By Haddon Willmer
When Jesus saw the city, he wept, because its people had not recognized the things that make for peace, Shalom, true full wellbeing. It missed the opportunity given by ‘the visitation of God’, making disaster inevitable (Luke 19.41—44).
If Jesus looks at Glasgow today, he sees a gathering of people from all the world who know very well what makes for Shalom. They are talking and manouevering, round and round the nettle, but it is not clear that they will grasp it together: disaster is still possible.
They know, but will they do? Maybe they want to act with the urgency and thoroughness required, but faced with the challenge of hard work, or ‘sacrificial’ changes, they hesitate.
They are where Paul found himself: ‘I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do’. With his inmost mind, he delighted in the law of God, but another law captured his human capabilities, habits and inclinations, so he was torn and frustrated: ‘O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?’ (Romans 7.24-25).
Paul writes in the first person singular of ‘‘this body of death’ which masters us so that we don’t do the good we want. But the body of death also has inescapable social and political reality. No individual is an island. Being a person is not a private matter; the person reflects society, and is enabled and disabled by society. I am a socially-permeated entity.
So the prayer of Cop26 might be: ‘Who will deliver us from this body of death, this world order-disorder which we have made, which we suffer, which we have made ourselves dependent upon, and even in love with – but is now revealing itself unmistakably as the mastering body of death, death of spirit as well as body, the triumph of locality over universality, self over others, fear over courage, short-term possession over non-rusting treasure?
Pray God to visit the earth afresh as it gathers in Glasgow, so that we receive the help we need, and are able really, truthfully (no fudging carbon offsets! no vain claims to lead the world!), courageously, decisively, to make peace cooperatively in truth and love.