St Francis, Terriers - Advent 2 (04.12.2016) 8.00am

Tony Dickinson

I've had a funny little song running around my brain for the past few days. Some people call it "The wreck of the Nancy Lee", but it's probably best known by the last line of the refrain, "He played his ukele as the ship went down". If you remember it, you may remember the rest of the refrain, which begins "All the crew were in despair, Some rushed here and others rushed there..." It doesn't sound all that different from the situation which Jesus described in today's Gospel. It doesn't, actually, sound very different from the stories that leap out at us when we switch on the radio or TV, or when we open the newspaper.

Apart from last month's "supermoon", there haven't been many "signs in the heavens", but for most of the year we seem to have been living with "distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring." There's Brexit (whichever way you voted the future looks a lot more complicated than it did in the middle of June). There's President-elect Trump, busily tearing up all the rule-books that have guided American policy since the days of President Eisenhower. There's today's referendum in Italy, which could see Prime Minister Matteo Renzi following David Cameron into political oblivion. There's the re-run presidential election in Austria, with the prospect of a far-right head of a European state for the first time since the 1930s. And there's the ever-present background of conflict in Syria and Iraq, and the resulting refugee crisis which impact, not only on the surrounding nations, but on the whole of Europe.

What is to be done? We can look to St Paul, writing to the Christians in Rome, for guidance. He argues for serious engagement with the scriptures, as a source of strength and hope. He urges the communities in Rome to avoid division, and he emphasises a generous hospitality "Receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God." When we affirm human dignity and solidarity for God's sake we can indeed "look up and lift up (our) heads" despite everything. Despite the worst, the most misguided, the most horrific things that human beings can do to one another, our redemption still draweth nigh.

Lay not up for yourselves...