Rev. Ian Shaw
“People did whatever they felt like doing.”
These words summarize the end of a most sad time in the history of God’s people as recorded in the book of Judges. It was a time of moral, relational and political chaos. In some ways that summation faintly echoes the chaos with which Genesis opens, “Now the earth was formless and empty”.
That troubling ending of Judges came to mind often this week as I observed life in Canada. Our moral, relational and political chaos may not be quite as extreme as that description in Judges 21 [at least not yet], but blockades, strikes, pompous posturing by leaders of all stripes and persuasions, regional divisions, a mainstream media seemingly incapable of balanced and serious investigation of substantive matters and intent on pandering to humanity’s baser lusts for “bread and circuses”; combined with a lack of any concrete, cohesive, compelling or comprehensive vision for a centre that would define our cultural essence does push us in that dysfunctional direction. It is not an appealing prospect!
If you are part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, seeking succour within one’s faith community is cold comfort in the face of this upheaval.
Many of our leaders are experiencing corporate and personal stress far more than they are encountering wholeness. Presbytery too often seems to be a battlefield more than a place of mutual encouragement. Our structural and theological unity is fragile. Many of us are aware of some who have left The PCC for what they believe are more correct and calm communities of faith. Others seem poised to follow.
Thankfully, there is still much that is good happening among us: congregations connecting with their communities in relevant, life-enhancing ways, God’s Word bringing hope and health to broken hearts as well as thoughtful and profound engagements between members providing opportunities for growth in faith and commitment.
Nonetheless between chaotic conditions in society and in the denomination, cause for hope can be difficult to find and the possibility of renewal, let alone revival even harder to imagine. Yet as in Genesis and in Judges, the chaos was not the last word (not even the penultimate one). More of God’s purpose was unveiled and newness and vibrant life replaced the disordered mess.
I like to think I’m an optimist, but not naive. Therefore, while I have little sense that some relatively painless or quickly achieved solution(s) will be found for the current upheavals in society and in our denomination, I remain confident that God will continue to unveil God’s sovereign will for me, for our church, for our country and for our world.
Will my egotistical prejudices and corrupted perceptions be humble and obedient enough to recognize and follow this divine revelation? That is really the key question. Will I pray “Lord, open the eyes of my understanding and give me strength to submit to your gracious truth”? If my answer is “Yes!”; if your answer is “Yes!”; if the answer of all God’s people is “Yes!”; then I am convinced that a just and righteous order will replace the threat of chaos I see breaking forth in so many places.