As I write this letter it’s the very beginning of a new year and I’m wondering what it will have in store, for me personally and for our church and community and for our world. And I’m reminded that in so many ways we are authors of our own destinies. Everything we do has consequences.Some of the things we are benefitting from now or suffering from now will be the consequences of things we did years ago. But it can take time for us to see the consequences of what we do and say, so it’s easy to forget that what we do now, determines what the future will bring.
And we can overlook the significance of small actions.The smallest action for good can set up a chain of far reaching consequences that can change the world for good. On the other hand, just as a single spark can lead to a raging forest fire, the smallest act or unkind or careless word can have devastating consequences.
After a school carol service this last Christmas one parent told me that she and her family stopped going to church regularly because she had overheard two prominent church members talking very unkindly about their minister. If this is how church members treat each other, then she didn’t want to be involved. And then there was the couple who told me that their church’s organist was having yet another extra marital affair and that they could no longer attend a church where blatant immoral behaviour was going unchallenged. On the other hand there was the person who told me that her involvement in church and her journey in faith started because a church member had supported and encouraged her in a difficult time. She went on to be ordained as a priest.
There are consequences to the effectiveness of our Christian witness as we practise, or fail to practise, the values we aspire to.
Another way of thinking about consequences is that we tend to get back what we give to others. ‘The measure you give will be the measure you receive,’ Jesus said. For example, if everywhere I go I’m angry and uncooperative, chances are others will treat me with hostility or have nothing to do with me. But if I’m supportive and helpful it’s more likely that people will help and support me. The consequence of being negative and grumbly is that we spread dissatisfaction and gloom. The consequence of being positive and encouraging is that we spread hope and joy.
Sometimes, as we see the consequences of things we’ve done, we may feel deep regret and we wish we could turn the clock back. But we can learn from our mistakes and good things can and do come from them. St Paul tells us ‘that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose”. And the prophet Isaiah told the people of his day that they should forget the failures and disappointments of the past and to look for new things.
We will know from experience that sometimes our best intentions don’t turn out well but that shouldn’t stop us trying to do and say what is good and kind, right and true, and taking time to think before we act.
In 2014 may we be people through whom God is made known as a consequence of the loving and just way in which we live and serve.