Sunday, 26 June 2016

The referendum

Congregational Newsletter (26/6/2016)

If we wanted to paraphrase Ecclesiastes 3, we could say that there was a time to be in the European Union and a time to be out of it. At the moment we are still in it, but are also on the way out of it, and not too sure about where we are going. Still, the author of Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that all that happens is under the control of God, that whatever time it is, whether we like the changes or not, has been brought about by God for his own purposes. So what should we do? Here are some suggestions.

First, it is important in a changing time to focus on the One who changes not. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). All power has been given to him in heaven and on earth, and Paul states elsewhere that Jesus is head over all things for the benefit of his body, the church. So whatever else may happen because of the recent vote, one thing is sure – Jesus will overrule for the benefit of his kingdom.

Second, we should pray for our rulers, present and future. We will have a new Prime Minister later this year. This development was unexpected when Mr Cameron won the General Election last year; it looked then that he would be in power for five years. In that election he won when he was expected to lose, and in the referendum he lost when he was expected to win. No doubt, he is disappointed, and we should pray that he and his family would discover God’s blessings. And we should also pray about his successor, whoever he or she will be. 

Third, the obvious aspect of the referendum is the division of opinion seen in the closeness of the votes and in the geographical breakdown of how different areas voted. It is a bit odd to describe ourselves as the United Kingdom at this time. No doubt, there are many reasons for this situation. Yet we must recognise that such trenchant division is a dangerous path to be on, and we don’t know what kind of social upheaval could result. So our rulers need wisdom to take us through the next while until things are sorted out, and we should pray to God that he will guide our governments in the choices they need to make, and that our people will come together.

Fourth, it was frequently stated on the night of the referendum that politicians and the other elites in society have lost touch with large sections of the population, and that the vote to leave was an expression of discontent with those above. I suspect that many don't listen to what the politicians have to say on most topics, and have not done so for a long time. So in the communication age we have a lack of communication between those at the top and those elsewhere. Somehow we have to start using words with clear meanings.

As a Christian church, we too have to ask ourselves if we have lost touch with large sections of the community who have concluded that we have nothing of value to say to them, mainly because we have not said anything coherent to them about the gospel.

Fifth, in such situations as we are in, it is helpful to recall what the author of Ecclesiastes says about God – he has made everything beautiful in his time. We might think that there is chaos at the moment, but the Bible tells us that behind the scenes and in the scenes One is at work whose purpose cannot be sidelined or diverted. We might say that with regard to the referendum we did not know what we were doing, and that the politicians did not know what they were doing, but we cannot say that God did not know what he was doing. And in ways that we cannot imagine, he will make something beautiful of this time, and future generations will be able to look back and see what he did. At the moment, what we have to do is trust him.