One hundred years ago today news arrived in London of the death of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his fellow Antarctic explorers. Scott and his fellow explorers had set out in a race to discover the South Pole. They arrived there in January 1912, only to discover that the Norwegians had beaten them, arriving in December 1911. On the treacherous journey away from the South Pole, without the glory of victory, without energy, food, or warmth, Scott and his companions eventually died – and everyone remembers Captain Oates famously sacrificing himself. They died in February 1912, but it wasn’t until a year later, one hundred years ago this very day, when news of their deaths arrived.
For over fifty years, Captain Scott and his friends were viewed as heroes, who tragically died in awful circumstances beyond their control; and this view was reinforced by the famous film Scott of the Antarctic. However, historians now think that this was a rather romantic view of someone with the same flaws as the rest of us. Captain Scott clearly made several disastrous decisions, and was not the best leader. In attempting to find the south Pole in treacherous conditions, Scott and his men were clearly brave, braver than most of us will ever need to face, but they weren’t perfect.
This raises some questions for me, which relate to our faith – questions of perseverance and of failure, and these are big questions. What dies it mean to persevere? For how long must we persevere? What help do we get in our perseverance? What if we fail? These are big questions, but they cut right to the heart of what it means to be human. Our Bible readings today all have something to say about them.
In Deuteronomy we heard a message addressed to the Israelites who had been wandering in the wilderness for many years. They were near the Promised Land, but it was not yet the time to enter it. After many years of perseverance on their long and difficult journeying after escaping from Egypt, God told them that even thought they were nearly at the end they had to keep going even further. God also told them to be bold and strong, because he would not forget or forsake them. So, the message from Deuteronomy is that we need to persevere, and carry on persevering even when we think we’re at the destination, but that god will not forget us.
In his letter to the Colossian Christians Paul tells the church there that their strength comes from God, so that they can endure patiently, and that God has rescued them. So, the message from Colossae is that patient endurance is the order of the day, for which God supplies strength, and that god rescues his people.
In our reading from Luke’s gospel Jesus calms the storm, and in doing so clams the disciples, who are a bit worked up. We might not be on a boat in a storm, but there is the message God is with us even at dangerous times, even he seems to be asleep, and that God can always surprise.
So, the Bible tell us that God is with us, even if he seems not be, and can always surprise us, that he gives us the strength to endure whatever we need to; and that he will not forget us. We don’t have to face the things that Captain Scott and his fellow explorers faced, but these are still messages that we and our world need to hear.
I’m sure that Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce both feel they’ve had to endure a great deal, one way or another. We all know people who live with pain from relationships that broke down, though not everyone we know resorts to criminal activity because of that. God’s message to everyone with the pain of broken relationships is that God provides strength to go on, and God has not forgotten them.
In a week when same-sex marriage hit the headlines, those against or unsure have a had a great deal to bear, and those in favour feel there is much still to achieve. God’s message to all his people is that they are not forgotten or forsaken.
This week we learned that the bones under a Leicester car park were those of Richard III, lost hundreds of years ago. Whether you support the Tudor or the Plantagenet version of history, we can still be thankful that someone who died a grisly death none of us would wish can finally be laid to rest in a Christian burial.
And horse meat. I’m sure many of you who lived through rationing and austerity in the 1940s and 50s would have gladly eaten horsemeat had it been available. In this episode we’re reminded of the complexity of food production in our modern world, with food coming from all around the planet, in order to keep food prices artificially low. Let us remember those who don’t have enough to eat, and may they hear God’s message they are not forgotten, and that God’s strength to persevere is for them.
All we’ve seen and heard this week is a reminder that power, in all its various forms, comes with a heavy price and those who exercise have much to endure. May we pray for them, and may they know God’s strength to help them persevere, and that they are not forgotten by God.
Strength to endure as we persevere onwards, knowing that even if God seems to be asleep, God has not forgotten us is what the bible tells that God offers us. One hundred years ago today our ancestors learned that Captain Scott and his fellow explorers has not only failed to win the race to discover the South Pole, but that they had all died in the attempt. We all encounter things in our lives for which we need the strength that comes from God, we all feel that, at times, in some ways, we fail, although not usually as publicly, and with such disastrous consequences, as Captain Scott and his fellow explorers. What the Bible tells us is that whatever might happen to us, wherever we might find ourselves, God offers us his strength to persevere; that he is with us, even at the most dangerous times; that he has not forgotten us – he is faithful to us.