Common Ground Editorial: April 2022

The prophet Jeremiah has been on my mind recently. To say he lived in tumultuous times is, well, an understatement, so he is comforting company at the moment. Unlike the false prophets of Jerusalem, Jeremiah has no need to deny the uncertainty of the times; deeply realistic and deeply hopeful, he doesn’t despair. In Jeremiah 17, we find this encouragement: the one who trusts in God “will be like a tree planted by the water”:

It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit. (Jer 17: 7–8)

The image of this tree—fruitful and flourishing in difficult conditions—has got us wondering: what is the art of living in uncertain times? Like each generation of the Church before us, we need to learn what this looks like: the ways we, too, can live lives rooted in trust—unafraid, always green.

In this, our second edition of Common Ground for 2022, Sonya Lewthwaite tackles the thorny topic of prayer for others in uncertain times. Prayer is, she notes, “that central aspect of faith that everyone assumes you are doing, and no one ever teaches you how to do”. So what good is it, really? And what are we actually doing when we intercede for situations at home and overseas? Intercession is, Sonya suggests, a high calling and real intervention in the world. In the same vein, our practice this month turns us to our neighbours: in tight times, Hannah Chapman commends manaakitanga—acts of generosity that enhance the mana of others. Such interventions are not heroic one-offs. We’re able to meet the challenge of the moment because we cultivate daily habits of sharing in the life of Christ. Maximilian Kolbe made the ultimate sacrifice, laying down his life in the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. But that decision was, Katrina Belcher reminds us, the culmination of a lifetime of practise—the good fruit of a daily walk with Christ.

By definition, “uncertain times” are hard to anticipate, and local and global shocks can leave us gasping and bewildered. It’s worth noting, then, that Scripture is not surprised by any aspect of this current moment. Dr. Rod Thompson asks us to consider the witness of Ecclesiastes: life is God’s gift to be enjoyed as God gives it rather than secured against all circumstance. This is indeed the testimony of John and Lorraine Miller. In our Field Notes interview, they talk with Olivia Burne about their experience in business of God’s grace and leading through the 2008 GFC and the latest challenges of COVID-19 shutdowns. It’s a remarkable conversation—deeply honest and deeply joyful. Testimony also marks our art reflection for April: writer and musician Strahan Coleman shares how he came to write the 2020 single, “Trust”. In the middle of chronic sickness, he writes, “wonder flooded in.” Just as we have, may you be challenged and encouraged by his humble, hopeful reflection.

The times are uncertain; God’s faithfulness is sure. As you read, may his Spirit refresh and renew you to trust God, to intercede for the world, to receive and give generously, and to say “yes” again to his ways.