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01 September 2017

Desperation meets celebration

Desperation meets celebration

Jago Wynne is rector of Holy Trinity Clapham, and author of 100% Christianity and Working without Wilting.

This past Sunday, to mark the opening of the Notting Hill Carnival, a ceremony of remembrance took place under the shadow of the skeleton of Grenfell Tower. Local residents and survivors of the fire gathered to release white doves and pray for the many affected by the tragedy just 10 weeks ago. A remembrance of the desperation of the disaster whilst simultaneously opening the celebration of the carnival.

Many will not have been personally affected by anything as devastating as the Grenfell Tower disaster, but we all experience some level of desperation at times in our lives. Broken relationships, illness, financial struggles are all common place. There was a woman in the Bible called Hannah. She was in a place of desperation because she was unable to have children. In her desperation, Hannah turns to the LORD: "In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, 'Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son'" (1 Samuel 1:10-11).  In the face of desperation, she depends on God and asks. 

We experience times of celebration too. The Notting Hill Carnival is a time of celebration of the diverse culture in London. You may not have been there to celebrate last weekend, but we all celebrate something, whether it be birthdays, anniversaries, or something as simple as our football team winning. Hannah has reason to celebrate. The LORD answers her prayers of desperation and gives her a son. You might expect her to sing out in celebration: "my heart rejoices in my little baby boy". But instead, she prays "my heart rejoices in the LORD" (1 Samuel 2:1). Her supreme source of joy in a time of celebration is God. Her eyes are still fixed on the LORD in her celebrations as well as her desperation. She depends on God and adores. 

Rick Warren talks about how in life there are twin tracks of continuous experience - battles (desperation) and blessings (celebration). Whilst we can experience a battle, like dealing with the aftermath of Grenfell Tower, we can also experience blessings, like the celebrations of Notting Hill Carnival. And very often they happen side by side, at the same time. 

For many, the beginning of September marks a new season in our lives - the start of the new academic year, a relocation after the summer, or even just a return to the office from a holiday. For all of us, it is likely to be a time where celebration and desperation are mixed together – twin tracks, side by side at the same time. During the ceremony at Grenfell Tower on Sunday, Bishop Graham Tomlin prayed for "hope, harmony and healing". In times of new challenges where we will see both desperation and celebration, we can ask for harmony and healing, and we can adore the God who has guaranteed us hope - "a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3). 

In this new season, whoever we are, whatever our circumstances, we can depend on our Father in heaven. As we run along the twin tracks of celebration and desperation, we can come to Him simply adoring Him and asking Him for things. And when we do that, we have learnt the very heart of prayer.

 Image: CC0 Creative Commons