If not now, the when? Thought for Feb 2021

January 31, 2021

in Monthly comment

I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Luke 13:3

By British – SchoolDetails of artist on Google Art Project - 4QE6HT4NQNxxcw at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22630117

“If not now, then when”? Those are the words repeated regularly in a sermon on Luke 13 v1-3 that was preached by Alexander Nowell, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1563, when the Great Plague struck London and a quarter of London’s population died. Fortunately for us today, sermons like this were written out in full by their authors and read out. That means that five centuries later, we too can share in that message and boy oh boy, how timely this challenge is! He kept asking his listeners, in the midst of something that must have felt like the pandemic that we are in today, that question “If not now, then when”?

Here’s a flavour of his sermon and bear in mind it’s in Elizabethan “English”: Therefore let us learn by this affliction, to mourn for our sins, to hate and forsake our sin, for when shall we mourn for our sins, if not in this time of mourning? When shall we forsake sin in our life if not now, when life is forsaking us? When shall we understand that this life is as a vapour as a bubble rising on the water, if not now in the passing and vanishing away of it?

It was the Great Plague then in 1563 and it’s the second wave of a global pandemic with various mutated virus strains now, but the question is still as relevant. Importantly, the question posed 500 years ago is not about a sustainable “R” number, or lockdown rules being relaxed, or the completion of a vaccine roll out. It’s a question about repentance from our sins.
That is the most important question we all face in the midst of today’s uncertainties, so maybe we should not ask the question “If not now, then when”? but also a shorter and more direct one. “Why not now?

Kevin Borrett


Feb 2021

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