When I watch or read the news these days, I sometimes
feel like throwing up my hands in frustration and despair. It seems that
nothing is going right, not in this country or around the world.
The financial crisis is getting more ominous, and no
one seems to know what to do. Unemployment is a growing problem and thousands
are losing their homes. Efforts to make things better just seem to result in
their getting worse.
Beyond our borders, more and more nations are
engulfed in revolution and political upheavals. Even stable democracies are
facing riots and civil unrest.
Long ago, the prophet Jeremiah cried out to God: “Why
do bad people have it so good? Why do con artists make it big? … How
long do we have to put up with this — the country depressed, the farms in ruin
— and all because of wickedness…” (Jeremiah 12:1-4, The Message)
There are days when I know just how he felt. Recently I came across a story that I
found very encouraging, and I’d like to pass it on to you. It happened in
England, about 350 years ago, in a village called Harold Staunton, near the
city of Leicester.
first half of the seventeenth century was a time of turmoil in England. After a
savage civil war, the old order of things had been overthrown and the King,
Charles I, had been beheaded. However, as so often happens in revolutions, the
new rulers under Oliver Cromwell soon became the new oppressors. They were
strict religious fundamentalists, intolerant of anything and anyone who
disagreed with what they thought was right.
banned music, dancing, and even Christmas. Many irreplaceable marvels of architecture
were battered down or burned and left in ruins. Those who did not agree knew it
was best to keep their heads down until the madness was over.
not everyone… In the village of Harold Staunton, the Lord of the Manor, whose
name was Robert Shirley, decided to build a new church, in defiance of the new
regime. That church still stands today. Over the main door there is a stone
plaque with a carved inscription. It is very weathered, but you can still make
out the words. The message is clear, even if the language seems a bit ancient to our ears.
inscription says: “In the year 1654 when all things were, throughout this nation, either
demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, Baronet, founded and built this
church. He it is whose singular praise it is to have done the best things in
the worst times, and to have hoped them in the most calamitous.”
The church in Harold Staunton is not
huge, but it has made a big impact. When I think about that, I don’t feel so
helpless and frustrated. Robert Shirley, you and I have the opportunity to do
“the best things in the worst times.” We don’t need to build a physical church;
there are plenty of those. But by working together, Christians can reach out to
a world of bad news with the Good News of the gospel.
Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.