Everywhere I look I see trouble and confusion. It is as though, as the world speeds up through the pervasive spread of communications technology, our ability to cope with its implications within global society is steadily slipping away.
The traditional structures and institutions of statehood are bypassed by Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and their ilk, smothering informed debate in a cacophony of half-truths, prejudices and downright lies. Fake news has become endemic, the preferred choice of those who seek to destabilise society for their own ends.
The last great transformation in human society eventually brought widespread prosperity to “The West” but the self-same “Industrial Revolution” also birthed the horrors of industrialised global war, twice in the first half of the 20th century. On both occasions the forces of wisdom, peace and humanity were shouted down by the rantings of nationalism and power.
In Jesus’ day too, falsehoods and cries of dissent were used to stir up the crowd. In Matthew’s Gospel (9v32) we read “As they were leaving, a demon-possessed man who was mute was brought to Jesus. And when the demon had been driven out, the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!” But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that He drives out demons.” Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”. This latter phrase seems a very apt description for today’s times!
Yet not all is lost. As we look beyond the headlines, the stories of individual compassion of one human being for another shine like beacons of hope. I have been inspired this past week by Facebook posts from my sister Annie as she volunteers at a school on Rarotonga in the remote South Pacific. Her joy in the grace of that encounter is a pure delight. “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” says Jesus in that same passage from Matthew quoted above, and I am so glad that she chose to go.
Lord of the harvest
Inspirer of dreams
Who takes us out beyond our limits
Into the great adventure
Where all is possible or so it seems,
And gifts of graced compassion
Are found on a school playing field
In a young child’s eye
And life its deepest affirmation.
(c) Martin Wild 2018