Article for the Diocese of Southwark’s newsletter, “Noticeboard”
The first half of July sees the closing stages of the football World Cup with all the carnival atmosphere of Brazil. Love it or loathe it, it is a global phenomenon engaging the attention of billions of people from all corners of the world. The beginning of August will herald the centenary remembrance of the terrible carnage First World War. Part of that will be recalling the poignant games of football played between British and German troops in ‘no-man’s land’ between the trenches of the Western Front during Christmas 1914.
On one level these are only games of football, but there is no doubt that both these footballing events capture the human imagination in an important way. What are we to make of the symbolic significance of these two footballing events? At another level they point to the profound paradox of both the human capacity for self-destruction, and the deep human desire for sharing together in celebration. If we step back and reflect we realise that this is not simply about the surface phenomenon of a game of football.
July and August are also, for many people, a time when life slows down a bit, and there is more opportunity than usual for reflection and re-evaluation of our lives, and what is going on in our world. In our day to day lives we can be bombarded with information, issues, and relentless activity. Times for deep reflection can be both precious and rare, but in such a busy world this capacity for reflective wisdom is more important than ever. It is an essential spiritual discipline if we are not to lose all sense of perspective.
In the next few months there will be many things which will clamour for our attention and energy. As a Church early July will see the General Synod consider the final approval of the Ordination of Women as Bishops. That will soon be followed by the ‘facilitated conversations’ which aim to help us to discern the right way forward concerning issues in human sexuality. All this will occur in a context in which many of our contemporaries are at best completely disconnected from the Church and the Christian faith. Globally we are faced with growing inequality of wealth, serious issues of the environment and climate change, and major concerns over terrorism and severe conflicts in so many parts of the world.
If we are to respond as Christians to all of this, we need to be people of discernment, theological reflection, and prayer, as well as people of action. The Good News of God’s saving love in Jesus Christ should be the lens through which we see everything. To make that a reality requires us to spend good time in prayer and theological reflection. Bishop Christopher has, via the ‘Hearts on Fire’ theme, drawn our attention to the Emmaus Road story in Luke 24 in which the whole perspective of the disciples is changed from despair to hope via spending time engaging with the Risen Christ who opened the Scriptures to them so they could begin to understand the true significance of what had happened during the first Easter. Here is the inspiration for their action.
So during these summer months I hope and pray that we will all have some time to reflect and pray about all that is going on – both individually, as a Church, and in the world – so that we may be people of wisdom and discernment who direct our time, attention and energies to those things which are truly important.