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Stanwick Group of Churches

January 2021

As I write, the Christmas music has just been switched on at Classic FM and I can hear the hauntingly beautiful ‘This is the Truth sent from above’. This is one of the first carols I remember singing as a choirgirl and this traditional English folk carol was collected and arranged early last century by Vaughan Williams and used as the opening carol in his 1912 ‘Fantasia on Christmas Carols’.

‘What is truth?’ Pilate asked Jesus (John 18 v 38). Perhaps Pilate was trying to do what so many powerful people have done through the ages — to undermine truth itself. If you can succeed in making truth relative, then soon nothing matters except power, wealth, and fear.

2020 will be remembered forever for the pandemic which turned everything upside down and which brought so much suffering and distress. But almost as damaging as the virus has been the continued ‘truth decay’ in public and political discourse, most obviously in the US, but also on this side of the Atlantic. Over the last four years we have got used to hearing a US President dismissing the facts, changing the facts, and making up the facts as he goes along. Lying and misrepresenting have become normalised, while misinformation and conspiracy theories have been spreading like wildfire. 

Truth decay has been spreading across the world and arguably to our own political life in the UK. It’s been a really tough year for the government and all our politicians in Westminster and the devolved governments and local councils, and into this stress and strain the ‘oven ready’ Brexit deal has brought its own problems. However, I am not sure that the unprecedented pressures on our politicians excuses the covering up of information, the withholding of damaging reports until  they will have the least effect, the manipulation of statistics, and sometimes just plain lies (such as in 2019 the deliberate confusing of “proroguing” with “recess”, when it came to the prorogation of Parliament). On top of all this I can think of no excuse other than a short termed utilitarianism (the ends justify the means and ‘getting the job done’) for the deliberate breaking of international law which undermines trust and international relationships and cooperation. To quote our Diocesan Bishop, + Nick Baines’ speech on 26 October at Second Reading of the internal Market Bill: ‘A decision to prefer short-term pragmatism over long-term ethics will lead to a future in which a question mark will hang over any statement by those whose word and adherence to the rule of law cannot be trusted.’

Many Christmas and classical tracks have played out on the radio since I started this letter. Just now we were treated to Handel’s, ‘The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ from his oratorio ‘Solomon’. The Queen of Sheba hears of King Solomon’s fame and comes bearing fine gifts and tests his wisdom with all the questions she can think of (see 1 Kings 10).

Perhaps the story of King Solomon could offer some inspiration for today and a bit of ‘truthpaste’ for ‘truth decay’. Solomon’s father was King David (the shepherd boy who killed Goliath). His mother was the beautiful Bathsheba, with whom David had an adulterous relationship, before murdering her husband to cover up the adultery, and then marrying her. David and Bathsheba’s first son died for his parent’s sins, and their second son, Solomon, born in wedlock, prospered as a peace offering between David and God. The whole story of how Solomon came to succeed his father as King of Israel is full of trickery, lies, violence and murder. But then when Solomon’s position as King is finally secured he has a dream in which God offers him the opportunity to ask whatever he wants. Solomon chooses wisdom: ‘Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.’  (1  Kings 3 v 5).

Despite, and perhaps because of everything that has gone on before, Solomon realises that the times call for wisdom. God is pleased that he chooses good governance marked by a seeking after truth and justice rather than the pursuit of personal advantage. He rewards Solomon with more wisdom and understanding than anyone has ever had before or will ever have again.

For Solomon the Truth sent from above, the Truth of God, the God of Love, came and broke through into his dreams and redeemed a political and personal situation which had disintegrated into bitterness, dishonesty and turmoil.

In 2021 we have many challenges facing us, facing our country and facing our world. Where things have not been right in the past, let us dream and allow God to dream in us, dreams that will open up fresh opportunity and bring new life and healing. And let us, like Solomon, pray for wisdom, understanding and honesty both for ourselves, for the leaders of the nations and our own government, politicians and local leaders.

God bless,

Camilla

 


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