Snatching & Tugging

Sunday 1st May 2005
The Fifth Sunday of Easter
St. Peter's, Chailey
Zechariah 8:1-13

As a Church we feel that we are not so much in a state of siege but inundated, drowning in a sea of coarse journalism, advertising, packaging and the earthly things within. It is difficult to avoid foul language, lewd conversation, the depredations of excess and the subtle temptations of material things.

Our reaction to this takes many forms: sometimes we want to turn our back on the world; sometimes we want to engage with it; and sometimes we go into a state of denial, thinking that this whole wicked world has nothing to do with us.

But we have two things that we must hold onto: we have ourselves; and, above all, we have the promise of God.

In today's Lesson from Zechariah God tells us that he will not abandon His people. He says that he will not fail us, that times will change, that there will be dancing in the streets and The Lord will dwell in Jerusalem.

So much for The Lord's promise; what about us? The Lord says: let your hands be strong, you who have heard The Word. The Lord has made His promise but its fulfilment depends on us. Our hands must be strong, we who have heard The Word.

Sometimes when we think of strength we think of weight lifters suddenly elevating massive loads above their head in a competition called "The snatch"; but we must not snatch; we must not think that we can suddenly lift weight well beyond our capability. In order to hold on we need to approach spiritual exercise in the way that athletes practice every day, leading up to a big event. For most of us competing in the snatch is beyond our capabilities. We are more likely to find ourselves grimly hanging on to a slippery rope in a tug-of-war team; the noble few pulling one way while the wicked world pulls against us.

This is a good image for two reasons. First of all, the spiritual life has its silent and its solitary moments, sometimes even lonely moments but to be a Christian is to be involved in a corporate enterprise where we not only build up ourselves but, as St. Paul says, we build up and support each other. Jesus did not issue individual licenses to a motley variety of holy hermits, he founded a Church so that we might all, as the Church Militant, support each other in proclaiming the truth. How right he was; there are very few of us with the courage and strength to face the world alone.

But the second reason why the image of the tug-of-war team is a good one is that, if we persevere, we will slowly haul in the opposition, bring it towards us so that we can embrace the world. The Lord wants us to worship at His Holy Mountain but He also wants us to dance in the streets, in the worldly world, in the world that He made that we might live joyfully in it.

Let us, then, struggle together for the truth in the certain knowledge that God will keep His promise and that we will one day dance in the streets.