In some ways, this summer vacation is like any other. I sit on the dock and listen to the music of water lapping against the rocky shoreline. Shards of sunlight glisten on the lake as a sailboat leans into a warm breeze.
The sky is cloudless but the idyll is imperfect. All summer long, uneasiness has hung like a haze. Part of it is familiar. The Canadian summer is always tinged with the inevitability of autumn. But this year, the certainty that autumn will come is overshadowed by the uncertainty of what autumn will bring.
The hum of summer barely muffles the seismic rumblings of a global economy in upheaval. The U.S. credit crisis deepens, the world food supply dwindles and oil runs amok, impacting everything from toothpaste to jet fuel. Economists seem powerless to predict with any certainty when or where it all will end. Political leaders put on a brave face but must privately curse the bad luck that made this happen on their watch. Ideologues unfurl their banners, but the old battle cries ring hollow.
Most of us carry on as usual but wonder how much longer we will be able to tell what usual is.
We know in our gut that our world is changing. We hope that the perfect economic storm that set this change in motion will somehow blow over but look to the horizon and see angry clouds everywhere. The ferocity of what could be unleashed takes our breath away, yet we do not panic. We greet it with a grim resignation, as if deep down we knew we would face a reckoning like this some day. We believed in infinite prosperity but fuelled it with a finite resource, never imagining others might someday lay claim to a share of it. We made dreams come real with phantom billions. We took food from hungry mouths and put it in our gas tanks.
It couldn’t last forever, no matter how desperately we wanted to believe it would.
And now we wait and wonder. At the very least, most of us face a fundamental scaling back of things we have always taken for granted. Mobility will no longer be a birthright. Consuming will give way to thrift. Luxury will be redefined as an abundance of necessities. And there will be pain. People in towns like Oshawa and Windsor, Ont., are already feeling it. Others will follow.
Churches will find themselves in the midst of a paradox. After years of searching, often in vain, for a new vision and sense of purpose, churches may again hear a clear and familiar call to mission. People will be hurting, frightened and looking for hope. They will need pastoring. Economies will need fixing and social priorities reordering. Churches will need to reassert a prophetic presence on the national and global stages, insisting on solutions that are just, achievable and sustainable.
Any day now, a new crispness in the air and a rustling in the leaves will tell us it is time to prepare for autumn and the rigours of winter that must surely follow. Like we do every year, we will ask ourselves where the summer went. But this year, we will understand that summer is more than a season, and that its passing is more than a mark on the calendar.
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