The year 2020 is now firmly in the rearview mirror, so what awaits in 2021, here are some reflections adapted from an article by Canon J John.
First, 2020 was a time of pausing.
Many people had the opportunity to think about their lives and destiny.
Second, 2020 was a time of shaking.
All the apparently solid structures of our society were shaken. Things that we had always taken for granted were suddenly no more.
I was reminded of the old hymn ‘All My Hope on God is Founded’ with its sobering second verse:
Human pride and earthly glory,
Sword and crown betray his trust;
With what care and toil we fashion,
Tower and temple, fall to dust.
This was a year when the proud, solid towers of politics, economics and culture were shaken and some fell.
Third, 2020 was a time of humbling.
Our modern Western culture proudly declares what humanity has achieved or will achieve. God is either omitted or relegated to a footnote. However, this tiny virus demonstrated our frailty. As Proverbs 16:18 reminds us, pride comes before a fall.
Fourth, 2020 was a time of warning.
It was a tough year – and if suffering struck you hard, please accept my deepest sympathies. The result was that even those without any faith talked of how the virus was a ‘wake-up call’ for the world: a reminder of our vulnerability to pandemics. Many people, fit, healthy and in the prime of life, found themselves considering something they had put in the pending tray of life: the inevitability of their own death. Those near riots over toilet paper and other essentials spoke alarmingly of the potential for chaos lying just below the surface of any society that has thrown off God’s rules for life.
So 2020 was a year of pausing, shaking, humbling and warning. Yet what of 2021?
Let me mention three pillars that will make up our strategy for this coming year.
The first pillar is faith. I quoted from that great hymn ‘All My Hope on God is Founded’ about human ‘towers’ and ‘temples’ falling to dust. But the writer does not stop there and ends the verse with bold defiance: ‘But God’s power, hour by hour, is my temple and my tower.’
That’s the right note to sound: we must trust in God, be guided by Christ and work in the power of his Holy Spirit. So, step confidently into 2021 in the faith that the God who led us safely through last year will not fail us in this.
The second pillar is flexibility. 2020 was, in a way, like some devastating earthquake. Now, as the tremors begin to fade away, we find ourselves peering through the swirling dust to see the shape of the landscape that is emerging. Again, there is much that is unknown, but I share the widespread feeling that 2021 is not to be a replay of 2019. The world before COVID is gone and we can only vaguely guess at the setting in which church leaders and evangelists will now have to operate.
Cautiously, I think two things are almost inevitable. First, some ancient and well-established Christian structures and organisations will either not survive or will be altered beyond recognition. Change is on the way. This is threatening but also potentially exciting. The demise of old systems may allow new and better ones to emerge.
Second, I believe that this year will see new and exciting opportunities for the gospel of Jesus Christ. All of us now have a new awareness that life is more precarious than we once thought and are ready to look more towards God for a meaning and purpose to life.
In thinking about the future I am reminded of how in Acts 16 an earthquake in Philippi broke the prison chains of Paul and Silas and, quite literally, opened doors for them to preach. I believe our epidemiological earthquake has done something similar: chains are broken, doors are open and there are attentive hearers. Into this new world, I want us to be able to respond rapidly and sensitively.
We have open doors which we must walk through.
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