• Ross Moughtin

Timing is everything.

Timing is everything. Ernie loved his stay in rural Shropshire, so very different from his home in Everton. In fact, the Shropshire Magazine was later to publish two of his articles reminiscing his experience of being a wartime evacuee. I’m not sure how long he stayed at Craven Arms but certainly after a year or so of being away from home - without, it would seem, good reason - it was decided for Ernie to return home, to his parents and back to Gwladys Street school. Just in time for the Blitz. My own mother found her Christian faith sorely tested when nearly all of her Sunday School class from Marsh Lane Wesleyan church in Bootle were killed in the Co‐operative shelter bombing on 7th May, 1941. It was a terrible time for children . The evacuation of children as proposed by the Anderson Committee in 1938 was entirely necessary and over 60% of children in Liverpool were to be moved out of harm’s way. However, tragically they went 18 months too soon. I must say I admire the political courage of our Prime Minister (I never thought I would every write that sentence) in following the advice of his chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and his chief science adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance. Their policy of delaying a full-on response in contrast to the response of our neighbours is now drawing some flak. It’s going to be a strange few weeks, for example, along Irish border with children in the Republic staying at home while those just a few miles to the north are hard at work in the classroom. However, right judgement is crucial as our scientific officers explain. Boris cited modelling which indicated that “draconian” measures would make only a marginal difference. Acting too quickly would backfire, he said. You can only close everything down for so long. Myself I have every confidence in the advice of Whitty and Vallance. Over the years I have spoken with several epidemiologists and to be honest, I have never really grasped their methodology. Much of their conclusions appear counter-intuitive. Epidemiologists, for example, have long observed the failure of travel restrictions to contain other infectious diseases, such as influenza. So this is where we are now, facing an unknown future. Only in a year’s time will we know whether Boris was right. After all it is his decision to follow scientific advice. If he gets it wrong, there will be a high political price to pay. Alternatively if right, he will have demonstrated what the Book of Common Prayer calls ‘right judgment.’ We pray for him and his advisors. Timing is everything, above all, for God’s response to the epidemic of sin-inspired rebellion.

So the apostle Paul writes: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6). I’m not sure whether Paul is here referring to chronological time but he certainly does when he writes to the Galatians. “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. (Galatians 4:4). So how did God evaluate when the right time had arrived for his sending the Messiah? Some commentators presume to peer into his mind and suggest, for example, that Jesus was born into a world when international communications were beginning to open up, a combination of Koine Greek and Roman roads. However, the one event which would demonstrate the rationale for the timing of Jesus’ ministry has to be the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in AD70. For it was here under the old covenant that God met with his people; here at Mount Zion sins are forgiven, the blood of sacrificial animals is shed. So the Psalmist rejoices: “Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done.” (Psalm 9:11). However, the cross of Jesus at a stroke renders the temple redundant. Here, observes Paul, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:25). We’re now, so to speak, in a totally new situation in that those who recognise the Lordship of Jesus are the temple of God. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple,” writes Paul to the wayward Christians in Corinth, “and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16). Here timing was everything as Jesus warns his followers how to respond in these end times. We assume that he is speaking of the sacking of the temple by the Roman Legions when he warns his followers: “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Mark 13:14). Whatever, the whole of scripture clearly teaches that despite every appearance God is in control and he sets the time, he is the author of history, he writes the script. And this gives us confidence. As Corrie Ten Boom, whose kindness led her to a concentration camp, advises: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

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