My job at the moment is developing discipleship in one Anglican diocese, so as you can imagine I do quite a bit of thinking about what discipleship is, what it means, and what it looks like. Here are some random thoughts, gleaned from my reflection on the Bible and current thinking … First of all apologies to addicts for my disappearance for the last couple of weeks. Back from holidays and raring to go. (Yes, I know you can schedule. OK, I was just too busy!)
“You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” Matthew 16:3
‘That was the most exciting General Election I’ve ever known!’ I overheard someone saying recently, someone who had clearly seen quite a few. May 7th 2015 will go down in history as a momentous day for Britain, one way or another, and those who, like me, stayed up most of the night watching the results come in will never forget the mounting sense of disbelief as Scotland turned solidly yellow, as three key party leaders fell on their swords, and as one of the most unpopular governments I have ever known was re-elected with an increased majority. There was one piece of good news, as reported on Facebook by Boogie in the Morning: Britain now looks like Maggie Simpson.
Now I am neither a political commentator nor a Late Great Planet Earth apocalypticist, but I am a Christian disciple, and as such I am called by Jesus to try to read the signs of the times. Somewhere in my huge collection of cassette tapes with sermons on which I will probably never listen to again, I have one by Bible teacher David Pawson called something like ‘Prophetic Insights into the 1979 General Election’, at which Margaret Thatcher swept into power. I can’t remember much about what David’s prophetic insights were, but I love the idea that from time to time we stop and try to ask the question ‘God, what exactly is going on here?’ I certainly felt like that when I put on the telly on Friday morning after two hours sleep to see Britain changed beyond recognition.
Most of the comment I have seen from Christians has consisted of doom and gloom about how much more awful Britain is going to become with the Tories back in power, calls for the end of the first past the post electoral system (so that, paradoxically, it will be much easier for UKIP to come to power), and sermons on how it proves what we’ve known all along – we’re all basically selfish. But I have seen little which has tried to explore the astounding results from a spiritual rather than a purely political point of view.
I’m afraid I don’t have any great insights to share either, but I find myself much in prayer and asking God what is really going on here. I am also pondering the extent to which I seriously believe in a God who is not just involved in our world but even active in it. Am I a closet Deist, believing that God has set us going but it’s now up to us, and the only reason we get surprising Tory victories is because more people voted for them? Or do I believe, as the author of Job seemed to, that above and beyond what we can see there is a whole nother realm which interplays with the merely human one? Could God somehow have voted tactically?
So how do we live in the light of this election? Should we take to the streets, as some did over the weekend? I believe of course that there is a place for civil disobedience: I’m a liturgist, and I know that’s the only way we came to be allowed not to preach from the lectionary, at least for part of the year. But whoever is in power our call remains the same as it was for the early Christians under a regime determined to wipe them out: prayer, respect, and obedience unless that means disobeying God.