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SHAKEN-NESS (Life in a Time of Lockdown 9)

Springwatch has just finished for another year. This is sad for my sister, Livy, as she is a big fan of the programme’s presenter, the naturalist Chris Packham. He has said in the Guardian recently, speaking of life before Covid-19, that ‘the way we were living was unsustainable.’ Whilst not as big a fan as my sister, I think he is right. We cannot continue the way we were going with obscene levels of wealth inequality, social and economic injustice, and the catastrophic effects of unbridled globalisation on the climate and the natural world. And then there is the issue of racial injustice now so much to the fore and rightly so. For too long people in this country (not just in America) have been discriminated against in every area of life on the basis of the colour of their skin and their racial background. On all these issues it is as if God is saying enough is enough. The worldwide pandemic has caused the roof of the corrupt edifices in society to be well and truly blown off, and consequently the walls are now falling down bit by bit. The world is being shaken!

Andrew Shanks is a British theologian who has written about how, in response to our current trauma, we are being shaken. He identifies what he calls ‘the politics of shaken-ness’ … being shaken out of half-truths, dishonesties, and the editing of reality to suit a certain narrative and perspective. According to Shanks, this dishonesty is in order to sensitise people to the scapegoating and sacrificing of some in order to secure the interests of others. We are living through a global trauma and we are being shaken out of our complacency, our concealing of reality, our falseness and fakery, and we are now opened up to things in all their disarray, pain, and potential. No more hiding under the comfort blanket of ignorance or indifference. God is shaking us open whether we like it or not.

This was the experience of those who listened to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41). Their comfortable religious certainties were being undermined and usurped. Peter, bit by bit, subverted their long-held assumptions and entrenched traditions. The roof of their life house was stripped off and the walls of their life house were tumbling down. His words had a profound effect on the hearers. They were ‘cut to the heart’ (verse 37). Other translations describe them as being ‘crushed’, ‘pierced’, ‘cut to the quick with remorse and anxiety.’ In other words, they were shaken to their very core. They cry out ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter tells them to turn to God, repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’ (verse 38) … believe and receive the promised Holy Spirit.

What will be the outcome of our current ‘shaken-ness’ in society? We don’t know. Too many people (as Jesus’ Parable of the Wide and Foolish Builders in Matthew 7:24-29 implies) for too long have built their life houses on insecure, dangerous sinking sand rather than on the safe and solid rock of Jesus Christ. God is the only sure and certain foundation to our lives and to our world. As the world is being shaken, we need to pray that more and more people with cry out to God ‘What shall we do?’ And may they hear Peter’s response of ‘save yourself from this corrupt generation (verse 40); ‘Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture’ (The Message) and come to God, our rock of refuge and our strong fortress.

Our confidence is in the Lord
The source of our salvation.
Rest is found in Him alone,
The Author of creation.
We will not fear the evil day,
Because we have a refuge;
In every circumstance we say,
Our hope is built on Jesus.

He is our fortress; We will never be shaken.
He is our fortress; We will never be shaken.
We will put our trust in God.
We will put our trust in God.


~ Julia Binney


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