Each month, one of our clergy team contributes an item to our Parish Magazine that is designed to provoke thought and reflection about a topical issue.
The 2020s – how’s it going so far?
By the time you read this we’ll be a month into the new decade. I wonder how 2020 is going for you? Does it feel much the same as any year? No real change from 2019? Or did the passing of the last decade feel like a significant moment? A watershed, for you, your family, our country, or the world? Do you have expectations of some significant milestone or event in your life happening over the next ten years? Or do you, realistically, anticipate this might well be your last decade on earth?
Truth be told, the 2020s started with a bit of gloom and darkness for me. It’s a sign of advancing middle age that staying up till midnight holds no attraction, so I was early to bed on New Year’s Eve, and sound asleep at midnight. Until ... the fireworks started. A barrage of explosions sounding as if they were right over the vicarage, keeping me irately awake for the first half hour of 2020. Next morning I was in the town centre, where revellers had opened rubbish bags and strewn detritus all over the street, giving the place a post-apocalyptic appearance. It seemed an inauspicious start to the New Year.
There have been further worries. As I write, the situation in the Middle East looks very fragile. I’m praying for calm and de-escalation, and hope by the time you read this the fear of war has retreated. Domestically, the Brexit process is due to happen at the start of February. While this looks as though more clarity has finally been achieved for our national future, big questions about our ongoing relationship with Europe and the rest of the world still remain to be settled in the coming months and years. And if these worries aren’t enough to be getting along with, the climate scientists tell us that this decade is crucial for the planet’s future. If we make choices to avert climate crisis over the next ten years, we may be able to preserve the ecosystem. If we do nothing, or not enough, irreversible damage may be inflicted to the environment.
I’m not sure how we can be certain about their claim, but the very fact that scientists are making it seems enough reason to take note, and take action. Certainly there are weighty issues facing the world as we enter this new decade. And as a follower of Jesus, I want to try to take two lessons from my faith into the way I live my life in the coming years. Firstly, to recognise that life is short, and a precious gift from God. I have now lived in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s, 2010’s and 2020’s. I’ve shared something of 7 decades of earth’s history. That’s surely most of the decades I’ll get to see. I can’t influence the major geo-political issues of our time very much, of course, and nor probably can you. But I can try to live, prayerfully and practically for the time that remains to me, in a more justice-seeking, peace-loving, grace-sharing and sustainable way, and encourage others to do so. And ask God to forgive and help me when I get things wrong. Or I can choose not to bother, live exactly as I please, and just wait and see how things turn out.
And second, I want to recognise that, ultimately, time and eternity belong to God. We have been given stewardship of this earth: a grave and solemn responsibility to care for it and tend it. But we didn’t make it, and we don’t own it. My own belief is that the ecological crisis is primarily a spiritual crisis. We treat the environment as an exploitable commodity, with all the havoc that causes, because we don’t see ourselves as fellow-creatures alongside the earth, but rather as the planet’s masters. What a difference it would make to change that mindset, and the behaviour it implies.
And that’s why I will try – despite temptations – to live with hope in the 2020s. Hope not in ‘science’, ‘technology’ or ‘progress’ as a man-made remedy for all our discontents, but in the faithfulness of God. God’s promise to be with us in Jesus through all the ups and downs of history – personal and global. Hope in God’s power to renew the face of the earth and create a new heaven and earth in which peace and righteousness dwell. Hope in God’s presence to guide, to lead, and to touch the lives of all who turn to him in faith. And hope because God has called me – even me – and you, to share with him in all this.
I hope 2020 has started well for you, and that this year, and decade, bring rich blessings and joy.