The Parliamentary Easter recess that followed many weeks of intense debate about Brexit seems a long time ago now. I remember writing then that it was a far from comforting thought that there were doubtless many more rounds to come in the Brexit saga. It called for little prophetic prescience to highlight the growing rise of intolerance – and how urgent it is to pray for people to be able to see things from each other’s perspectives and to respect each other, rather than allowing ever increasing prejudice and partisan polarisation to develop.
Skip forward five months or so and when I heard Tom Watson, Labour’s number 2, claim that the results of the 2016 referendum are no longer valid, an image came to mind, mentally comparing the whole Brexit process with a dispute over a football match. If we imagine that the Leave party won 1-0, but that because the ball only just sneaked over the line, a most unholy row broke out about whether the ball really did cross the line – or at least, because there was no goal line technology available, to prove that the ball got over the line in the particular way that it was supposed to have done.
When that situation is added to the verdict of the Scottish Court that the proroguing of Parliament was illegal it is hardly surprising that powerful voices are continuing to be raised that the match should be either cancelled – or that it should be replayed in the form of another referendum. On past experience, choosing the wording for that would be a highly controversial matter.
A major question is whether the Supreme Court that meets next Tuesday (17th September 2019) will uphold the Scottish decision or the legal position as defined thus far in England, that this is basically a political call for the government to determine rather than being primarily a legal matter. Bob Askey, a friend who is a barrister with some experience in these spheres pointed out that it would place a huge strain on the legal system were different judgements to be passed north and south of the border!
It is a repeated feature of referendum votes that go initially against the EU always seem to end up getting ‘replayed’ until the ‘right’ decision is made. The EU interpretation of the rules of Association Football (in our terms ‘voting’) as to how far over the goal line the ball actually went, seem to be at variance from the ‘simplistic’ view of Leavers that the referee’s decision is always final, right or wrong.
There is nothing easy let alone gracious about this. No wonder Ken Clark was heard to mourn that the present House of Commons is the most unstatesmanlike group of people who have ever represented the country. Moorings have slipped, road blocks and barriers are being constantly set set up and old divisions are re-energised as people and parties strive to turn situations to their own advantage.
Given how unsatisfactory all this is, the concern is where and to what all this discontent may lead. Discontent is more commonly a recipe for revolutionary rather than godly sentiments – which makes it all the more important to pray that God will provide not just political solutions but will stir up more God-seeking in the hearts of many. In other words, He is looking not ‘just’ for a workable outcome to the Brexit process but for a people who will actively ‘serve His purpose in this generation’ (Acts 13:36).
We can do no better than to join with Brian Mills in praying,
“Lord, whatever is going to enable Your kingdom to advance, whatever is going to glorify You most through what happens – Lord let it be! Not what we want, oh Lord, but Your kingdom come, Your will be done!”
Some of you may appreciate relistening to the prayer we sent out a whole year ago. A fair bit may have changed in the details mentioned, but there is much in the political landscape that remains only too familiar.
The oboe music, played by Thomas Herzog, is by Jean Baptiste Loeillet, who divided his time between Flanders and Britain – which makes him an attractive symbol for bridging the divide across what I have increasingly heard being called ‘the Narrow Straits’ between England and France (rather than the English Channel).
The word ‘strait’ derives from the Latin strictus – a drawing tight, and denotes a narrow channel that joins two larger bodies of water. Straits are invariably difficult to navigate – as is certainly true of everything to do with the Brexit process.
Let’s use the words of the psalmist as a starting point for prayer:
He delivered them many times,
but they demonstrated rebellion by their evil plans;
therefore they sunk deep in their sins.
44 Yet when he saw their distress
and heard their cries for help,
45 he remembered his covenant with them,
and so relented
according to the greatness of his gracious love . . .
47 Deliver us, Lord our God,
gather us from among the nations
so we may praise your holy name
and rejoice in praising you.
48 Blessed are you, Lord God of Israel,
from eternity to eternity;
Let all the people say, “Amen!”
Hallelujah! (Ps. 106:43-48 ISV)