Counting on ..day 186 

18th May 2022

This is Christian Aid week. The work Christian Aid supports includes projects to assist people affected by climate change and to make their communities more resilient. Their recent report Scorched Earth focuses on drought caused by global heating. Many large cities around the globe – from London to Cape Town, Phoenix to New Delhi – face running out of water. Whilst the problem is wide spread, the means for resolving it are not. “Cities in poorer countries are also far more vulnerable than those in richer countries as they have fewer resources to adapt to the water shortages. The lack of state funds and infrastructure makes it harder to import water and ensure it reaches those that need

it. Urban drought is yet another example of the injustice of climate change impacting most the people who have done least to cause it.” https://www.christianaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/2022-05/Scorched-Earth-2022.pdf 

Countries that have contributed least to the climate crisis are often the least well financed making the contribution we make all the more important. https://www.christianaid.org.uk/give/ways-to-donate

Sunday Reflection

Fifth Sunday of Easter: 15th May 2022

Acts 11:1-18

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticised him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, `Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, `By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, `What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, `Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, `John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Psalm 148

1 Hallelujah!
Praise the Lord from the heavens; *
praise him in the heights.

2 Praise him, all you angels of his; *
praise him, all his host.

3 Praise him, sun and moon; *
praise him, all you shining stars.

4 Praise him, heaven of heavens, *
and you waters above the heavens.

5 Let them praise the Name of the Lord; *
for he commanded, and they were created.

6 He made them stand fast for ever and ever; *
he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth, *
you sea-monsters and all deeps;

8 Fire and hail, snow and fog, *
tempestuous wind, doing his will;

9 Mountains and all hills, *
fruit trees and all cedars;

10 Wild beasts and all cattle, *
creeping things and winged birds;

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, *
princes and all rulers of the world;

12 Young men and maidens, *
old and young together.

13 Let them praise the Name of the Lord, *
for his Name only is exalted,
his splendour is over earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up strength for his people
and praise for all his loyal servants, *
the children of Israel, a people who are near him.
Hallelujah!

Revelation 21:1-6

I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”

John 13:31-35

At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Reflection 

The reading from Acts describes how Peter had to completely change his understanding of God and the world. All the principles and practices on which he had based his relationship with God, all that bound him as a member of the Jewish community, were being challenged. Perhaps one might even say, undermined. No longer was there a code that distinguished between what one should or should not eat – and by extension how one should shop, how and with whom one should dine; perhaps even who one should invite into your home. No longer was there exclusivity in being one of God’s people. No longer was there a them and us. 

And yet not everyone understood that this was God’s way. Not everyone understood that what God had achieved through Jesus Christ, the salvation that had been wrought, was for anyone and everyone with no restrictions. The challenge Peter is facing in this passage is not just that of coming to terms with the turning upside down of his religion, but also of having to explain this to his contemporaries –  most of whom did not see it the way he did. Did Peter feel perhaps as many of us feel about the climate crisis? Did he struggle to work out how he could explain to his contemporaries that everything was changing, that the rules were going to be different, that how people went about their daily lives was going to have to change, that sticking with the old ways, the traditional ways was not going to help? 

For the Christian climate activist the challenge is how to persuade people that the climate crisis is real and pressing, that we cannot continue with our old lifestyles and expect to cope, that we cannot ignore the plight of the vulnerable – those affected by rising food prices and or starvation, those affected by droughts and floods, wild fires and heat waves – and that we must make our voices heard when governments and big businesses pursue policies that increase their vulnerability. Like Peter, we have to find a way of winning over hearts and minds in persuading people to accept the new situation in which we find ourselves. We have to speak eloquently and calmly, yet with determination. 

If the reading from Acts is telling us that God is the God of both Jew and Gentile, then today’s psalm is telling us that God is the God not just of people but of all that lives and moves and – even – just exists in creation. We are all of God’s making, are all valued, and are all called to praise God. The reading from Revelation presents us with the hope of a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth will have passed away. Are we to expect this physical earth to be replaced with a new physical earth? Or is it that we are to expect the first way in which the earth existed will be replaced with a new way of doing things? Maybe as a hotel might be re-created or re-formed under a new management?Just as Peter was invited to see his old world of kosher and non-kosher practices as having passed away and replaced with a new world diversity and inclusivity? Is this new order not what climate activists are hoping for? A new earth in which all of creation is respected and cared for in ways which God desires?

‘Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’ says Jesus. We are called to follow Jesus’s example, his at pattern of living – for that is the way by which a new earth and a new heaven will come into being. As Peter experienced, following a new way means leaving behind the old way, allowing that first earth to pass away. Letting go of the past is not easy; it can feel like stepping into the unknown. But we are not alone, we are not without an example to follow, we are not without God”s presence to both heal and strengthen us. 

Counting on … day 181

13th May 2022

Eating less meat is good for the environment, for the climate and for releasing resources to ensure everyone across the globe can be fed. An environmental newsletter, The Conversation, provides tips  to help people reduce the amount of meat they eat, based on research by the LEAP team (Livestock, Environment and People) at the University of Oxford. 

  1. Make at least one of your main meals vegetarian.
  2. Double the veg, halve the meat in your meals.
  3. Set a maximum number of animal products to eat today and stick to it.
  4. Try a new vegetarian recipe.
  5. Make your lunch and dinner vegetarian.
  6. Eat only plant-based snacks throughout the day.

https://theconversation.com/uk/newsletters/the-daily-2

 Counting on …day 174

6th  May 2022

As a prolonged period of hot dry weather is forecast, the RSPB is inviting us to provide extra help for the migratory birds that are arriving in the UK. https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/mud-pies-for-house-martins/

The RSPB is urging the public to get their hands dirty this weekend and create mud pies to help endangered birds such as house martins, swifts and swallows get enough sludge to build their nests.

A nine-day mini-heatwave is hitting the UK, which coincides with the return of migratory birds here to breed. Many of these birds have flown thousands of miles on their journey. But conservationists are concerned that the ground is getting so hard it could stop them from being able to make their nests.

By leaving out dishes of mud mixed with water, or creating little puddles in the garden, the public can make a big difference, said Becca Smith, of the RSPB. “It’s the easiest thing that people can do to help these birds after they’ve flown all the way from Africa to our shores. Plus, a bit of mud pie-making is fun for the weekend.”

Putting out dishes of fresh water will also provide drinking and bathing for a variety of birds. House martins – which require the most mud for nestbuilding – can mix water with soil themselves, which they then combine with things such as grass, feathers and vegetable fibres to make little cup nests under the eaves of houses. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/05/mud-water-to-help-nesting-migrating-birds-during-uk-heatwave-rspb-aoe

Third Sunday of Easter

1st May 2022

Acts 9:1-6

Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 

Psalm 30

1 I will exalt you, O Lord,
because you have lifted me up *
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

2 O Lord my God, I cried out to you, *
and you restored me to health.

3 You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; *
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

4 Sing to the Lord, you servants of his; *
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

5 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, *
his favour for a lifetime.

6 Weeping may spend the night, *
but joy comes in the morning.

7 While I felt secure, I said,
“I shall never be disturbed. *
You, Lord, with your favour, made me as strong as the mountains.”

8 Then you hid your face, *
and I was filled with fear.

9 I cried to you, O Lord; *
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,

10 “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit? *
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; *
O Lord, be my helper.”

12 You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13 Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

Revelation 5:11-14

I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honour and glory and blessing!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,

“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!”

And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

John 21:1-19

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Reflection

The short passage from the Book of Acts introduces us to Paul’s Damascus Road experience (although here he is still known by his Jewish name of Saul). From being an ardent antagonist of the followers of Christ, Paul swerves, U-turns, to become the most ardent evangelist. Why? Because he encounters the risen Jesus head on. Last week, in John’s gospel, we heard how various disciples met the risen Jesus and how in different ways they began to understand what was happening and who it was – and in what nature – they were encountering, when they met Jesus. The risen Jesus was not a human brought back to life, but the  God-who-had-become-human-and-had-ascended-once-more-to-the-God-head. It is his encounter with this Jesus that confounds Paul’s previous understanding of Jesus and his followers, and brings to new life in him an understanding of and relationship with the Christ. Indeed brings him new Life.

Thereafter Paul went on to transform other people’s understanding of Jesus, to nurture in them new Life, and did so with zeal, raising the profile of the  Way of Christ to new heights. 

Today’s Psalm too tells of the way of salvation as a process of transformation that echos both Paul’s experience and that of Paul’s ministry. The mission of Paul and his contemporaries, gave rise to the exponential growth of the Christian community – from its roots as a group of believers perhaps measured in hundreds, to a faith movement that, by the third century, becomes the state religion of the whole empire. Perhaps it is this that we are seeing in the extract from the Book of Revelation: the Lamb, once a creature to be sacrificed, becomes one to be credited all ‘power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing’ for ever and ever!

The gospel passage today comes from the end of John’s gospel. It is quite likely a later addition: in John’s account this is the first time we hear that Peter is a fisherman – the call of Peter away from his fishing career comes from the synoptic gospel. Without this information, there is not the sense  that Peter and his comrades are returning to where their old lives had broken off. Nevertheless this is the story that we are presented with as the final story of John’s gospel.

There is still confusion amongst Jesus’s disciples. They still do not instantly or completely recognise the figure they see as Jesus. This is not just the human Jesus who has been resuscitated. This is someone who is more. Yet even so this Jesus still understands what it is to be human, what it is that humans need – whether that is success in their work, food to satisfy their hunger, comfort, or indeed reassurance that past failures have been forgiven. And not just forgiven: Jesus assures Peter of his confidence that he, Peter, can fulfil the task which Jesus is giving him. 

I am sure many of us have felt the sense of inadequacy that Peter felt, that we are not up to the task, that we are going to fail and will let other people down. And often it is that very feeling of inadequacy that leads us to fail. In the Principles of the Franciscan Third Order, that for day 24 concerning humility, says “Nevertheless, when asked to undertake work of which they feel unworthy or incapable they do not shrink from it on the grounds of humility, but confidently attempt it through the power that is made perfect in weakness”. This has often puzzled me, but I think it is reminding us that we should not rely on our own sense of ability but rather trust to the ability that comes from God. That was certainly Peter’s experience and Paul’s too. It should give us the confidence to continue with those tasks which we know to be right even if we can’t see how they might be successful. Success will come in God’s way and God’s time. 

I find it hard to believe that we humans will get our act together such that we can forestall the worst of the climate crisis, yet I am confident that God does not desire or will the destruction of creation. Somehow God’s will will prevail. 

Prayers for Creation 

Friday 29th April 2022 

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. Psalm 24:1

You Lord, are the source of all good things: 

We praise you.

You call us to tend and care for your creation: 

May we strive to do your will.

You have made us as brothers and sisters with all that lives: 

May we live together in peace.

A Reading Ephesians 2:8-10 (The Living Bible)

Because of God’s  kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago God prepared that we should spend these lives in helping others.

To conclude the series we started in Lent, today’s prayers focus on Europe. 

Europe is the western peninsula of the “supercontinent” of Eurasia  and is  is divided from Asia by a series of watersheds, including the Ural River. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean, Black, and Caspian Seas to the south. Europe has been a dominant economic, social, and cultural force throughout recorded history, exerting influence (for good and ill) beyond its own territories. The North European Plain extends from the southern United Kingdom east to Russia. It is crossed by many navigable rivers, including the Rhine, Weser, Elbe, Oder, and Vistula. The climate supports a wide variety of seasonal crops. These physical features allowed for early communication, travel, and agricultural development. The Central Uplands extend east-west and are heavily wooded. They are lower in altitude than the Alpine region to the south. This region includes a few active volcanoes.  The continents forests were drastically reduced as a result of intense urbanisation throughout human history. Intense trade introduced many species, which often overtook native plants. The forests and grasslands of western and central Europe have been almost completely domesticated, with crops and livestock dominant. Today, around 15 percent of Europes animal species are threatened or endangered, mainly by habitat loss, pollution, overexploitation, and competition from invasive species. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/europe-physical-geography/

Glory to God,

Creator of rivers and streams, lakes and mountains. 

We praise you for the majesty of the Alps, their glittering snowy peaks 

and the frozen waters stored in their glaciers. 

 Glory to God, 

Creator of forests and plains:

We thank you for the vast lands where we can grow crops, for hillsides where we grow vines, and for meadows where sheep and cattle may graze.

Glory to God

Creator of rocks and minerals:

We thank you for the wealth of raw materials with which we can make so much; 

we thank you for fast flowing waters that provide us with energy.

Glory to God, 

Creator of  curiosity and ingenuity:

We thank you for the wisdom we have learnt from the study of your world; thank you for the skills we have learnt in harnessing the resources you have given us.

Forgive us when we have misused that wisdom; forgive us when we have used those skills for ill. 

Merciful God,

Creator of human kind, 

Forgive our greed that has mined land and sea for fossil fuels, jeopardising our future.

Forgive our greed that industrialises farming, destroying soils and draining lakes. 

Forgive our greed that turns animals into commodities and disregards their sentient nature. 

Forgive our greed for consumer goods that strips the earth’s reserves.

Merciful God,

Creator of our brothers and sisters:

Forgive the casualness with which we let the rich grow richer 

and the poor poorer.

Forgive the casualness with which we let the rich break the laws 

and yet still penalise the poor.

Forgive the carelessness with which we discard what we buy 

ignoring the meagre pay of those who labour. 

Guiding God,

Source  of all wisdom, 

Transform our hearts and minds, turn the direction of our hands and feet 

so that with alacrity and commitment we will reform our lives 

and live only in harmony with your creation. 

Amen.

The Grace

Second Sunday of Easter

24th April 2022

Acts 5:27-32

When the temple police had brought the apostles, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Psalm 118:14-29

14 The Lord is my strength and my song, *
and he has become my salvation.

15 There is a sound of exultation and victory *
in the tents of the righteous:

16 “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! *
the right hand of the Lord is exalted!
the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”

17 I shall not die, but live, *
and declare the works of the Lord.

18 The Lord has punished me sorely, *
but he did not hand me over to death.

19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
I will enter them;
I will offer thanks to the Lord.

20 “This is the gate of the Lord; *
he who is righteous may enter.”

21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
and have become my salvation.

22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
has become the chief cornerstone.

23 This is the Lord’s doing, *
and it is marvellous in our eyes.

24 On this day the Lord has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Hosannah, Lord, hosannah! *
Lord, send us now success.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; *
we bless you from the house of the Lord.

27 God is the Lord; he has shined upon us; *
form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar.

28 “You are my God, and I will thank you; *
you are my God, and I will exalt you.”

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; *
his mercy endures for ever.

Revelation 1:4-8

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

The Gospel

John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Reflection 

The story from John’s gospel takes place on the evening of the first day – that is the evening of the day of Jesus’s resurrection. Mary, the first to visit the tomb, finds it empty – body-less – and summons the help of the other disciples. Peter and the beloved disciples come and they too find the tomb empty apart from the grave clothes – they must realise something odd has happened, but what? They leave apparently not knowing what has happened to Jesus. Mary persists and is rewarded with sight and sound of Jesus: he is no longer a dead human but – not to be touched – what is he? A body brought back to life like Lazarus? A ghost with real presence? Something else, something more?

Come the evening, Jesus suddenly appears. The disciples are over joyed: this is their Lord. But do they understand who he is? Certainly when Thomas comes, they cannot sufficiently explain what has happened. Thomas seems to be asking if they have seen a ghost or human body that has come back to life. When Jesus does appear before him, it is instantly clear to Thomas that the answer is neither. The person who appears to him is Lord and God! For Thomas  Jesus is now recognisably both, the human figure he has spent the few last years with, and, God! We might then read today’s psalm (which yes we did have last week too!) as the long version of Thomas’s response.

The disciples’ understanding of Jesus has been completely transformed – turned upside down. Jesus, the man they knew had come from God, they now realise is God – the ‘God’ who uniquely had come to them as a human. I wonder which was harder to believe or understand, that Jesus, a human, had risen from the dead, or that Jesus, a human, was God?

The Book of Revelation describes what it is that John sees in his vision on Mount Patmos and which he records as a message for the Christian communities of the Near East. (NB this is not the John of the gospel). For this John, it is clear that Jesus is human (the first born of the dead) and is God, and that because of this, Christians have a particular role as citizens of the – God’s –  kingdom and as priests serving God.

Throughout the larger part of the Gospels, the disciples have been responding to human authority. Indeed even when they were following Jesus’s instructions during his ministry, it was in response to him as a human, their leader.  But now, in the story we hear from the Book of Acts, things have changed. Now the disciples are only responsive to God’s authority. They express now with certainty what they seem to have been grappling with in John’s gospel. They now understand the role, the task,  they have been given and they are not to be diverted from it, either by their own uncertainty  nor by human intervention. They believe and, because of their belief, they have Life! 

We need to be reminded that we too are God’s citizens, bound ultimately by God’s authority. We should be willing to think and question human rules and directives even when they come from governments. Is what we are being asked to do, is what we are being asked to accept, is what we are being asked to ignore, in line with God’s wishes, God’s will? 

In God’s kingdom, do people go hungry because their pay is inadequate? In God’s kingdom are those seeking asylum sent away? In God’s kingdom, do people make profits from the misfortune of others? In God’s kingdom are companies encouraged to produce even more life destroying carbon emissions?

Counting on …day 160 

22nd April 2022

We are enmeshed in a economy fuelled by fossil fuel industries that are

reluctant – indeed highly resistant- to change. If change does not happen, we and the world will suffer increasingly the effects of the climate crisis. BP,  one such fossil fuel company, has been a sponsor of the British Museum for many years. Despite on going public opposition  and despite the move of most of other institutions away from fossil fuel sponsorship, the British Museum is currently negotiating with BP for a further five year deal. This weekend ‘BP or not BP’ will be continuing its campaign to dissuade the British Museum.   Find out more from their web site https://bp-or-not-bp.org/news/ 

or sign their petition https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/the-british-museum-must-not-to-renew-its-sponsorship-deal-with-bp

Here is a piece from their Facebook page: 

“Why is BP sponsorship such a big deal? 

BP doesn’t sponsor cultural institutions out of the goodness of its heart. Its philanthropic image is a carefully curated marketing scheme, designed to distract from its appalling environmental and human rights record, its decades of funding brutal autocrats (including Vladamir Putin) and its huge contribution to climate change.

From covering up oil spills which harm oceans and animals, to dodgy deals with dictators and warmongers, BP has done it all. The company’s history is inseparable from colonial oppression and its endless quest for fossil fuels has wreaked international havoc for more than 80 years.

This sponsorship deal at the British Museum doesn’t just give BP a false veneer of respectability. It allows the company to use this publicly funded space to throw fancy events, schmooze with UK government officials, and cosy up to representatives of fossil-fuelled regimes from Egypt to Azerbaijan to – yes – Russia.”