A majority of the UK voted yesterday to leave the EU. This result will be a cause of celebration for some, but many others will be feeling sad, angry, or anxious about the future. That group doesn’t just include those like me, who voted to remain; there may be “leavers” who also have misgivings and fears, and all of us may worry that the bitterness and divisiveness of the referendum campaign will linger, or even grow, in the days to come, especially as the vote was so close. As I write this, David Cameron has just announced his resignation as PM, adding another layer of uncertainty to this precarious moment.
The truth is that we are all in unknown territory. The UK’s decision will have repercussions not only in our own nation, but also among our neighbours in Europe and indeed across the world. For all the predictions and speculation before the referendum, we can’t be sure what the consequences will be, for our political and economic life, for our institutions and our relationships with other nations, for our local communities, and as individuals and families. All we can be sure about is that there will be consequences - ripples or earthquakes - and that they will affect everyone. Whatever we feel about the decision the UK made yesterday, it has catapulted us into a new world.
One of the lessons life has taught me (often painfully) is that “what is, is”; we can’t change the reality of the present moment, and we have to live in the world as it exists, not as we would like it to be. We can choose, though, how we react to the reality in which we find ourselves, and our choices will be an important force in shaping the future.
For Christians there is both a call and a promise from God to which we need to pay attention if we are to react wisely and compassionately at this time.
God’s call is unmistakeable. It is to be people of peace – “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3.15). It is to be people who try to live as imitators of Christ “who has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” (Ephesians 2.14). It is to do what God has always called us to do, to shine with the light we have been given, even if it feels like a feeble, flickering candle, in the time and the place God has put us, because even the smallest light chases the darkness around it away to some extent. (Matthew 5.14-16)
And God’s promise…? It, too, is the same as it always was. “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”(Matthew 28.20). Wherever the future leads us, it cannot lead us out of God’s presence; “neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height , nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8.38-39) Remembering that will steady our hearts and minds when the world around us seems to be turning upside down, and help us to navigate this new journey together.
To sum it all up, what better than these words of St Paul, written from prison, and facing a reality far grimmer than any we face?
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
If anyone wants to drop in for a chat, (not an argument – the time for those is past!) I will be at home between 3 and 5pm this afternoon at the vicarage, with the kettle on and some chocolate biscuits on hand.
I also propose to say Compline – a gentle service of night prayer lasting about 30 minutes – at 8pm in church tonight, which will include a chance to light a candle and a time of prayer at this strange moment in our history.