When England voted itself out of the European Union, it felt to me as if the ground beneath my feet suddenly gave way.
Founded in the wake of World War II, the EU was created as an antidote to the extreme nationalism which had devastated the continent … the extreme nationalism that gave rise to the woeful events to which Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory, devoted his life exposing.
The EU represented the idea of working and living cooperatively, studying and learning together, developing and trading and legislating across 28 nations for the common good of all.
England’s decision to vote out of the EU hits me as both seismic and untoward. It feels as if the ground beneath my feet has given way … it feels as if the world is in free fall.
I know that for some of you the massacres at the Orlando night club—a gay night club …a sanctuary for LGBT people—has felt to you as if the ground beneath your feet has caved in. That no place is safe anymore. That anyone with a lot of rage and a lot of bullets can choose to take you out.
And, if it were only Brexit and Orlando … If it were only Istanbul and Bangladesh … But it is so much more …
It’s the coarseness, crudeness of this US election season. It’s the widen gap—the widest in modernity—between the very rich and the very poor with a disappearing middle class.
It’s the fact that 2015 was the deadliest year on record for the killings of environmental activists around the world.
It’s the fact that crisis and climate change are driving unprecedented migration … one of the gravest migrant crisis the world has ever seen.
It’s the fact that the Mediterranean Sea—not so long ago the life-blood of the so-called Cradle of Civilization, the Fertile Crescent—has become a cemetery for thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants. And it is most probably also the most polluted water basin the whole world.
It’s the fact that when you add up Globalism and Climate Change and population growth, we have entered an era that will be increasingly defined by catastrophic crises. This is the new normal.
I don’t know about you, but it feels to me as if the ground beneath me is giving way.
As we approach the anniversary of our nation’s birthday—and I love my country; I love this country—here is what is true:
Nations come and go. Even mighty empires pass away. Even this one will come to an end.
We go about our days thinking, assuming, trusting that the world beneath our feet is solid. It is not. That it will always be there to hold us up. It will not be. Nothing earthly is permanent.
As the hymn proclaims:
On Christ the solid rock I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
God alone is forever. All other ground is sinking sand. This is our faith. A faith in to be practiced and recalled even on the eve of a national holiday.
Kings and empires, presidents and nations, European Unions and nightclubs and airports … shall pass away. They are not forever.
In God alone we stand on solid rock … a kingdom without end.
This is our faith. This is the faith of our ancestors. This is the faith of Abraham and Sarah, of Moses and Miriam, of David and Solomon, of Jesus and the Mary’s … a faith we pass on generation to generation, down through the ages.
As we sing on Easter Sunday: the kingdoms of this world will pass away … but the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, will reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! (Handel’s Messiah, “The Hallelujah Chorus” based on passages from the Book of Revelation).
And so it is, Christians, that we place our faith in God, who alone is the rock of our salvation. All other ground is sinking sand.
To symbolize this, to incarnate this passing down of the Christian faith from generation to generation, I will ask you to form a chain—three chains, in fact, one down each aisle—a symbolic chain from Abraham to today and from today to tomorrow.
We are going to arrange ourselves from the oldest—those closest in age to Father Abraham—to the youngest, those furthest in age from Father Abraham and, therefore, closest in age to the future. Those of you who are nearest in age to Father Abraham, please come forward, to the Chancel … The rest of you arrange yourselves down each of the aisle in descending order of age.
Once you are arranged, the person at the head of each line—the person closest in age to Father Abraham—take this Bible (a Bible is distributed to the head of each line) and, turning to the person next to you, younger than you, look them in the eyes. While holding their gaze, hand the Bible to them saying: All other ground is sinking sand.