The meeting of President Trump & Chairman Kim

By The Rt Revd Graham James - 13 June 2018
A picture of President Trump and Chairman Kim shaking hands
I have to admit that I’m a bit of a news junkie so I followed the events in Singapore with fascination. Summits of this kind are a gift to a televisual age, and both President Trump and Chairman Kim are not exactly camera shy. Some summits do change the political weather. The meeting between President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Iceland in 1986 took place when fears of a nuclear war ran high. That encounter signalled a change of tone and mood, even if the later break-up of the Soviet Union was unexpected at the time.

If the joint communique yesterday was vague on detail the whole event could still turn out to be a game changer for the Korean Peninsula and the wider world. We just don’t know yet.

It’s only hindsight that enables us to identify which events are truly significant. And things which do turn out to change the world sometimes go initially unreported.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has received well-deserved recognition for inventing the World Wide Web, but it hardly got front page billing when he did so in 1989. Yet the Web has changed the world more than many summits. Perhaps even Sir Tim himself did not anticipate quite what would flow from it.

Further back in history no one at the time reported James Watt watching a kettle boil or pondering the power of steam. Yet that would fuel an industrial revolution.

A gradual recognition of the cosmic significance of what may have seemed small scale lies at the heart of many religions too. A country preacher in Galilee drew local attention but was soon dispatched as subversive when he came to Jerusalem. The crucifixion of Jesus wasn’t major news 2,000 years ago. Crucifixions of trouble-makers were commonplace. Most people in Jerusalem probably took little notice and simply got on with their lives. Yet the long term impact on the world of that crucifixion has been immense.

In one of his parables Jesus spoke about the mustard seed as the smallest of all seeds. Yet, he said, it grows into the largest of all plants, so large that the birds can come and seek shade in its leaves. He was speaking of the growth of the Kingdom of God from small beginnings. It’s salutary for a news junkie like me to realise some very significant mustard seeds may have been planted yesterday and gone unreported. Even so I do hope the summit in Singapore may prove to be a mustard seed of peace for our world.

This blog is an adapted transcript from a BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day, broadcast on Wednesday 13 June 2018 by The Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich. To listen to and read more Thought for the Day features, please visit the BBC website. Image credit: US Embassy.

Leave a comment