God is our Strength

God is our strength and refuge, our present help in trouble, though swirling floods are raging, God the Lord of Hosts, is with us, evermore’.  As I faced another day of depressing news about Brexit and witnessed the continued inability of the Government and indeed Parliament to bring the Brexit deal to a conclusion and meet the March deadline, the words of this hymn kept on drifting into my mind, especially as it is sung to a tune based on the Dambusters March, and I contemplated the advice of some ‘gungho’ politicians that we need to adopt a more robust approach to what lies ahead. Indeed some have drawn comparisons with the Blitz; if we could pull together as a nation during the war years, then surely we can do it again! Food and medication shortages bring it on! If we have had to go without in the past, rationing and so on, we will manage in the future. Sadly the same people seem to have  forgotten that we have been living through 10 years of austerity, and who are the ones who have suffered the most– not those sitting in Parliament or in the ivory towers of the City. Despite all we are facing, members of Parliament still seem to be more interested in pursuing their own agendas and can often be heard still laughing and joking with each other, by those of us who listen to ’Yesterday in Parliament! We all get ‘back stop’ but why do we hear it day after day in radio interviews; no wonder John Humphrys is retiring from the ‘Today’ programme, its frustrating trying to get straight answers to
simple questions, especially from politicians! Why bring God into it anyway ? Well despite the fact that a diminishing number of people now go to church, and an even greater number, when surveyed, no longer have any belief in God at all, there are some of us, however misguided others think us, who still cling on to a belief that God is involved in the lives of people and nations! Really, yes we do even if a lot of people think such a view is rather naïve or plain stupid! When Napoleon asked the scientist, La Place, why he had not mentioned God in his book about the Universe, he famously remarked ’I have no need of that hypothesis!’ I guess that is true of so many people in post modern Britain, they too have no need of ‘that hypothesis’! One cannot blame them I suppose, after all we tell people we believe in a God who created the Universe and who loves us, and that’s why we call him Father—but look at the world around us with all the death, destruction and disease, all the hurt and misery that exists, the suffering people endure. In the faith community we speak of a God of love and compassion, but what comfort does that bring to a wife whose husband is terminally ill or a mother who has lost a child? No wonder many people have given up on God, and in this passing, material world, try and grab hold of as much of life as they can as participants in what seems to be life’s ‘lottery’.
Some of you might be going through your own crisis of faith; you want to believe, but its hard to keep on believing when you see some of the things happening in your lives and the lives of others. Of course we may have our doubts, even people who regularly attend church have them, and quite rightly so, but as Cardinal Newman said in the 19th century, ’ a thousand difficulties do not make one doubt’, and that still remains true, we may question how events unfold, but we do not give up on God and our faith in him. In today’s world of increasing ‘unbelief’, it is the job of the church , in her proclamation of the Gospel, to go on trying to convince others that God is at the centre of things and that he loves us and shares in our lives whatever those lives bring. The Old Testament has some gory stories of God’s dealings with people, he doesn’t appear very loving or ’father–like’, but that’s why, to clear up any misconceptions, he sent his Son into the World, to ‘save’ the world and show us what his love means!
As the Brexit deadline approaches, I wonder what will happen next? No doubt MP’s will still have their Easter break, deal or no deal! As for the Church, we prepare for Holy Week and Easter—there was no greater sign of God’s love for us; first the Cross and then the Resurrection, the empty tomb. If its not true, just some fanciful tale, then as St Paul writes, ‘all our believing is useless,’ if we still have Faith then the Resurrection is the greatest sign that God is with us evermore, and that we can continue to place all our trust in him!

your friend and priest,

Father Keith