As you pass the President’s House you are met by traffic lights that flash green and red at the same time. Is this some message we are to decipher?
How often we hear of people outlining their plans and ending, ‘I am just waiting for the green light’. Well, we may see the green but it is dominated by its powerful red companion which glares at us at the same time.
I do not think we should lose heart. We are in testing time. We have never had prosperity and have no model, from our own experience, to fall back on. The red light discourages our every move but, like Yeats’ hippo, there is progress in the air, however sluggish it may appear. In the same poem with the oft’ quoted line, ‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold’, Yeats writes:
The darkness drops again, but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
and what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Can we allow ourselves to be ‘vexed’ by the rocking cradle of Bethlehem? Can we be stirred by the newborn child? Has our hour come round at last? Two events have drawn our attention this week. One is the 75th birthday of the United Nations. Often scorned as an ineffectual talking shop, it could well be likened to a slouching hippo. It puts flesh on our highest inspirations and the Secretary-General had every right to list the many achievements of the last seven and a half decades. The UN building in New York sports the many coloured flags of the nations but the unwritten message on all of them is that human rights be universally respected. Despite huge lapses, the decades have shown great progress in this regard from the time of the independence of India in 1947 to the liberation of South Africa in 1994.
Political freedom seemed like a great prize but nations soon learnt that it was a hollow victory if it did not lead to social and economic freedom. This is the area where we are still ‘slouching towards Bethlehem to be born’.
I mentioned two events this week. The second is the European Union’s agreement on a migration policy which one European leader commented would satisfy no one. That is certainly true but it is still an agreement which represents the best they could do when 27 nations sit down with their hugely different perspectives on a complex problem. The beauty of the agreement is that it is not imposed by some strong power but freely agreed. Even if it is ‘weak’ it is a beginning and the EU will continue to ‘slouch’ its way forward.
There is hope wherever we look despite all the dire forecasts. If people everywhere persevere in their good work we will eventually get to the time when we ‘realise our common unity’. (Ephesians 4:12)
27 Sept 2020 Sunday 26A Ez 18:25-28 Phil 2:1-11 Matt 21:28-32