As I write this Parliament is about to be prorogued and the gun is about to sound for the start of the general election campaign. You might be forgiven for thinking that the campaign actually began some months ago and that it will be a relief to get to 7th May and get on with it! Now you will be pleased to know that I have no intention of telling you how you should vote. I only mention this because it needs to be the theme for our prayers over these coming weeks.
What sort of nation the United Kingdom is and becomes is very much of concern to us. We may feel that we do not really have much influence over events – a vote in Hertford and Stortford or Uttlesford may not seem to carry as much weight as it would in a marginal constituency. However my mind goes back to a Baptist Assembly in Bridlington when many of us got up early to pray for South Africa’s first free election. I remember watching those queues of people lining up to vote because this represented the first time that all South Africans had been able to vote freely. I don’t see too many queues at British polling stations. Maybe we should value more the freedoms that we have.
Perhaps we have lost faith in politics to change anything. Perhaps we fear that nothing ever can or will change. Or perhaps we have a sense that the only changes that politicians make are for the worst. Cynicism is easy and fashionable but I don’t believe it is the right attitude for us as Christians. We believe in change. Recently someone said that politics was about hope. Well we believe in hope too. In fact we believe that change is not only possible but essential and that hope is not a distant idea but a present reality. In the end politicians can make things better or worse but only Christ can change our hearts.
I wonder how the crowds that greeted Jesus as he entered Jerusalem would have reacted to the idea that they could vote for their leaders. On that day Jesus would have been elected and the Romans and Sadducees (the High Priests) would have been thrown out. Except of course that if the election had been a week later it would have gone differently: “We have no King but Caesar” the crowds shouted on Good Friday. In a week Jesus had disappointed his followers. Even his disciples didn’t fully understand what was going on. The expectation of the King coming to rule his people had shown itself to be misplaced. Jesus had no interest in taking power.
Jesus purpose was not to take power but to give up power. He had given up all the powers of Heaven to become a human being. Having done so he humbled himself and became the servant of all. Now he was preparing to give everything that he had – his very life for the sake of those around him, those who derided and mocked him, who failed to understand what he was doing and despised him for it. This is the depth of his love for us. When Good Friday came and he was nailed to the cross all but one of his disciples and some of his women followers deserted him. This was the end.
Yet truly it was the beginning. On the third day the tomb was empty, Jesus began to appear to his disciples, the world had changed forever. Now change was possible because forgiveness and new life were possible. Now there was hope because Jesus had paid for our sins on the cross. This is the Kingdom to which we belong. The Kingdom where hearts can be changed, mistakes dealt with and new pages can be turned. This is why we cannot be a cynical or pessimistic people because Easter changes everything for eternity.
Yours in Christ