Friday, 22 October 2010

Odd Shoes for Austerity

My reflections with Roy Noble on BBC Radio Wales this week began with the very true story of my trip up North the other week. I had to go to Newcastle for a meeting It meant catching a flight from Bristol at seven in the morning. Of course that meant being there by six, which involved leaving Cardiff by 5 so the alarm was set for half past four. Being considerate I got dressed in the spare room so as not to wake my wife, but I had forgotten to leave out some shoes. So I crept back into our room and under the cover of darkness slipped on my trainers and made my way down stairs.

Ninety minutes later I was in the queue at Bristol Airport. Security was tight. Laptops out of the bag, belts removed from trousers and shoes off, if you please. And that’s when I realised my mistake: in the darkness I had managed to put on two very different shoes.

Suddenly I felt sure that everyone was laughing at the fool with the odd footwear. I tried to hide my feet beneath my bag but even though my mistake seemed glaringly obvious to me no-one said anything … not even the security guard who then asked me to remove both trainers. On the way back people were too preoccupied with talking into their mobiles to notice what was wrong with me or no-one thought it was their place to mention it.

That’s an amusing story for the pub but of course it’s trivial when compared with all that goes wrong in the world, particularly the economic cuts that have been announced this week. But my escapade reminded me that as austerity begins to really bite there will be much that may go seriously wrong in the lives of those around us. And whatever the politics involved in all this, the harsh reality will be that jobs will go, bills will lie unpaid, homes may go without heat and tables will be empty of food.

And the temptation for many will be to say or do nothing. Some of us who really need the help will be too embarrassed to say anything about what has gone so wrong. We may try to cover it up even though it may be through little fault of our own. And people who are better off may be too busy with their lives to see what has gone wrong for others, or feel it’s not their place to do anything about it.

The world’s religions have always argued that we should care for the weak and the vulnerable in our midst. The Psalms speak of God as father of the fatherless, defender of the widows. Jesus spoke of bringing good news to the poor. On a day that announces so many economic difficulties we should remember that the quality of our lives in these times of austerity will be measured not by how we survive but on how we care for one another.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Nice rocks?

Just can't help thinking that the President of Chile must have had some other pressies already wrapped before he came to the UK giving everyone rocks from the ill fated mine. Can't help thinking the Queen and the Primeminister are wishing it had been a diamond mine.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Imagine all the people?

When in October 1971 John Lennon released his most popular solo album 'Imagine' the single of the same name quickly became his signature song and remains an enduring plea for a world of harmony and peace. In the chorus Lennon assumes that people will say he’s a dreamer and perhaps he is quite right, because it’s hard to imagine a world where there’s no countries or possessions.
But in Lennon’s dream there is no place for religion either. This is an understandable perspective when we look at the harm brought to the world by men and women acting in the name of religion. Wars have been fought, truth has been suppressed, ideas of Heaven and Hell have been used to manipulate social control: all this and worse may have been perpetrated by those who profess belief in God.

But to my mind religion, or better, faith in God, has also been a force for good in the world because believers could imagine a better way of living than that which they saw around them. When the ancient prophets spoke of a time when the wolf and the lamb would lie down together they were encouraging people to imagine just that: and to live with one another as if such alternative realities were actually possible. When Jesus brought all their hopes to life, bringing good news to the poor, the sick and the oppressed, it was not just a dream he had, the reality of what he did so upset the Powers that Be that they killed him for it. Some things are still worth dying for, John.

So while I want to live with no need of greed or hunger

With all the people sharing all the world as one

if it is to happen then I must not just dream about it

I must act and live not out of fear but in love

And maybe you will join me

Dear God help us to imagine a world

Where we do on earth

as it is done in heaven

And help us to believe

that such a world can be here today


Thursday, 7 October 2010

Prayer is like a telephone ... or not

Another prayer from Radio 4 this week

On my desk is a cartoon of a man talking on his mobile telephone.

The caption reads:

I am just calling to make sure you got my e-mail following the letter I faxed this morning.’

For many of us calls like that will be all too familiar. Technology seems to drive our life at a pace that few people want but equally now we are communicating with such momentum that hardly anyone can resist or stop it. And amidst all this is a myriad of changing social protocols.

We wonder how long it is reasonable to wait for an email to be answered

If it is appropriate to text a partner telling them the relationship is over

And should we accept our boss’s invitation to be a friend on a social network site

In an age where we assume an eager audience is instantly interested with our status updates, where seemingly every emotional response to life is a matter of public record, and others are encouraged to add their comment, are there changing protocols on prayer?

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he began by telling them to go into their room and close the door and pray in private … for God who sees what is done in secret would then reward them. No-one else need know what they told their maker or what their Creator had said to them. Anticipating our lack of patience in such an endeavour, he quickly followed the words of the Lord’s Prayer with a parable on persistence … assuring us that if we ask, then it will be given and if we seek then we shall find.

Jesus does not confirm a timescale for heaven’s answer

Nor indeed the method by which it may be communicated

But he leaves us with the promise - that if we knock upon his door then it will be opened for us.

Dear God

In this fast moving world of ours

Give us patience and persistence in our prayers

Open our hearts that we may hear you clearly speak today.


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Happy (belated) Birthday Charlie Brown

Sorry the blog has been silent for so long ... lots of interesting things have been happening, going to worship with the Pope in Westminster Abbey, Stuart Murray and Roy Searle on Celts, Anabaptists and New Monasticism, and flying to Newcastle with odd shoes on, but so often away from my computer that i've not blogged them later. Some of this will out in due course no doubt. Anyway if you are up early or like the radio 4 shipping forecast then you will have heard these prayers for the day already ... I am doing this week's prayers ... so playing catch up a bit ... here's the one from 2nd Oct.

Today is the 60th birthday of Peanuts, the celebrated cartoon strip penned for so many years by Charles Schultz.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy may be the stars, but I love an episode that featured two other characters, Lucy and Linus.

They were talking about a baby called Sally.

She is pictured crawling slowly round the room and Lucy, frustrated at the baby’s lack of progress, asks ‘When will Sally start walking?

Linus replies,‘Let her crawl;

once you’ve started walking

you’re committed for a lifetime.’

There are not many things that people will commit to for a life time now.

We might give a year or two to this hobby or that job,

we may devote time to living in a certain city

or even to a particular religion,

but so much these days seems subject to the

possibility of moving on to something else.

We are often reluctant to dedicate ourselves like this because we fear if we do so

then we might be loosing out on something else

maybe something better.

But this is exactly what is needed if we are to make a difference in the world ...

if we are to see any real change in ourselves.

Many people liked Jesus when it was easy and exciting, but he needed disciples who would still be loyal when things got tough. When a would-be disciple asked to go and say good-bye to his family before signing up for good, Jesus told him straight: No-one who starts following me and then looks back is ready for where I am going.

Tough words, I know, But in a world of seemingly infinite choices, we need the courage to make tough decisions and know that we will remain steadfast for a life time.

Dear God, all of us are tempted to look over our shoulder

To wonder with regret at what might have been

Give us the courage today

To start walking towards the future you have prepared for us

Help us to be faithful for the life-time of that journey. Amen.