God’s dreams for tomorrow

On Sunday 28 June, as part of Radio 4’s “Rethink Season”, John Bell of the Iona Community connected with many people on “Sunday Worship”.  An extract of his reflection was featured on “PIck of the Week”, and is reproduced here.  As the introduction said, “What he had to say will strike a chord with any listener in the world, of any faith or none”.  If you’d like to listen to the whole service click here.

“We are told – though I am not sure that we have fully taken it in – that there is no immediate recovery from the pandemic. The virus will be around for a while, as will the consequences of economic meltdown. If we are going to recover, are we aiming to go back to the old ‘normal’?  Because if we are not, we need to envisage a world which is in some ways radically different.

We will have to use our imagination, not to escape from reality, but to re-shape reality.

If we believe, as Jesus said, ‘you shall ‘know the truth and the truth will set you free’ ….do we want children in the future to be as ignorant of the past as many or most of us adults have been? I mean, I had to wait until I was fifty to discover that Scotland had owned a third of the slave plantations in Jamaica, and that the Victorian opulence of Glasgow and other British cities was the result of the trans-Atlantic transport of enslaved Africans, tacitly condoned by Christian churches. Do we have to wait for statues to be toppled before we own our past?

And if we know that poverty has grown in our nation, and that people living in poor neighbourhoods are far more likely to die from Covid 19 than the wealthy, are we prepared to identify the root causes, and to treat those who are economically disadvantaged with dignity in the future? Or do we have to pray for another sporting personality or stage celebrity to name an injustice before it is rectified?

If we believe that God loves the world, and we know that in the world God loves everything from the Australian coral reef to the Amazon rain forest to the Arctic Pole and even the humble bumble bee are all threatened by human failure to respect the integrity of creation, are we going to continue living so irresponsibly that the children of tomorrow will have to go to museums to see what we regard as commonplace today?

We can but imagine… that one day sculptors will erect statues not of white male military generals but of black women who lovingly change the diapers of the diseased.  One day television companies will stop producing reality shows which delight in dysfunction, and instead celebrate what the potentials of marginalised people can do. One day the natural world will cease to be the victim of neglect and become the beneficiary of human kindness One day the Christian Church will supplement its creeds from distant days past with commitments to enflesh God’s dreams for tomorrow.

One day someone will write a song which begins not ‘And did these feet in ancient times…’ but “And will these feet in future years ‘

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