Fiddling while Rome burns

The world is in crisis.   Although in the UK we appear to think it’s over, Covid continues its relentless path of slaughter, with more than 530 million currently confirmed cases and more than six million deaths reported across 200 countries (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-51235105).   Russia meanwhile maintains its unremitting attempt to blast Ukraine out of existence.  The prospect of global famine looms ever larger.  And here in the UK, once renowned bastion of state-provided affluence, we face a cost of living crisis that has already seen inflation hitting a 40-year high, and which it is predicted will leave many struggling to survive, as fuel, energy, and food all become in increasingly short supply.
 
Nevertheless, we have just come gloriously together as a nation to pay tribute to the 70 years reign of our Queen.  And it was wonderful both to witness and be a part of the celebrations.  Yet, in what almost feels defiance of this display of hope-filled unity, last night the Conservative Party embarked on a bruising no-confidence vote, attempting to oust Boris Johnson as their leader.
 
Indeed, you might say, with some justification.  Because the Prime Minister’s behaviour would appear to have been both unwise and ill-judged, and we are surely entitled to expect probity of our leaders, which it would seem he has failed to provide.  Yet it can perhaps equally be said that the nation as a whole is similarly morally compromised, including not just Mr and Mrs Joe Public – with their extended family of dysfunctional relationships – but the BBC and related media outlets, all of our organs of government, the civil service, and last but by no means least, the Established Church, which in recent years had abandoned the teaching of the Bible in favour of Woke rebranding that remakes God in the image of Man.
 
The truth is, in the cold light of this false dawn, all of us need to take a long, hard look at ourselves.  Because we all bear responsibility for the valueless mess that we call society today.  In truth, we have the leaders we deserve, and to have any chance of turning the tide we all need urgently to amend our lives.   In particular, we need to rediscover the Christian values on which our nation was founded, and which once made us ‘great’.
 
As instance of this, consider what today we call ‘the miracle of Dunkirk’.  In 1940, between 26th May and 4th June, as the invading German forces continued their merciless advance across France, around 400,000 Allied soldiers were driven onto the beaches of Dunkirk, facing what looked to be certain annihilation.   The ships of the Royal Navy were too big to get close in shore to pick up the troops and, ahead of the planned evacuation, Winston Churchill was told we would be lucky if we could rescue, at most, between 20,000 to 30,000 men (https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-dunkirk-evacuations ).    We were on the brink of what looked to be certain defeat, but at that point ‘our leaders’ did two things.  First, the King called the nation to prayer and, second, Churchill issued an appeal to the owners of small boats to set off across the Channel to help. 
 
Looked at rationally, this must have seemed madness.  Belgium, the Netherlands and France had all already collapsed, and the German army looked unstoppable.  But, nothing daunted, His Majesty King George VI called the Nation to “… turn to God in a spirit of repentance and plead for Divine help.”  The response was phenomenal.  Thousands upon thousands gathered in churches, cathedrals, mission halls, and private homes throughout the land.  It was reported indeed that the churches were so full that many had to queue round the block to get in … while some couldn’t get in at all!  
 
But the prayers of the people were answered.   
 
Storm clouds gathered over Dunkirk, making it impossible for the Luftwaffe to attack the besieged British forces, huddled defenceless on the shore.  At the same time, a wholly unexpected calm covered the Channel, so that the many hundreds of small boats that had responded to Churchill’s appeal – crewed by ‘ordinary’ men and women of all ages – could set off in safety to help the Royal Navy rescue the troops.   
 
In the event, 338,000 men were rescued, leaving behind some 70,000 dead, wounded, or to be taken prisoner.   But the army was saved, allowing us to continue the fight.  The light shone against the darkness of threatened defeat – and the darkness could not overcome it.  Watch the story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8vyfp0aVHk

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1940s, famously said, ‘When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t.’  We would do well to learn that lesson today.   Whatever chaos may rage in the world, our God is a God of power, and His will is to help.  He is our strong Deliverer.  All that is needed is that we turn to Him, repenting the many wrongs we have done – both as individuals and as a nation – and ask.
 
Let us pray for our leaders, that God may give them wisdom and strength, and that they may listen and take heed, and lead us in His light.  But let us also pray for ourselves, that we may once again come to know Him, and be given the knowledge and fortitude to amend our lives … before it is too late.

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