Day 9: a shared path – i

It is good to be reminded that we are not the only travellers on the road. Some may be moving faster than us, others slower. Either way it is always a good idea to keep an eye out for the wellbeing of others – and especially for wildlife as humankind’s behaviour is decimating the world’s biodiversity.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. Luke 10:33-34 

If you want to learn, then go and ask the wild animals and the birds, the flowers and the fish. Any of them can tell you what the Lord has done. Every living creature is in the hands of God. Job 12:7-10

Day 8: Pause for thought

Works of art often prompt thought and question, and thus become signs. Here what seems to be a sign (?), has become a work of art. I wonder what it may be saying to you? 

Good people think before they answer, but the wicked speak evil without ever thinking. 

Proverbs 15:28 

Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. 2 Timothy 2:7

 Counting on … day 26

9th December 2021

Pens can be recycled at Ryman stores who participate in the Terra Cycle scheme. This includes all writing instruments (except for wooden pencils and chalk) are accepted : Any brand of pen, felt tip, highlighter, marker, correction fluid pot, correction tape, mechanical pencil and eraser pen regardless of their composition.

The Green Tau: issue 25

Murdo Madleod/ The Guardian

8th December 2021

The first issue of Green Tau included a quote from  Paul’s Letter to the Romans – “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). – and a quote from the Guardian: “Change is Possible. hope is Power.”

This issue was written looking forwards – without much optimism – to COP26. Six month later I am not sure much has changed. 

But there still has hope. As long as we have hope, however small, then there is something to strive for. Later in his letter Paul suggests that by its nature what we hope for is something we can’t see, for if we could see it, what would our hope be about? (Romans 8:24). Here I think I disagree with Paul. I think in order to have hope we have to have some idea of what it is we are hoping for, however vague or indistinct that vision might be. If our hope is for life after death, we have to have some – however tenuous – understanding of what that life might be: eg a life free of fear and pain, a life of joy etc.

In terms of the climate crisis, I think we have to have some kind of vision, some sort of imagination, of what the world would be like if we could alleviate the crises. Perhaps a vision of  a world where there are great expanses and multiple pockets of re wilded landscape; a world teeming with different plant and animal species; a world of clean air and un-polluted water; a world where there are no extremes of wealth and poverty; a world where there is neither industrial farming nor industrial fishing … and so on. If we didn’t have any such vision, then we what would be hoping for? And if we had nothing to hope for, why would we bother trying to change things?

Hope is important because it becomes our inspiration, a catalyst, a source of energy. And hope that is shared multiplies it’s effect. As a group sharing one hope, we can share the burden of keeping that little flame of hope alive. We can share the load of working for change. We can back each other. We can become each other’s supporters. We can take turns carry each other when the effort becomes too overwhelming. 

It is therefore important that we come together with our neighbours, with our church and faith communities, with local campaign groups, business groups – and work together and share the vision . 

One such group of local businesses came together in Glasgow to create a visual sign, a sculpture, of what hope was, post COP26. “The Hope Sculpture started as a conversation with Ramboll and became a gift from 50 companies to Glasgow. It is a testament to the power of collaboration and dedication to deliver a better future” said the artist Steuart Padwick. His sculpture comprises a 20m tall beacon, on top of which is a child. The child’s arms reach out as if embracing its surroundings, hopeful of a green, better future. It is constructed using low carbon, reclaimed, recycled or sustainable materials, of which, almost all were locally sourced. (https://ramboll.com/media/rgr/gift-of-hope-low-carbon-sculptures-legacy-to-glasgow-and-cop26)

We are often reminded in the Bible how cause and effect spread between generations. From the Book of Exodus when the people are embarking on a new life travelling with God into a new land, a journey surrounded by threat but focused on a great hope for a better future: “I, the LORD, am a God who is full of compassion and pity, who is not easily angered and who shows great love and faithfulness. I keep my promise for thousands of generations and forgive evil and sin; but I will not fail to punish children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation for the sins of their parents.” Exodus 34: 6-7. And in the prophetic words of Mary in the Gospel of Luke, as once again humanity begins a new journey and a new relationship with God: “He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who honour him”. Luke 1: 50 

What we do now in our time will have consequence for generations to come. And maybe that is where  our hope does the environment, for the world, has to lie. We will not turn round the crises we face in one generation. We can only be the instigators of a new way of life, a new journey, that will have repercussions for generations to come. To keep our hope alive, maybe we also need some short term projects where we will be able to see effort rewarded. One of the Advent readings from Isaiah was not a prophesy for the long term, foretelling the coming of the saviour, and for the short term, foretelling a time of peace that would come about in a matter of years.  

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the virgin is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.  He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.  For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted”. Isaiah 7:13-16.

Maybe we need to focus too on changes that we can bring about by the time this year’s new borns are  eating solid foods – or maybe at primary school learning about right and wrong, giving us a five year time frame. Reducing the numbers of petrol and diesel vehicles on our roads and this reducing air pollution. Changing our UK diets such that eating meat is an occasional treat, leading to a reduction in the factory farming of animals, and an increase in land set aside for rewilding. Halving our carbon footprints, such that global temperature rises are still below 1.5C.

Together let’s us maintain – and work for – the hope of  better, greener future.

Counting on … day 25

8th December 2021

Following on from yesterday’s thoughts, what happens to people who do stand up and protest? And why do they take the risk of ending up in prison? 

The following piece comes from one of XR’s newsletters:

Emma Smart, 44, from Weymouth, Dorset, has been on hunger strike since 16th November. On Friday 26th November Emma was moved out of her cell onto the hospital wing at HMP Bronzefield.

Speaking from the prison, Emma said:

“The window of my cell in the hospital wing is blocked up and there is little natural light, in my previous cell I could see the birds and trees that line the prison fence. I have less time to go outside in the prison yard for exercise now. All of this is testing my resolve to continue, but I feel that not eating is the only thing I can do from prison to draw attention to those who will have to make the choice between heating and eating this winter.

“Not standing by while our government commits treason against the people of this country feels like the most important thing I will do in my life.”

Counting on… day 24

7th December 2021

https://www.flickr.com/photos/shefftim/
51075999778/in/album-72157718795475528


Often we count on others to demonstrate on our behalf. We may agree with the sentiments of the protestors but may be don’t have the time or the ability to join in. Not all the women who wanted the vote were able to protest. Not everyone who opposed the war against Iraq were able to protest. Not everyone who wants the Government to give better leadership over the climate crisis is able to protest.

But what do we do if the Government determines to curtail the right to protest?

The following article comes from the Campaign Against Climate Change:

In contempt for the democratic process, Priti Patel has added to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill an additional 18 pages of amendments after the Bill has gone through the House of Commons and after second reading in the House of Lords. This is a clear attempt to bypass Parliamentary scrutiny. The Bill as it stood was already a dangerous assault on the right to protest. The new amendments turn it into something which which you would expect to see in a dictatorship, not a democracy.

Protest to #KillTheBill

Next Wednesday, 8th December, the House of Lords will begin amending the Bill. A protest has been called for 5-7pm in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster.

We’ll update our website with details and links to solidarity protests in other cities as we hear about them. If you are on social media, check your local campaigns for news, search #KillTheBill, and there are also national accounts for Kill the Bill on TwitterInstagram.and Facebook.

Can’t make a protest? See below for information about writing to your MP etc: ‘What you can do

Further information including Liberty’s useful summary can be found on their web site https://www.campaigncc.org/police_bill_new_threat

Counting On … day 23

In the last people were often reliant for their survival on the generosity of others. The young man, who became St Nicholas, lost both his parents due to a plague. Maybe he realised that money itself was not a guaranteed source of security. Instead he turned to the advice of Jesus and sold his inheritance and gave the proceeds to those in need. One such recipient was a poor widower with three unmarried daughters. With no money, he could not afford dowries nor could he afford to look after them. The remaining option was slavery. Nicholas came under cover of dark and threw three bags of money through the window of their house, and saved the family from destitution. 

Some 1700 years later and people still find themselves trapped in poverty and needing to count on the generosity of others. This time of year many charities that provide relief look to us for funds.  

A gift secretly given, needing no receipt.

A gift freely bestowed -no strings attached

A gift that meets your needs, no questions asked, 

nor application forms to fill

A gift to free your children from poverty

A gift to restore – not diminish – your pride

A gift you do not have to earn.

St Nicholas’s gift.

Day 6: Some signs assert ownership 

This picture was taken in Canton Graubunden in Switzerland. In the local language of Romansch the word ‘god’ means wood or forest. This sign points to a parking place in the wood.

But sometimes it is when we are not looking for God, that God finds us – and God may be found in unexpected places.

“Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away? Jeremiah 23:23

If I were to climb up to the highest heavens, you would be there. If I were to dig down to the world of the dead you would also be there. Psalm 139:8

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. Psalm 24:1

Counting On … day 22

Reduce reuse and recycle are the three “R”s for the well being of the environment. In the run up to Christmas use the three “R”s as often as possible. Take wrapping paper, for example:-

Reduce = buy less: it is easy to think I’ll just buy an extra roll in case we run out, only  to find three half  used rolls from last year.

Reuse = make a habit of keeping wrapping paper after unwrapping your gifts. Flatten and fold it neatly ready to be reused. You can ease the future re usability of paper by using string or ribbon or elastic bands rather than sticky tape. You can also reuse things like paper bags or sheets of newspaper as wrapping – the Guardian’s middle page is often a full spread picture which can make an ideal gift wrapper.

Recycle = when the paper is beyond reusability, recycle it. NB plastic coated paper cannot be recycled – if after scrunching the paper it springs back, it most likely has plastic in it.

Sunday Reflection

Second Sunday in Advent: 5th December 2021

Malachi 3:1-4 

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight– indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the  Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

The Song of Zechariah     Luke 1: 68-79

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
he has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old,

that he would save us from our enemies, *
from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers *
and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,

Free to worship him without fear, *
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, *
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,

To give his people knowledge of salvation *
by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Philippians 1:3-11

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying  with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

Reflection

What all the readings today share in common is the change that will or is happening to people, that leads to salvation. Here we might thinks of salvation as healing and cleansing  process that restores, or even creates anew, the wholeness and goodness of life. 

In the words of the prophet Malachi it is God’s messenger who will so categorically refine and purify us  that we will feel that we can’t withstand the change it makes in us. But we will come through, changed utterly so that what we have to offer will be completely pleasing to God. 

In the words of another prophet – and father to be – Zechariah, the message is one of freedom: freedom from fear, freedom from enemies (and here we might think not only of people, but of big businesses, institutions and even governments).  We will be saved, we will be healed and made holy, and it will be by God’s own doing, by God’s compassion.

The passage from Philippians echoes the message received last week from Paul, that there is so much joy and happiness that arises from being part of a growing fellowship of Christians, active in telling the good news and in their love one for another. Such a group of Christians is seen as producers of a rich harvest of righteousness!

And finally the message of the prophet John, John the Baptist, who will be telling everyone who hears what they must do – and it is a totally transformative process if we are to travel along God’s way  – to see God’s salvation at work. 

We know from the gospel stories that salvation included both physical and mental healing; it included food for the hungry; restoration by those who had gained too much, the repayments of debts, the challenging of unjust laws and social practices, the humble reassessment of life that understood that humans didn’t have all the answers, that we must have faith in God and in the innate wisdom of creation, it valued the lowly and marginalised, and put love at the heart of everything. 

If we truly believed that salvation was coming to the world this Christmas, how would this new world order look like? Here are just three examples:-

Justice for refugees and migrants meaning that they would not fear persecution, or hunger, or ill health or  disrespect either in their home land or in their new home.

Justice for birds and animals, for plants and insects meaning that their natural habitats would not be destroyed, that they would not be diminished by pollution and other poisons, by over consumption or poaching.

Justice for those who are persecuted because of the colour of their skin, the sound of their voice, the shape of their face, the texture of the hair, their sexual orientation, meaning that everyone would be valued as unique and equally important individuals.

The world could indeed be a wonderful place! Yet I think the prophets were right to suggest that to get humankind there would be hard graft. Humankind, people and societies, individuals and organisations, need to be overhauled and purified,; the means and systems for getting things done need to be straightened and levelled up. 

Where do we come in? What can we do?

As with last week’s epistle, we should aspire to match the example of the early church.  We should be zealous in loving one another and in building up that fellowship produces boundless joy. That would be good of itself and will witness to good news of following Jesus. We need to come together, to stand together and to be a visible -large and numerous – body that speaks out for justice.

We also need to  be messengers calling people to turn their lives round and to live according  to God’s ways – ways that involve the examples of justice we have just imagined and more. More often than not the people to whom we must call out  are businesses, organisations, and governments. This we will do more effectively as one body. Whilst as individuals we can both set the example of how one should live, and then with greater effect  talk to friends, family and neighbours.

Now is the time for change!