At the beginning of January we all went around wishing each other a 'Happy New Year' and I suspect that, given the current climate, there was considerable feeling behind each greeting. The Credit Crunch is has now become a financial crisis and this country, as well as many others in the world are moving into a recession which is set to last for some time. It is a difficult time for all of us. Those who are employed are worried about the security of their jobs. Others have lost their jobs and face an uncertain future. Those who are retired are finding their income restricted as savings or investments show poor returns. A difficult beginning to a new year and the prospect of it being a peaceful one are also in doubt. As I write, the situation in Israel and Gaza remains tense if not critical. No one knows what will happen when we pull out of Iraq later this year and it looks as if we are in for the long haul in Afghanistan. Europe is being starved of gas by Russia and her neighbours. Zimbabwe is now attracting world attention as surrounding nations call for international military intervention and George Bush has just issued a solemn warning to Barack Obama that the USA faces imminent attack.
Most of us have lived through the recession of the eighties and can remember paying sixteen percent interest on our mortgages! Some of you experienced the Second World War and served in the armed forces. Some of us have lived and worked in a war zone and know the fear and horror that is part of everyday life. With these experiences behind us, we may look with fear and trepidation towards an uncertain future.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said 'Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' In this he echoes Jesus who, speaking about fear said 'Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.' (Matthew 10:29-31)
There are times when we are all fearful. Sometimes of the future, or of the present and sometimes we are plagued by memories of things that happened to us or that we witnessed in the past. And when that happens, we lose our sense of wellbeing and our quality of life deteriorates. Jesus tells us to put our trust in God, to take all our fears and worries to him. And by that he means take them to God and leave them there, recognising that we are more important to Him than anything else in this world. If we do that, in all sincerity, then God will respond by filling our hearts with a peace beyond anything that the world can offer. It is then that we realise that FDR was right when he said that we have 'nothing to fear but fear itself.'
With all good wishes for a happy and peaceful New Year.
Revd David Sherwood