Thought for the Day by Jan Betts (All Hallows’)
‘We have to deal with today in order to get to the end’ said Lucy Winkett recently on that other Thought for the Day on Radio 4. Daniel and Revelation are both exactly about this. They are books which begin in Daniel with the capture and enslavement in a foreign country for young people from Judah and in Revelation with messages from God to the young struggling churches of the Middle East about coping with persecution. Both talk about how to stay faithful to their God in very tough times with really dire consequences – burning, death, persecution. And then both swoop away to visions of a glorious future, of restitution for Israel, or of the recreating of God’s world in a perfection lost since Genesis. They use very different language but the message is the same.
The visions are a hope of things to come but we have to deal with today. What holds us faithful, the writers say, is the knowledge, faith, and hope, that God is there, combining today and tomorrow and all the days to come into the re-establishing of the world as it was made to be. For the young Judeans that meant restoring Israel. For the young churches it meant the hope of resurrection to come after the end of their lives. It didn’t happen without cost, the cost of sticking with the honouring of God in a ‘pagan’ court or the resolute adherence to following the Way of Jesus in the face of Roman oppression.
For both groups the promise was of God with them, as it was for Noah in the rainbow. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is, who was and who is to come, the Almighty’ writes St John . Daniel says to Nebuchadnezzar ‘May the name of God be blessed for ever and ever, since wisdom and power are his alone. It is he who makes and unmakes kings’. Say that to political leaders today! Can we really truly hold on to that, believe it, and above all act on it?
Holding on to the vision in times of trouble is hard and scary. I bet there were mental health issues among all the people we read of today, in their fear and uncertainty. Can we believe that God is with us and for us?
What is our vision and what does our vision have and hold to give it hope? What can we dream might be restored? And how can we act today to honour our faith in the God who joined and joins in our human experience of pain while believing in the God who will make all things new?