Hands up if you own one of these? (a GPS unit). If so, do you remember what life was like before you had one? I do. Painful. The low point for me came the day I got lost in Bedford. I had gone there for a meeting and forgot the location of the road. After a fruitless half an hour trying to find my way, I was ready to give up and drive home. Then James Hughes, the former curate, phoned. “Where are you” he said. “I don’t know” I replied.
“Let me help you” and he then proceeded to open up his computer which had street maps of England. Having identified the name of the road I was parked in and the name of the road I was heading for, he literally talked me there road by road, on my hands free phone, of course. That is what made me realize I needed a GPS. I never leave home without Sean Connery now – or at least a digitized version of Sean Connery’s voice. You know when you have arrived because he says “shaken not stirred”.
Do you know how GPS works? You turn it on and type in the post code. No, that is not what I mean. Do you know how it works? “When people talk about “a GPS,” they usually mean a GPS receiver. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is actually a constellation of 27 Earth-orbiting satellites (24 in operation and three extras in case one fails). The U.S. military developed and implemented this satellite network as a military navigation system, but soon opened it up to everybody else.
Last month in midtown Manhattan, time stood still – literally. After the US debt surpassed $10 trillion, the marquee-sized debt clock in Times Square, which has kept a running tally of the U.S. national debt for nearly 20 years, ran out of digits. Time magazine said, “For a nation already struggling with a bleak economic reality, it was a less-than-reassuring display” With the global slide in share prices this week, it has perhaps become a sign of how the entire world is struggling with the new economic reality. Something more than a change of President in two weeks time is going to be needed. We have got to learn to live and work together more collaboratively and today’s gospel story may give us some clues. Last week I was in Jordan with Church leaders addressing a different kind of crisis. The slow but progressive haemorrhaging of the indigenous Church. They are leaving the Middle East due to attacks by Islamists from Sudan to Iraq, from Afghanistan to Egypt. To flee or to emigrate has always been a natural response to economic necessity as much as religious oppression. And in the light of the last couple of weeks, if you work in the City, maybe you have felt like fleeing also. You may not have thought of emigrating to Australia but perhaps the thought of a simpler, slower lifestyle in the countryside, working on the land or with animals instead of people, is rather appealing.