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Need to know

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Posted by George Crowder, 31 May 2021

George Crowder asks what we really need to know in this time of confusion and uncertainty.

Right now, there are unprecedented questions to which we want answers: will all the restrictions really be lifted soon? What is going to return to the way it was before the crisis, and what has changed for good?  With such an opportunity for a global reset, what indeed should change, especially in respect of the environmental crisis?  What about the economic impact of the pandemic; how will that affect our lives in the coming decades?  What about the social and relational impact of isolation and restriction?

That leads us to questions of know-how.  How do we emerge from lockdown?  How do we take stock of what has changed?  How do we take advantage of a new start?  What do we restore?  What do we reimagine?  How do we recover?  That last question probably comes first for many of us, who feel worn out and confused. 

We focus in on a more personal level, and the list is endless and anxiety-inducing.  How will our jobs change?  Will we travel as much or in the same way?  How has our family dynamic changed and how will we relate to our wider families?  How have we changed and what impact will that have on our future?

Other crises have erupted, their effects sharpened by our heightened vulnerability.  Problems within our churches and our wider communion leave us burdened and disillusioned.
Transitional times have us desperate for knowledge, but this uncertainty, though more pressing, is not a new concept.  Again, we can and should think of this as an opportunity, an opportunity for accepting what we don’t know, and remembering what we do know.

As Christians we don’t get an inside track on the minutiae of our future lives in the world, or an instruction manual for getting on in life, or even a ready reckoner for re-inventing ourselves.  As we reflect on our lives, we might well pray and plead for direction and guidance.  Yet if God doesn’t dole out that kind of knowledge, then we must ask if it is needed.

What he does reveal to us is what he has always revealed to his people, namely, that he is God.  Throughout the Old Testament, inserted in the narrative of God’s people, is the repeated refrain of Exodus 34:6-7, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”  Even when the people rebel and are judged, the word he sends through his prophets concludes on a single objective, that they shall know that he is the Lord.

Every psalm draws us into a refreshed vision of God.  In this compendium of prayers and songs penned from every possible situation, it is the knowledge of God that sets the agenda.  “The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us,” Psalm 118:27.  Whether in fear of lethal threat, or beset by sorrow, or lifted up with ecstatic joy, it is the knowledge that the Lord is God that sets the writer’s feet on a rock, or gives hope or inspires praise.

Because God is ultimately revealed to us in Christ, Paul asserts, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified,” 1 Corinthians 2:2.  In his letter to the Philippians he declares, “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

In John’s vision of the revelation of Jesus Christ, a great multitude rejoice in one simple fact, “‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.”

What we need to know and be reminded of continually at this time and at all times is that the Lord is God.  What those around us who are fretting and worrying need to know is that the Lord is God.

This article was first published in the Church of England Newspaper and is reproduced with permission.

George Crowder is vicar of St John's Church, Over, and a Regional Director of Church Society.

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