The 12th of July Word on the Week 13th July 2019.
Towering above the neighbouring houses stood the gigantic 12th of July bonfire. Belfast has not seen a bigger one! Built with thousands of wooden pallets and adorned with a necklace of rubber tyres it was formidable – an incendiary device the like of which has not been seen.
Like the Ziggurat of old (Genesis Chapter 11 verse 4) the underling desire of the builders was to make a name for themselves. Other devices such as flags and marches (in memory of the Battle of the Boyne, 1690) go some way in keeping the old antagonisms alive but if you want to make a statement what better than setting the town alight!
Thankfully this did not happen. The tyres were removed by those who put them there and the wooden pile was burned last night almost without incident. A victory of sorts was claimed by its creators as the City Council’s request to remove the bonfire (it was built on their land) had been ignored.
The maintaining of an identity by highlighting what you are against by burning the flags and effigies of Nationalists and their Political posters shows the poverty of the Unionist’s case!
Brexit has created further anxieties. The likely new Prime Minister of the UK (which governs Northern Ireland in the absence of the Assembly) producing a solution is remote.
Legacy issues from past unsolved crimes keep cropping up. These are painful as they reopen wounds which, although not healed, have lain dormant. One of ‘Soldier F’ who has been charged with murders has inspired a number of banners. A hero on one side; villain to the other – and these murders took place in 1972!
There is another who died for all who subsequently trust in him. This is Jesus who gives his followers a new identity erasing away the old one by his grace. With this new identity comes the task of reconciliation as former enemies, through God’s strength, become friends (2 Corinthians Chapter 5 verses 14 to 19).
This happened on a large scale in Northern Ireland in the revival of 1859. The land experienced similar divisions as we have today. The local press reported nearly all parades were cancelled that year and in their place worship services and prayer meetings were held. Protestants went to Catholic neighbours to apologise for past behaviour.
The solution to the problems of Northern Ireland is for such a movement of the Holy Spirit to arise again together with a Biblical reformation of the churches. May God send us such a day!