Proper 19

11th September 2022

Reflection 

The Church world wide is currently marking Creation-tide, and this first reading from Jeremiah could not be more pertinent. It sounds like prophecy for us today warning us of the impending climate crisis and decrying our foolishness in not taking action to ch age the way we behave.

Today’s gospel has two very familiar stories, that of The Lost Sheep and of The Lost Coin. (It was lucky that the woman chose to clean her house with a broom and not a vacuum cleaner!)

In the parables, both protagonists  make a concerted effort to find what they have lost and don’t give up until they are successful. Whilst the parables are told in response to criticism that Jesus eats with sinners, there is no suggestion that the lost sheep or the lost coin are in any way different from the other of their ilk. This perhaps reminds us that what ever we think of ourselves, we are all at heart the same, we are all sinners. God wants to save us all. God wants everything and everyone to be included in the Kingdom. If this is God’s commitment, then what is our reciprocal commitment to the everyone and everything of this earth? 

Each week we assert our belief that God is the creator of earth as well as heaven, yet humanity is weekly destroying what God has made. So far the world has seen five mass extinctions in which a high proportion of the earth’s biodiversity has been wiped out. The last such occurred 65.5 million years ago in which the dinosaurs became extinct. Scientists now reckon that we are on track for a 6th mass extinction which unlike the others, will be manmade. Currently 1 million species are facing extinction because of human activity. 

1 in 3 species of trees are facing extinction, including our native ash tree. According to a report by Kew Gardens in 2020,  two fifths of all plants face extinction (up on one in five in 2016). Researchers fear that we may be losing plant species more quickly than science can find, name and study them. Here in the UK one in ten wildlife species are facing extinction, including Scottish wild cats, pine martens, sky larks, natterjack toads and numerous moths, butterflies and beetles. 

Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. There are ongoing projects that show that conservation and reintroduction projects can help restore vulnerable populations. Creating wildlife corridors and joining together existing protected sites does boost biodiversity. Farming less intensively and with consideration for wildlife does help. Rewilding can amazing lead to the re-emerging of forgotten or lost ecosystems. The need for protection and conservation doesn’t just include land but the oceans too. Currently negotiations are underway – although they are struggling – to create a treaty that would protect 30% of the oceans and their biomass by 2030. Later this year there will be two more  COPs – global conferences, one focussed on containing the climate crisis, and one focusing on biodiversity. 

God’s concern is for everything and everyone, and our concern should be likewise. How are we responding to the plight of people in Pakistan whose homes and livelihoods have been washed away? How do respond to the plight of people likewise affected in Uganda, South Sudan, Senegal and Sierra Leone where exceptionally heavy seasonal rain has caused flooding? How do we respond to the plight of millions faced with hunger and starvation as the Horn of Africa enters its fifth year of drought? How do we respond to the pleas for assistance from small island states in the Pacific where rising sea levels are a major threat for where the highest land is only 2m above sea level?

How can we as Christians stand by and let these things happen unremarked upon and with no intervention? Charities and NGOs do provide some support and Christian Aid is currently launching a new drive to tackle climate injustice. Governments can – and should – be making a difference but can be slow and lacking in generosity. Many Christians are making a difference in their local areas, supporting work with food banks, supporting people faced with homelessness, and this winter we may see help being provided to create warm spaces. 

I think the message of Jesus’s parable is that whatever efforts we do make to go safeguard and support those at risk, those who are vulnerable and those who are lost, we need to do so with persistence. We need to be able to carry on protecting biodiversity, tackling climate change and reducing our carbon footprint, giving generously to those in need, lobbying governments to live up to expectation, volunteering  or however it is we pursue ways of bringing God’s rule into play here on earth. But equally, as in the parable, we need to celebrate each success we achieve and invite others to share in that celebrating. We are in this together, both us and God and all the heavenly angels!

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse– a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them.

“For my people are foolish,
they do not know me;

they are stupid children,
they have no understanding.

They are skilled in doing evil,
but do not know how to do good.”

I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.

I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.

I looked, and lo, there was no one at all,
and all the birds of the air had fled.

I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.

Because of this the earth shall mourn,
and the heavens above grow black;

for I have spoken, I have purposed;
I have not relented nor will I turn back.

Psalm 14

1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” *
All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;
there is none who does any good.

2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon us all, *
to see if there is any who is wise,
if there is one who seeks after God.

3 Every one has proved faithless;
all alike have turned bad; *
there is none who does good; no, not one.

4 Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers *
who eat up my people like bread
and do not call upon the Lord?

5 See how they tremble with fear, *
because God is in the company of the righteous.

6 Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted, *
but the Lord is their refuge.

7 Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come out of Zion! *
when the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.

1 Timothy 1:12-17

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners– of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 15:1-10

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Counting on …day 286

22nd August 2022

The biggest source of carbon dioxide that is accelerating the climate crisis are fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency has calculated that if we are to keep the rise in global temperatures within a safe threshold, we cannot open up or expand anymore fossil fuel sites. Instead we need to be replacing fossil fuel energy with renewable energy. It is against this background that so many people are horrified that the UK Government is allowing new gas fields to be developed in the North Sea – specifically the Jackdaw field. This week you can join the concerted campaign to stop this happening.

Sign the petition – https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/tell-the-uk-government-to-stop-the-jackdaw-gas-field/?link_id=3&can_id=e902af66de593980c250d076f315d318&source=email-uk-announces-new-oil-gas-drilling&email_referrer=&email_subject=its-time-to-stopjackdaw

And/ or email your MP. 

Proper 16

21st August 2022

(The readings follow on after the reflection)

Reflection 

Both the psalm and the passage from Jeremiah concur: God is our creator, the source of being and of our ongoing existence from the beginning. Throughout life God is present and is our sustainer, our rock and stronghold, our hope – and the one who calls us to act. The writer of Hebrews describes the otherness of God – but this is not an otherness that is fearsome and terrifying. Rather it is an otherness reflected in joyful festivities and community and new beginnings and the saving grace of Jesus. Ours is a God who offers hope and salvation!

The passage from Hebrews presents us with a God who can and will transform the world. And in the gospel, we see Jesus doing just that. He transform the life of the woman with a deformed back (and presumably changes too the life of her family) and he transforms the local people’s understanding of God’s law, showing them a different way of interpreting the law and understanding the nature of the world God has in mind.

From our first reading comes the word of the Lord saying “ pluck up and to pull down, destroy and  overthrow, build and plant”. And that is what Jesus does in the gospel reading. He ‘plucks up and pulls down’ the traditional understanding of the law and ‘builds and plants’ something new and life enhancing in its place. Jeremiah, to whom the Lord had been speaking, was given the  hard task of taking that message to the people of Judah. Jeremiah knew that the people had strayed away from correctly understanding and living according to God’s word. He knew that if they continued this way of living that they would be overrun by one of the competing superpowers that then ruled the world. Jeremiah was nevertheless convinced that whatever evil befell God’s people, there would be a time of renewal and restoration – of ‘building and planting’ according to God’s will. 

Sadly Jeremiah did not see this renewal in his own life time,  but he believed that it would happen. Later in the book, it tells how Jeremiah bought some land in Jerusalem – even though the city was about to be overrun by the invading force of the Assyrian army – to show his confidence that there would be a future for God’s people in that city. Jeremiah showed the kind of faith we heard of a few weeks ago in the Letter to the Hebrews – ‘faith [that] is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’.

 Our hope is that the world will withstand the worst ravages of the climate crisis, and be restored –  be re-built and planted – as intended by God. To demonstrate our faith in this is to actively live as if that future were happening now. We are called to,show how the world could, and can, be transformed. The way we live should be an example of sustainable living. The way we live should demonstrate care for creation, care for wildlife and live stock (including the welfare of donkeys and oxen), and care for our fellow humans especially those whose lives are stunted by the complaints – the ills – of our current age. Those affected by drought and wildfires, by floods and the denuding of the soil. Those affected by disease and war. Those affected by poverty and discrimination. Those affected by rising sea levels and receding rivers.

That is what groups such as Christian Climate Action and Christian Aid are campaigning for. It is what groups like Toilet Twinning and Practical Action are working for on the ground. It is what A Rocha does in enabling Christians to be environmentally aware.
This is what we as Christian communities – churches – can be embracing and supporting. We need to show the confidence that Jesus showed in healing the woman – doing what is right, regardless of what others may be saying, regardless of convention says, because doing what is right is what God wants. We need to show confidence in demonstrating how the world God gave us can be healed.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

The word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,

says the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,

“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”

Psalm 71:1-6

1 In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; *
let me never be ashamed.

2 In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free; *
incline your ear to me and save me.

3 Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; *
you are my crag and my stronghold.

4 Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, *
from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

5 For you are my hope, O Lord God, *
my confidence since I was young.

6 I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
from my mother’s womb you have been my strength; *
my praise shall be always of you.

Hebrews 12:18-29

You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. (For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken– that is, created things– so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

Luke 13:10-17

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Proper 14

– 7th August 2022

Reflection:

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” says the writer of Hebrews. Whilst in the Gospel Jesus says “‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

What are ‘things hoped for … things not seen’? Something that will happen or be present or exist in the future? Something good, something desirable? Something that fulfils our dreams? The fulfilment of our heart’s desire?

For me, the things hoped for would be an end of the climate crisis. A rapid replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy. A cooperative approach by all governments, nations and businesses to take action to half carbon emissions by 2030 and zero them by 2050.  A compassionate and neighbourly sharing of resources – especially finance – to ensure all communities can cope with the climate change that is already built into our future. A concerted undertaking by all parties to use nature friendly solutions, to protect and enhance biodiversity across the planet. I would be hoping for the churches to be taking a significant lead in framing this hope and galvanising all parties into action. And yes from where I am now, this is a hope for something as yet unseen. 

So do I have faith, faith that these are not empty hopes? I am really not sure. It is difficult to have such hope, such faith, when all around the problems of the climate crisis are growing and the actions being taken, diminishing. Here in the UK the current exceptionally hot and dry summer is not leading to urgent action to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, nor with action to shade and insulate buildings. Instead new permits are being handed out for the further expansion of oil and gas fields. And  money is to be paid to customers to ease for a while the increasingly expensive fuel bills – and perversely that money will maintain both the high prices and the oil companies’ profits. 

The writer of Hebrews refers us to Abraham as an example of someone who lived by faith, having very little in the way of knowing what was the hope that lay ahead. Abraham had faithfully left his family and his home country. He had travelled over mountains and through deserts, faced hunger and the threat of starvation. He had built up wealth for future generations even though he lacked a son. He had continued to pray and to worship an unseen God, a God who offered him as blue print the image that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, or as numerous as the grains of sand on the beach – in other words a vision that was too big to comprehend! Abraham had faith and Abraham kept walking along the path that lay before him, living as if that future would happen.

So maybe that is what my faith has to look like – and maybe yours too. Walking and living as if the future God promises – the future where life on earth is lived as it is in heaven – will happen. Living as is necessary for the climate crisis to be tackled. Living as is necessary for resources to be shared freely and fairly. Living as is necessary for biodiversity to be replenished. Living as is necessary for the church to give the lead. 

I shall continue to minimise by carbon footprint. I shall continue to give time and money to support those whose resources are lacking. I shall continue to live gently on the earth, protecting and enhancing the natural environment. I shall continue to speak out and challenge the church to lead the way forwards to God’s kingdom on earth. 

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Hear the word of the Lord,
   you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
   you people of Gomorrah!
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
   says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt-offerings of rams
   and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
   or of lambs, or of goats. 


When you come to appear before me,
   who asked this from your hand?
   Trample my courts no more;
bringing offerings is futile;
   incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—
   I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
Your new moons and your appointed festivals
   my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
   I am weary of bearing them.
When you stretch out your hands,
   I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
   I will not listen;
   your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
   remove the evil of your doings
   from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
   learn to do good;
seek justice,
   rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
   plead for the widow. 

Come now, let us argue it out,
   says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
   they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
   they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
   you shall eat the good of the land;
but if you refuse and rebel,
   you shall be devoured by the sword;
   for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Psalm 50: 1-8, 23, 24

The mighty one, God the Lord,
   speaks and summons the earth
   from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
   God shines forth. 


3 Our God comes and does not keep silence,
   before him is a devouring fire,
   and a mighty tempest all around him.
4 He calls to the heavens above
   and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 ‘Gather to me my faithful ones,
   who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!’
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
   for God himself is judge.
          Selah 


7 ‘Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
   O Israel, I will testify against you.
   I am God, your God.
8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
   your burnt-offerings are continually before me. 

‘Mark this, then, you who forget God,
   or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honour me;
   to those who go the right way
   I will show the salvation of God.’

Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, ‘as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.’

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Luke 12: 32-40

‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

The Green Tau: issue 46

System Change?

4th August 2022

Steam Punk is based on the scenario of an alternative history in which steam power, steam engines and hand cranked machines reigned supreme, preventing the development of electrical power and the petrol engine. Might there be scope for Cycle Punk, an alternative history in which peddle power dominates with pedal powered kettles and mobile phones as well as the straightforward two wheel mode of transport?

The way economies and societies work -a product of convenience, economies of scale and inertia – is such that a preferred system will prevail whether that is the energy system, transport system, voting system, or  communications system. The systems or products that are not adopted are not necessarily a worse choice, just different as was the case between VHS and Betamax for video recorders. But once a system is established it is hard to change, because everything is geared to it, business and society have bought into it, lifestyles are built around it, and investment perpetuates it as the safe bet.

In the UK we have favoured a transport system based on private cars over one based on public cars, buses and trains. Our infrastructure favours the former. Our lifestyles have been shaped by the former. Our businesses are geared to the former. Our investment is predicated on its continuation. To change the system would need radical change in all these areas. 

Our energy system is based on the use of cheap fossil fuels. Our agricultural system is based on the production of cheap food, especially cheap animal products. Our manufacturing system is based in the use of cheap labour – as is our hospitality sector. Our investment system on the other hand is based on maximising profits for the few. 

The size and scale of such systems prevent us from seeing or experiencing anything different. Their market share precludes new entrants with alternative ideas. The systems prevent the use of better, more appropriate technologies.

In the UK fuel bills are rising out of all proportion to the cost of production, yet swopping to an alternative system seems nigh impossible. For people struggling financially, there is no spare cash to replace a gas boiler with a heat pump. There is no spare cash to install double glazing and reduce dependency on central heating. There is no comprehensive public transport network to remove reliance on the private car. There is insufficient investment in alternative energy and the odds are increasingly stacked against such investments as the return on fossil fuel investment sky rockets as fuel prices – but not costs – continue to rise.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo drawing on the power of the River Congo has the capacity to generate 100,00MW of hydro electric power compared with its existing capacity of 2792MW (https://www.usaid.gov/powerafrica/democratic-republic-congo). Yet this requires investment. The DRC is a nation struggling to meet the needs of its people, and the government is currently auctioning fossil fuel rights to explore and extract oil from under its rainforests, a move that will generate money now rather than longer term pay back of hydro power.

Africa as a whole has great potential for the generation of solar power, and which if provided via small scale projects can provide electricity to areas far removed from the grid. Yet whilst solar power has still to be developed in countries such as Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria and Tanzania (https://commodityinside.com/reports/solar-energy-market-in-africa/) the big oil companies are developing new oil and gas fields in Angola, South Africa, Ghana, Gabon, Egypt, Namibia and Kenya. 

Understanding that we are to a greater or lesser extent trapped in a system lets us be realistic about our situation, our predicament. It also helps us understand what will be needed to bring about change. 

Changes in government policy to favour the new system and tax changes and rules  to discourage the old.

Changes in global policies as advocated by the World Bank, the UN etc.

Changes in investment strategies and business plans.

Developments in new technology.

Changes in public opinion that will support all these. 

This is where we come in. We can, even in small ways, be the trigger or the irritant that initiates and propels change. We can make a difference – by talking with friends and neighbours, by loving as if we were already part of the new system, by campaigning, by pressing businesses and politicians, by voting with our money, by investing and by pestering those institutions investing on our behalf, by supporting charities, by standing up. As Christians we are well suited to this. We have that calling to be different, to be countercultural, to be willing to go the extra mile, to act for the wellbeing of the other.

The global system of slavery did come to an end when public opinion had changed. They did it then. We can do it now. 

Counting on …day 266 

4th August 2022

It is surprising that more cafes don’t serve vegan food. Many cakes and biscuits can as easily be made with margerine as with butter and would instantly become vegan – flapjack and Anzac biscuits for example.  And egg is an easily replaces ingredient in brownies and tray bakes. It maybe the perception that people might avoid foods labelled vegan but research shows that the more vegan options available, the more people will choose vegan items! So make a point of asking for vegan food when in cafés and restaurants and ease the change: we will all benefit!

Proper 12

24th July 2022

Reflection (and readings below)

I am still shocked when I hear of climate activists who risk sitting in roads to highlight the emergency, or sit on oil tankers to prevent them moving, or blockade Amazon warehouses because of their casual treatment of workers, or break the glass doors of banks that support the fossil fuel industry, or of news agencies which obscure the truth. I am heart broken when I hear of them being arrested and imprisoned. Yet I see that they are following in the footsteps of the prophets of old, standing up against injustice, speaking truth to authority, and doing so in deeds just as much as in words. 

How can we not be shocked by today’s reading from Hosea. What bravery and self abasement did it take for Hosea to go and find and marry a prostitute? And not even a ‘reformed’ prostitute. Read carefully and you will notice that the first child Jezreel is certainly Hosea’s son, but are the next two children? And what of Gomer? Are we not shocked that she should be in such a position that prostitution is a viable and acceptable way of making a living? We wonder what choices she had had in life.

Through this lived narrative, God is pointing out to the people that they have behaved like a prostitute. They have not been faithful to God but have sought out other bodies to satisfy their needs and give them direction, to worship and imitate. They have spurned integrity and uprightness to follow whims and fancies, to chase after the illusions of wealth and happiness. God pulls no punches as to the severity of the consequences of their choices.

Whilst the passage from Hosea tells us of humanity’s inclination to stray away from God and from God’s way, the letter to the Colossians describes human lives rooted deep in God, built up and bound in place by a whole hearted faith in God through Jesus Christ, that allows for no deviation from the ways of God. It is a way of life that makes one fully alive! This sounds so amazing, I puzzle that we find it so difficult to live out in our own lives and to share with others – but I know that we do struggle. 

Last Saturday I took part in a Christian Aid event called Talking Climate Justice. During the two plus hours of talk,  questions and conversation, we focused on two issues: the climate crisis and climate justice. Both are integral to the Christian calling: the climate crisis because we humans have caused what is damaging the world God created, and climate justice because the effects of the crisis are disproportionately affecting those who contributed least to it, and because the distribution of resources is such that these same people have a disproportionately small share and are – financially – ill equipped to cope with the crisis. As those called to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbour as ourself, we are failing big time. We are like the people Hosea is addressing, whereas we want to be like the people Paul is addressing! How do we achieve the turn around we desire, both for the climate and for our neighbours across the globe?

The gospel gives us the answer: prayer and action. The Lord’s Prayer invites both. We are to hallow God, to declare God’s holiness in prayer. We are to seek God’s kingdom, to live according to that regime. We are to pray everyday for what we need – and be satisfied. We are to both seek forgiveness, and forgive, and make good where we are indebted. We are to ask, to search and to knock. When we knock, let us knock on the doors of businesses and institutions, corporations and governments. Let us keeping on knocking until they listen, until they open their doors to change and restitution. And when people demand change of us, we too must be willing to turn our lives round, binding them to the ways of God.

Hosea 1:2-10

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

And the Lord said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”

She conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them. But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen.”

When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God.”

Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

Psalm 85

1 You have been gracious to your land, O Lord, *
you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.

2 You have forgiven the iniquity of your people *
and blotted out all their sins.

3 You have withdrawn all your fury *
and turned yourself from your wrathful indignation.

4 Restore us then, O God our Saviour; *
let your anger depart from us.

5 Will you be displeased with us for ever? *
will you prolong your anger from age to age?

6 Will you not give us life again, *
that your people may rejoice in you?

7 Show us your mercy, O Lord, *
and grant us your salvation.

8 I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, *
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, *
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, *
and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him, *
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Colossians 2:6-15

As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

Luke 11:1-13

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, `Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 Counting on … day 252

21st July 2022

For those of us with outdoor spaces and gardens, there is much we can do to help support biodiversity. Like us, wildlife too needs help to cope with the extremes of weather – see the link below. 

I have also noticed many shops and houses putting out bowls of water for passing dogs.

The Green Tau: issue 44

An addendum to Sunday’s reflection

On Sunday (17th July) with a focus on the environment, we looked at the plight of five creatures threatened by our human lifestyle choices. And it is not just these creatures whose futures are threatened but ours too as we all part of one interconnected ecosystem.

What action can we take to change these prospects?

“Orang-utans live in great tropical forests. They depend upon the forests for food and shelter, as a well as a  place to live and to play. But the forests where they live are being chopped down and cleared away to make space for acres and acres of palm oil plantations to make lipsticks and margarine, shampoo and pet food, sunscreen and bio diesel. When the forests go, the orang-utans have no where else to live. It seems as if we are saying to the orang-utans ‘Go away you don’t belong here’.”

By carefully choosing what we do and don’t buy we can reduce the pressure on forests such as those where orang-utans live. We can avoid products that use palm oil or we can seek out producers who follow a code of conduct that requires them to protect indigenous wild life and farming communities.

It takes a bit of effort but research via the internet and especially using web sites created by ethical and environmental groups such as The Ethical Consumer and the Fair Trade movement can gives us the information we need to make better choices. We may conclude that some of things we have been buying are not really essential and that buying less is another way of taking action. We can also investigate the sourcing of other crops such as cocoa, sugar cane and soya which can be equally detrimental to the environment. NB the vast expansion of soya beans as a crop goes not to create soya milk, but as fodder for the world’s escalating meat farms.

“Polar bears live in the Arctic where they go hunting across the ice. They dive into cracks and holes in the ice to catch fish and seals. But climate change is making the world hotter and the ice is melting. Without the ice the polar bears cannot hunt fish and seals. Instead they and their cubs starve. It seems as if we are saying to the polar bears, ‘If you can’t cope with climate change and melting ice caps, then we don’t need you.’”

“Sand martins spend the winters in Africa and the summers in Europe. In the spring they fly thousands of miles across the Sahara to Britain and in the autumn they fly the same thousands of miles back. But climate change is making the world hotter and when they fly over the Sahara Desert, the air is so hot that many martins simply cannot cope and they fall to the ground. It seems as if we are saying to the sand martin ‘If you can’t cope with climate change, then there’s no place here for you any more.’”

The climate crisis is rapidly increasing and is causing and exacerbating many other problems. We can each take action by changing our lifestyle to reduce our carbon footprint. There are many books and web sites on ways and means. The principal areas of change we can make in our individual lives are in Transport: not flying, rescuing significantly our dependence on cars and instead using public transport, cycling and walking. 

Food: eating locally produced, seasonal, organic food, and replacing meat with plant based meals

Heat and electricity: reducing demand by insulating our homes (which also helps keep them cool in the summer) and turning down the thermostat, using renewal sources of energy,  reducing the frequency with which we wash ourselves and our clothes, and reducing our dependence on so many high energy consuming appliances

Consumption: the things we buy and consume all have a carbon footprint. We can consume less including  less packaging, we can repair and reuse what we do have, when we do buy new we can seek out things that are ecologically and ethically made, and we can make sure that everything is recycled at the end of its lifecycle.

But we won’t be able to make the necessary reduction in carbon emissions on our own. We are locked into systems that make it impossible – rail travel  is made more expensive than air travel through taxation, regions outside London and especially rural areas are inadequately provided with public transport, people’s incomes are often too low to allow for investment in insulation and home improvements that would reduce energy costs, large fossil fuel companies across the globe continue receive tax subsidies, manufacturers are not required to pay for the cost of collecting and recycling their products, the true  value of nature is not included in investment decisions, our pensions fund  not only fossil fuel investment but also the destruction of forests for palm oil and soya crops … the list goes on. We need to engage with and support environmental groups that call for system change.

“Around the world in different oceans live whales. Whales get caught up in fishing tackle and crashed into by shipping. They are disoriented by noise from oil exploration. Every year fewer and fewer whales are born. It is as if we are saying to the whales, ‘Go away, we don’t need you’.”

But we do need whales! They are amazing creatures. In the oceans there tiny tiny things called phytoplankton that, like leaves on trees, convert carbon dioxide and sunlight into oxygen and energy. And phytoplankton provide food for slightly bigger plankton and the plankton provides food for all manner of other sea creatures – including whales. But there is one thing that phytoplankton needs and that is iron. And do you know where that iron comes from? Whale poo! If oceans are to remain healthy with phytoplankton providing oxygen and energy for plankton and seaweed, and  fish and other sea animals, then we need  whales.”

“What about bees? Bees live in lots of different parts of the world feeding on nectar from plants. But we have been getting rid of wild plants and hedgerows, and spraying fields with herbicides so that there is not enough food for the bees. And we have been spraying crops with pesticides that kill not just the ‘pests’ but the bees too. Every year there are fewer and fewer bees. It is as if we are saying to the bee, ‘Go away, we don’t need you.’ 

But we do need bees. Without bees to fertilise crops we won’t have apples and pears, or strawberries and cherries, or figs and kiwi fruits, or almonds, avocados, mangos …. the list goes on and on.”

The loss of biodiversity is immense and accelerating. We can support biodiversity locally by the way we use our gardens, growing wild life friendly plants, providing food and water  for birds and insects, by avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides and peat.  We can help by supporting local and international organisations that protect and conserve biodiversity. And as above, we can use our spending money to influence change.

Saving the environment is a numbers game, so talk about the actions you take with friends and family, with shopkeepers and suppliers, with local councillors and MPs, and encourage them to take action too.

Environment Sunday 

17th July 2022

Our church is dedicating this Sunday to the Environment as well as holding baptisms. 

Readings 1 Corinthians 12. 12-27 (The Message)

Each of us is now a part of Christ’s resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, transparent and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it

makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honour just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair? The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other

part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. You are Christ’s body— that’s who you are! You must never forget this.

Gospel Reading – John 4.13-14

Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’

Collect

Loving God, by whose great generosity we are granted the gift of life, so breathe on the spark of your presence within us, that we

 burn with a flame of love that banishes our fear, and lights up the world around us. We ask this in the name of Jesus, Light and life of the World. Amen.

Talk 

Baptism services remind us that we are all one community, one body in Christ. No one can say to someone else you don’t belong here, or go away, we don’t need you. We are all equal and important and necessary just as we are.

Today I want us to think about the world. 

Lots of people and lots of birds and animals, fish and insects and creepy crawlies and the list goes on –  live here.

What can you see?

A polar bear.   A sand martin.   An orang-utan.  A bee.   And a whale.

Orang-utans live in great tropical forests. They depend upon the forests for food and shelter, as a well as a  place to live and to play. But the forests where they live are being chopped down and cleared away to make space for acres and acres of palm oil plantations to make lipsticks and margerine, shampoo and pet food, sunscreen and bio diesel. When the forests go, the orang-utans have no where else to live. It seems as if we are saying to the orang-utans ‘Go away you don’t belong here’.

Polar bears live in the Arctic where they go hunting across the ice. They dive into cracks and holes in the ice to catch fish and seals. But climate change is making the world hotter and the ice is melting. Without the ice the polar bears cannot hung fish and seals. Instead they and their cubs starve. It seems as if we are saying to the polar bears, ‘If you can’t cope with climate change and melting ice caps, then we don’t need you.’

Sand martins spend the winters in Africa and the summers in Europe. In the spring they fly thousands of miles across the Sahara to Britain and in the autumn they fly the same thousands of miles back. But climate change is making the world hotter and when they fly over the Sahara Desert, the air is so hot that many martins simply cannot cope and they fall to the ground. It seems as if we are saying to the sand martin ‘If you can’t cope with climate change, then there’s no place here for you any more.’

Around the world in different oceans live whales. Whales get caught up in fishing tackle and crashed into by shipping. They are disoriented by noise from oil exploration. Every year fewer and fewer whales are born. It is as if we are saying to the whales, ‘Go away, we don’t need you’.  

But we do need whales! They are amazing creatures. In the oceans there tiny tiny things called phytoplankton that, like leaves on trees, convert carbon dioxide and sunlight into oxygen and energy. And phytoplankton provide food for slightly bigger plankton and the plankton provides food for all manner of other sea creatures – including whales. But there is one thing that phytoplankton needs and that is iron. And do you know where that iron comes from? Whale poo! If oceans are to remain healthy with phytoplankton providing oxygen and energy for plankton and seaweed, and  fish and other sea animals, then we need  whales.

What about bees? Bees live in lots of different parts of the world feeding on nectar from plants. But we have been getting rid of wild plants and hedgerows, and spraying fields with herbicides so that there is not enough food for the bees. And we have been spraying crops with pesticides that kill not just the ‘pests’ but the bees too. Every year there are fewer and fewer bees. It is as if we are saying to the bee, ‘Go away, we don’t need you.’ 

But we do need bees. Without bees to fertilise crops we won’t have apples and pears, or strawberries and cherries, or figs and kiwi fruits, or almonds, avocados, mangos …. the list goes on and on. 

If we are not going to say to bees and whales, to orang-utans and polar bears, to sand martins and to so many other amazing creatures – we don’t need you, you’re not part of our world, then we have to change the way we live. We are one body, we are one world.

Prayers

Take a look at your left foot. Think about people who cannot move freely, perhaps because of illness or disability; perhaps because of imprisonment; perhaps because they are women. Think too of animals that cannot move freely. May they be treated with compassion. May we be agents of change.

Lord in your loving kindness:

Hear our prayer. 

Now look at your other foot. Think about people who are having to flee from danger: from war and fighting,  from oppression and prejudice, from poverty, from floods , from wild fires, and from hunger. Think too of wildlife that is being forced out of its natural habitat. May they be protected and welcomed. May we be agents of change.

Lord in your loving kindness:

Hear our prayer. 

Now look at your hands. Think about people who use their hands to stack supermarket shelves, sew clothes, pick fruit and vegetables – especially those in poor working conditions. Think about people who use their hands to care for others:  cleaners, nurses, care workers. Think of those who use their hands to care for the environment. May they all be treated fairly, may they be valued and supported. May we be agents of change.

Lord in your loving kindness:

Hear our prayer. 

Now think of your bottom. Think of times when it is easier to sit back and do nothing, times when it is easier not to stand up for those in need: people in our own country who have to rely on food banks; people  in North Africa facing hunger as wheat prices rise; seabird colonies facing extinction because of bird flu, the world as it struggles with the climate crisis. Give us courage to act for we are all body. May we be agents of change.

Lord in your loving kindness:

Hear our prayer. 

Now think of your heart: think of all those you love and all who love you. We pray for those in need of healing and comfort: Angela Robinson, Jeane Dunsford, Alban Clarke, Joy Clarke, Lawrence Bell-Wright

We remember those who died recently: Pat West, Iris Lofting, Isabel Howlett, Hazel Acus, Anne Lawry, Peter Rivett.

and those who have died in past years: David Brown, Derek Marshall

Unite us all in your love.

Lord in your loving kindness:

Hear our prayer. 

Lastly try and look at the end of your nose. Think of those things which are hard to see, those things we would rather not see, those situations we would rather overlook: poverty, injustice, homelessness, hate, prejudice. Give us wisdom to understand ourselves and the world in which we live and to tend to its needs. May we be agents of change.

Lord in your loving kindness:

Hear our prayer. 

Merciful creator and Father

 accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.