O GOD, who declarest thy almighty power most chiefly in shewing mercy and pity: Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
People sometimes like to talk of themselves as a glass half-empty or a glass half-full sort of person. As though a person’s whole outlook in life could be decided by some sort of binary choice. But life isn’t that simple! Barnes Wallis, the famous inventor of the ‘bouncing bomb’ which played such a significant part in turning round the progress of the 2nd world war with the bombing of the dams in the Ruhr valley in 1943, commented once that it was nothing short of ironic that the collect for the week in which the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945 should be the collect for today. The irony lies in the contrast between a God who demonstrates almighty power in showing mercy and pity, and a humankind which demonstrated its almighty power by wreaking the death and destruction of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago. It is one of the tragedies of our time when the human race, already experiencing the challenges of a pandemic that has already caused the deaths of 4 times the toll of 1945, as well as the damage caused by climate change and an upsurge in nationalism, seems incapable of rising above the petty squabbles and point-scoring of our political masters. We seem to be being ‘served’ by an array of world leaders (male at least) whose bombast and scant respect for truth and integrity does little to reassure us about the future of humankind or its planet. Glass half empty indeed! This was never the divine intention. In creating a world with a potential like ours, and to inhabit it with people with capabilities such as we have was to give us nothing if not a flying start. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, says Isaiah in today’s first lesson, look to the quarry from which you were dug. We are a people of significance, he is saying, and have not come from nowhere or have no purpose. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, he says, and look to the earth beneath. Then with a burst of enthusiasm, he lays the Epistle before us – Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. It is clear that Jesus has the greatest faith and trust in us and our potential. The question is whether we think so too.