Living in Important Times

This Sunday counts in terms of who you teach and how you teach, your prayers for the souls of the saints and the unsaved are of increíble moment.

The New Testament is clear that the local gatherings of believers are the means by which God does his work of building the kingdom. Being a member of a biblical church, fulfilling the commitments which that entails, joyfully joining our voices with brothers and sisters from the same vicinity is a powerful and persuasive tool in God’s hand, for his glory. Our problem is that we can disbelieve that this is where our significance lies.

 

I have lived in important places, times

When great events were decided; who owned

That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land

Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims. – Patrick Kavanagh

There can be no doubt that ours is an age of tumult and upheaval, of movement, change, and discontentment. We are living lives which, to borrow from Charles Taylor, are simultaneously buffered but are also incredibly porous to the messages of a world which clicks and beeps its concerns incessantly. In the past two decades we have witnessed militant Islam encroach into the consciousness of those in the global West, we have ridden the intellectually populous wave of the New Atheism, we have become hyper-connected to a wider world, we are witnessing the redefinition of humanity’s most basic relationships and the rearrangements of the building blocks of human identity and personhood, all the while watching a tsunami of nationalism and racism surging towards the shore of civil discourse. These certainly feel like important times, an epoch of change which will sit thickly in the binding of future history books.

All of this could, however, obscure the truly important lives which we are called to live, and the truly vital world with which we ought to be engaging. When Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh came to write his poem ‘Epic’, his focus was not on the centres of power but the centre of the parish, on the everyday, the immediate, the local. The importance of the times in which he lived were not reflected by the headlines but by the happenings around him and his contemporaries which were tangible and touchable. This is an important ironic point, in that the convulsions of partition, a civil war, and the new constitutional reality of the Republic of Ireland were ultimately reflected in the neighbourhood, not in concepts of nationhood.

This sentiment is an important corrective to how we have come to live our lives, and were we to grasp Kavanagh’s wisdom we might just relate to our world in a more healthy and a more helpful way. To see the importance of our times, of our community, of the people nearest to us could be transformative of our whole outlook and consciousness.

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