Author’s note–When I began this missive it was the 29th of September and the stock market was down 700 points. Appropriately, it was also the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels.
President Sarkozy of France is saying that the world is staring into a financial abyss, and plenty of politicans and other people are speaking of current events as an unprecedented crisis.
Of course, this is flat not true, except that maybe in the details, but this perspective arises from a profoundly shortsighted view of the sweep of history. If you care to, look up the South Sea Bubble (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sea_Bubble) or the Mississippi Bubble (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_Company).
It is certainly a very difficult business situation that we find ourselves in, which impacts us all. Several of our own fellow members of Trinity Parish have told me that they’ve had very serious losses in their investments, and this affects everyone. Did you know that Nevada County is the only county in California where more than half of population’s income derives from dividends and interest?
That’s due to the fact that our population has a higher median age than most counties (43 years, compared with 38 years for Nevada County, Arkansas, and 34 years in California as a whole), which is because we have a higher than average number of retired people.
This past August I was in Uganda, visiting our parish’s Mission. Uganda’s population has a median age of 15, and the average wage earner brings home $350 per year, versus $45,864 for Nevada County, California. In Uganda gasoline costs around $8.00 per gallon, nearly twice as much as in our county. Few people have cars, or television, and most people cook over an open fire. Ugandan life expectancy is more than 25 years less than ours, if a person manages to live past the age of five.
So, yes, the developed world is having some economic difficulties at the moment. But these problems are a matter of perspective. Our challenges are going to be temporary. The Ugandans’ problems are mosty likely permanent, and more than likely will get worse.
For nearly thirty years I’ve had the privilege of working with people at the end of their earthly existence. I can say with perfect confidence that no matter what happens, it’s going to be all right.
In Psalm 37 we hear, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken.” Now, does that mean that the faithful person will not experience hardship? Of course not. Those who love God and try to follow Him aren’t immune to the ordinary vicissitudes of life, but God does not forsake them. Are there no angels -God’s emissaries- left in the world? Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and human experience testify to the existence and ministry of the Holy Angels.
If you’re worried, pray. Ask the Lord for comfort, for assurance of His love and protection. Give yourself completely into God’s hands. Pray for the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Angels.
The medieval mind, following the earlier Greco-Roman tradition, saw life as a wheel of fortune, which raises up people and then casts them down, only to raise them up again.
“O Fortune, like the Moon,
changeable in state, always waxing, or waning;
poverty, power, they dissolve like ice….”
Or, as Dante put it:
No mortal power may stay her spinning wheel.
The nations rise and fall by her decree.
None may foresee where she will set her heel:
she passes, and things pass.
Man’s mortal reason cannot encompass her…
Season by season her changes change her changes endlessly,
and those whose turn has come press on her so,
she must be swift by hard necessity.
Every empire, every great king or ruler, every prosperous person -even people who are only relatively prosperous, like you and me- finds it difficult to consider that everything changes, and that what goes up must come down.
We don’t have to like situations like the one our economy finds itself in, of course! But the Bible teaches us that, in the words of Ecclesiastes 3.1, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for everything under heaven.” The same chapter goes on tell us that God has made everything appropriate for its time, and that (perhaps by way of reassurance) He has put the eternity in our hearts.
It’s when we forget eternity and instead get caught up in the moment that we become overwrought and fearful. Because you and I both know that it’s going to be all right, even if it’s very annoying, inconvenient, and perhaps excruciatingly painful.
Look – seriously – does anyone think that next year there’s a strong likelihood that the average wage earner in the USA is going to make no more than $350 dollars a year with gasoline standing at $8.00 a gallon? Do any of the talking heads on television or bloggers on the Internet really believe that 80% or more of the American population is going to be eating nothing but potatoes and baked bananas for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of their lives?
On the other hand, people will be very negatively impacted by what is happening in the economy. We are all obliged by our faith to reach out in every way to help. Our own congregation already does this in many ways, both in out public ministries to the homeless (Hospitality House) and hungry (Nevada City Food Bank). We also help people financially on a private and confidential basis through our Charitable Fund. Perhaps God will ask us to do more in the future. And that, too will be a blessing.
Let’s not be naive and hysterical about the things of this world, which is as impermanent as as the early morning fog and changes more often than day turns to night. Leave the naivete and hysteria to those who are faithless. Trust God with your future; only He knows what it will be, anyway. As Romans 8:28 truthfully declares, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”
Or, as Jesus so perfectly put it,
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father
knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
–The Rev. Christopher Seal is rector, Holy Trinity Church, Nevada City, California