‘It’s difficult to escape a very sombre national mood’, Queen Elizabeth II said yesterday, during her birthday celebration. In that statement she verbalised the feelings of so many as they consider recent national events.
In the past I have found that in the busyness of life it is too easy for us to watch a disaster being reported in a news bulletin, shake our head in anger or disbelief, and then soon the news moves on, and we too move on with our planned schedule. ‘Life must go on’, we say. This week I ‘pulled’ a muscle in my back, so all my plans were put ‘on hold’. This meant I had more time to watch, and listen to the recent tragedies that have unfolded in the UK, and then reflect on them and the uncertainties of life.
Twenty two victims, so many of them young people, killed in the attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, and another eight at the London Westminster Bridge attack, with large numbers injured in both tragedies. Then with countless others I watched with horror and disbelief the speed with which fire devoured the Grenfell Tower in London, and felt in my heart the pain, as so many stories were told of those who escaped and those who were lost. For all who survived, their lives will be changed forever, not to mention grieving families, colleagues and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are for them.
You certainly don’t know what tomorrow holds! I thought of people looking forward to a night out at a music concert with friends, of others on holiday, celebrating, and sight-seeing on the streets of London, and other families going to bed as usual, no doubt thinking and planning for the morning and the future … then for all of them the unthinkable happens, for some in a moment, for others after an agonising wait, and they are gone from us!
I see one newspaper is calling for a day of mourning, which is maybe not a bad idea for the nation to stop and reflect and to come together in this time of grief. It’s a long-time since I remember such division and bitter recrimination within UK society. It seems the country is divided, and we all have someone to blame for the chaos and anxiety…. Government austerity, Government foreign policy, the EU, Immigration, The Brexit referendum, Scotland’s Indyref2, or whatever else annoys you.
Thinking on these things gives us a reality check. Have we got our priorities all wrong? Are we so taken up by our own self-interest? It was good to see communities coming together and a new neighbourliness making a comeback. I was reminded time and again of ‘The Good Samaritan’ story that Jesus told.
And of course these events remind us that none of us know when we too will be called to meet our Maker. The last few months have been sombre for us as a family, as we have laid to rest my brother, and shortly after that, his son who died suddenly, and tomorrow in Australia my nephew and family say farewell to the gentle and kind Les, one who was a loving wife, mother and friend, she will be sadly missed by many.
As a follower of Jesus Christ I am reminded of how often Jesus warns us not to spend all our time thinking about this life, but to make preparation for the next. He speaks about ‘laying up treasure in heaven’, and about a rich farmer who was planning early retirement to live off his wealth, only to hear God say ‘’You fool, this night your soul will be required of you, then who will these things belong to?’ Many of us have insurance policies to cover us against material loss and damage, but what cover do you have if you lose your soul? This is what Jesus is asking. He invites us to come to Him, for the forgiveness of our sin, and for new life through his saving work on the cross. Someone has put it like this. Salvation and Safety are found in three words spoken in a prayer: ‘SORRY’ for my sin; PLEASE cleanse and forgive me; THANK YOU Jesus for giving your life for me. I now give my life to you.
You see, the amazing Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.’
I love a hymn we sing often in Church, which says:
In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace, When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All, Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, who took on flesh, Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness, Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid, Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day, Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory, Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine, Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death, This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man, Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home, Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
So whatever is happening in your life at this time, my prayer is that you may know God’s inner peace, and the assurance of Christ’s presence as you commit your life to Him.