I’m sure I’m not alone in finding the last few months, living in Dublin, incredibly difficult. Faced with a barrage of divisiveness, negativity, name-calling and put-downs. As Steve said in his recent blog,
“It really saddens me that we so quickly distance ourselves from those who take a view divergent to our own, as if our whole identity and meaning in life is wrapped up in whether we vote yes or no on this particular topic.”
It seems like the whole nation has been in battle-mode – ready to fight and rage against anything that goes against a personal viewpoint. Like a cowboy with his fingers tingling next to the holster. It’s been exhausting.
I have been moved by stories of how women have been in such desperate situations and they have felt no way out. My heart aches for them. I have been utterly confused by the many contradictions as well – I read one story where a woman was denied essential cystic fibrosis medication because it might harm her unborn baby – and another woman who had been given that exact same medication when pregnant! How can this be the case? The medical care we receive should never be determined by the whims of an individual doctor and stories like this have frustrated me immensely. And in contrast, I’ve also been appalled by the indifference some women have shown to the unborn with phrases such as: “it’s just a cluster of cells” or “the best decision I’ve ever made”. I suspect I don’t speak just for myself when I say that this has been an incredibly difficult chapter.
Steve and I went out on Friday night for a walk around Ticknock to watch the sunset and then went to the Blue Light pub in the mountains which gave an incredible view as darkness descended over the city and the bay. My eyes were drawn to the lighthouse over at the tip of Howth, every few seconds shining its bright light across the ocean and I thought of how, long ago, seeing this light when lost at sea would have brought immense relief – at finding rescue, of finding safety, of seeing the way ahead. And I’ve been reminded of how we, as a church, must too be a beacon of light.
Jesus shared some incredibly challenging words to us as his people when he said:
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16.
It is absolutely crucial that as God’s people we are a LIGHT. We are not here to judge (lest we too be judged by the same measure (Matthew 7:1)), to dictate, to make demands. Jesus offers hope, he offers peace, he offers joy, he offers forgiveness and most of all, he offered his own life so that we could know all those things. And this message of the hope that Jesus brings is what needs to shine out from us. So let’s shine.
But what does it mean to ‘shine’ in a world where the 8th amendment has been repealed? It means exactly the same as when the 8th amendment stood. As a church we look to strike the balance of ‘grace and truth’ (John 1:14) in all we do. The mandate to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20) is still our mandate. Nothing has changed in what Jesus is asking of us! We love women in crisis pregnancies and we love the unborn with our heart, mind, soul and strength. We think of ways to support women who are facing the day-to-day challenges of pregnancy and decisions about what they will do with their future, and the child in their womb, and we reach out with arms of love, regardless of the decision they take and whether they have an abortion. And we seek to become a family where any who are unwanted, uncared for, unsure of themselves or rejected find a home and a place of refuge. As I said before: this is our moment to shine, so let’s shine.