As I write our UK elections have not yet happened. I had made my mind up not to make this piece political, but it would be rather ‘head in the sand’ to not be topical.

A famous Bob Dylan song is my headline: THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’. 1962 – 1964 history reminds us that civil rights social disturbance was rife in the United States, as were protests about the Vietnam War. A lot else was happening in the global geopolitics and socioeconomics of the day. It gives away my age to say that Dylan was amongst the then-contemporary musicians – famous then, and since, for his skilfully lyric-ed protest songs. Google the full lyrics! One commentator writes: “Dylan’s lyrics probe the complexities, ambiguities and complicities of injustice, racism, economic inequality and the need for social change”. Here are selective quotes (spellings are original!):

“Come gather ’round people wherever you roam – Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen, and keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again. And don’t speak too soon for the wheel’s still in spin and there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’; for the loser now will be later to win for the times they are a-changin’. Come mothers and fathers throughout the land and don’t criticize what you can’t understand; your sons and your daughters are beyond your command, your old road is rapidly agin’. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand for the times they are a-changin’.” 

Has that 1960s ‘new’ way produced change for good? Interesting question. That decade was also a time of significant Christian renewal. There were ‘times of refreshing’ for personal renewal in the Holy Spirit and ‘times changing’ by way of fresh thinking about how we express and live our church life. And, yes, much useful and real change has happened over those years. However, it sometimes feels that the Dylan-type ‘new road’ is subsuming the private and public lives of our world. You probably feel, as I do, that in our ‘here and now’ local, geopolitical and socioeconomic landscape the ‘me first’ morality is commanding the landscape and the times they are a-changin’ to what?

A sometimes misused Bible text is Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV): “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” It has its own context for the Israel of those days, but so many claims are made for this ‘new thing’. It was enlightenment to me when an older and wiser Christian said “there is only one new thing”. He meant the supreme New Covenant thing that has come to us and to the world in Christ. So let us be praying for a fresh, united, prayerful, God-loving, neighbour-loving, outreaching, society-changing move of God’s Holy Spirit.

By John Simkins – Otley Prayer Network