypt and Assyrian and people move peacefully between them. Assyria is in what is now northern Iraq, an area controlled by Islamic State. Peaceful travel may not be possible there at the moment, but Isaiah gives us hope that one day there will be peace.
As we move into Advent, the season of waiting for the saviours arrival, we need to wait in expectant hope, and share that hope with those around us, to feed the souls of the world with hope and not despair.