Counting on … day 305

10th September 2022

Refocusing our environmental lifestyle should also include our finances. We can in small ways influence the environmental protection that financial world gives through our choice of bank, mortgage lender, insurance provider and pension fund. All these financial institutions invest money (our money in fact) to gain a return that finances their product. Where they invest their money can impact the environment. For example if they invest in companies that produce fossil fuels, they are financing the continued production of green house gases. If they invest in companies that manufacture plastic packaging, they are financing the continued production of the commonest form of litter. If they invest in companies that produce tobacco, they are financing the continued production of an addictive and carcinogenic commodity. 

For more insight into the environmental issues around banks see this Ethical Consumer report. They also provide ratings for different financial institutions covering current accounts, savings accounts and mortgages etc. To access these you will need to be a subscriber. 

https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/money-finance/how-your-bank-could-be-funding-global-deforestation-climate-disaster

For more information on pensions and pension funds see https://makemymoneymatter.co.uk/ which strongly advocates swopping your pension as the most effective way of tackling climate change. (However if, like me, you don’t have a portable pension this won’t be possible. Nevertheless you can still keep asking your pension provider to adopt an environmentally responsible approach to its investment strategy). 

Good with Money is another useful website  https://good-with-money.com/

Counting on …day 299 

4th September 2022

Environmentally kind resolutions can include our gardens – making space and caring for nature. You might set aside part of your garden for wildlife. Climate  change places extra pressures on wildlife so give them a helping hand by encouraging wild plants (weeds) to colonise part of your garden. Nettles are very good for ladybirds and butterflies, dandelions flowers are good for bees and dandelion seeds are tasty food for goldfinches.

For further thoughts see  https://greentau.org/2022/04/04/the-green-tau-issue-39/ and 

Laudate Si: discussion notes 3

“…humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction… Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything.” Section 113

  1. Let’s wonder. What is the purpose and meaning of creation? 

2. Is creation God’s gift to us to do with it what ever we want? 

Has it been given to us so that we can benefit from it, in return for tending it?

Has it been given to us so that we can continue to work with God as co-creators of a still evolving creation?

3. Is creation a stockpile of resources from which we can pick and choose individual bits with no regard for the rest?

If we harvest all the sand eels to make fish oils, do we have a responsibility for puffins and other creatures that rely on sand eels for food?

If we chop down the forest to create grazing land, do we have a responsibility for plants and animals that will die because the land will dry out?

If we replace jungle with palm oil plantations, do we have a responsibility to re-home the orang-utans who lived there?

4. In an ideal world, governments would collaborate and legislate to protect the environment, and to prevent such abuse and misuse of resources. As we do not live in such a world, what can we as individuals and as groups do to protect the environment?

5. Pope Francis reminds us, section 115, that not only has God given us the earth, God has also given us the gift of our fellow human beings. Do we treat them any better than the way we treat rest of creation? 

Can you think of examples of humans been treated as commodities, or as a means to an end?

6. If we fail to treat all human beings with respect and care, are we surprised that humans struggle to care for the environment?

7. Conversely can we properly care for the environment, if we do not also care for the humans who inhabit the same space? 

Can we protect African elephants unless we also pay attention to the needs of the local farmers and businesses who occupy the same land? Can we protect mangroves from clearance for shrimp fisheries unless we provide alternative employment opportunities? Can we rewild grouse moors unless we provide alternative employment for local people?

8. Pope Francis, in section 124, reminds us that God created the first humans not to do nothing, but to tend and till the earth, ie to work. Their work was to assist what grew in the garden and to benefit each other’s well being – and presumably that of the animals too. To work gainfully is a Godly calling – a vocation – for humanity. 

In what ways do you feel that your life fulfils that vocation?

9. “Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God.” Section 127

Do all people have access to such opportunities? Do all people find in their work the means of glorifying God? What prevents people experiencing work in these ways?

Could it equally be that case that some people become so overwhelmed by work, that these benefits are lost?

10. We are learning to understand the concept of sustainable development, and of the sustainable use of resources. Should we also be thinking in terms of sustainable employment?

What might that look like? How might it give a sense of meaning and purpose to life?

11. How might we measure this? In terms of a living wage, of job satisfaction, of the degree of autonomy in making decisions, quality of the working environment, levels of team work and co working?

12. How might we as residents of a comfortable suburb, enable or promote sustainable employment for a greater number of people? 

What questions or reassurances might we seek from employers and producers? How might we use our purchasing power to good effect?

Thank you God

for giving us a vocation 

to be tillers and carers of the earth.

Remind us that it is a vocation we share with 

all that lives on this planet

so that we may be attentive to the needs and gifts of all.

Amen

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.

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. 

Prayers for Creation 

Friday 1st July 2022

The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

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: Psalm 10:1-6, 12

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
   Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—
   let them be caught in the schemes they have devised. 

For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart,
   those greedy for gain curse and renounce the Lord.
In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, ‘God will not seek it out’;
   all their thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’ 

Their ways prosper at all times;
   your judgements are on high, out of their sight;
   as for their foes, they scoff at them.
They think in their heart, ‘We shall not be moved;
   throughout all generations we shall not meet adversity.’ 

Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
   do not forget the oppressed. 

Great and awesome God, 

keeper of promises

and steadfast in love, 

we have sinned and done wrong: 

our greed has made paupers of those we should love, 

our desire for more has taken away even the little they had, 

we have despised and oppressed our brothers and sisters.

Great and awesome God, 

keeper of promises

and steadfast in love,

we have acted wickedly and rebelled: 

we have carved out our paths 

and ignore the ways of your creation 

leaving behind us a trail of devastation.

Great and awesome God, 

keeper of promises

and steadfast in love,

we have turned aside from your commandments:  

we over-grazed the land, over fished the seas, 

we have decimated the forests and polluted the waterways, 

we have taken more than we can restore.

Great and awesome God, 

keeper of promises

and steadfast in love,

we have not listened to your prophets, who speak in your name: 

we have ignored the wail of the sea birds, 

the gasps of the rhino

and the disappearing drone of the insects. 

Great and awesome God, 

keeper of promises

and steadfast in love,

shame falls on us:

we let islands drown and ice sheets melt, 

we let the tundra burn and rivers dry up,

we let cities flood and fields whither.

Lord our God, 

to you belong mercy and forgiveness,

reform and redeem us, 

renew a right spirit within us, 

that all your creation may be treated 

with love and care.

Amen.    (Based on Daniel chapter 9:4-10)

The Grace.

Prayers for Creation 

Friday 24th June 2022

Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. Psalm 45:7b, 8a

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.

Reading: Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices— a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon.

Praise be to God for the gift of smell:

Summer sweet smells,

the spiced scent of roses, 

the honey sweetness of lime blossom, 

the calming fragrance of lavender. 

The morning’s scents of dew damp grass, 

of hay in the noon day’s heat, 

the evening’s languid aroma of honeysuckle 

draws in the smells of night.

The burnt earth smell of bracken, 

the pungent smell of the first rains.

The slip-sliding smell of fresh water, 

the salty tang of the sea.

The simple – overlooked? – nose 

plays host to an olfactory banquet, 

attuning us to the time of day, 

the seasons and the weather.

Picking up signals

that suggest delight or warn of danger,

that pique our appetite, 

and speak of attraction, reward and love.

Praise be to God for the gift of smell.

Ever present God, 

bless our mindfulness, 

our ability to sense your presence,  

to find you in the smells of the everyday, 

to relish the delights than come less often. 

Ever present God, 

be with those surrounded by the smell of war and fear, 

of destruction and decay.

Breathe compassion 

into the hearts of those who wage war, 

and those who make peace. 

Ever present God, be with those 

surrounded with pollution and those who breath acrid air.

Bless the work of all who create green spaces, 

whose living organisms purify the air.

Lend strength to those who protect the environment 

and those who seek a cleaner way of life.

Ever present God, be with those 

in need of healing in body, mind and spirit.

May they breathe out all that causes harm 

and breathe in all that is wholesome. 

Inspire and renew us one and all 

with the sweet fragrance of your Spirit. 

Amen.

Proper 7: 

19 June 2022

Reflection 

We may not believe in demonic forces nowadays but we are certainly aware that there are many  things that have an unhealthy level of control over our lives. Social media, diets, cars, pollution, throw away convenience, anxiety, fashion, alcohol, gambling, climate change, elitism, poverty, oil, tax evasion, futures markets, housing costs, racism, low wages, depression – the list goes on. For all our progress, life is still tough for many people. 

It was to such people, those who were finding life tough, those on the edge of society, the sick and the vulnerable, that Jesus brought his message of good news, of salvation. Here in today’s gospel we have just such an encounter. Jesus is able to break through the barriers that have prevented Legion from communicating with his fellow countrymen. He has been able to get to heart of Legion’s problem and together they removed the burden, the barrier of his illness. Jesus stays with him until others come who will continue the healing process, reintegrating Legion back into the community. Jesus leaves Legion with a task, a reason to carry on. 

The reading from Isaiah describes the frustrations of a prophet trying to speak to a ‘rebellious people’ – by which I think is meant people who rebel against God’s ways. The passage tells how these people are living their lives, with the traditions and routines of their daily life that keep or distract them from God, things that entrap them, snaring them in unholiness.  (The effects of these entrapments are probably not much different from those things blight our daily lives). Yet the prophet’s persistence – a persistence that comes as a gift or a power from God – reflects God’s ongoing concern and desire that the all humans should be encouraged and enabled to live according to God’s values, and that creation should be healed and humanity restored to its right mind. The last few lines add a measure of hope, that there will be found sufficient goodness in humankind to achieve God’s vision for the world. 

Who are our prophets today? Are they people like David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, George Monbiot and Jack Munro? Are they groups like Extinction Rebellion? Groups like Amnesty, 38 Degrees, and  The Trussel Trust? Do we take time to listen to their messages, to measure and explore what is being said, to discern where God’s will may lie? Equally are we ready to hear God’s message, are we able set aside some of the barriers that trap us and weigh us down? Like Legion can we break free from our past and find renewal and healing?

Paul, writing to Galatians, remind us that for all of us our baptism represents a new beginning, a fresh start. In baptism we are all one – baptism is the ultimate In levelling up! What ever our past, where ever we have come from and however we have come – raised and bred as part of the establishment, or refugee fleeing a hostile environment, someone who has pulled themselves up by their boot straps or someone who has never managed to hold down a job – we are all equal as ‘children of God’. Like Legion, our restoration is shown in that we have all been clothed with Christ. And, like Legion, we are all commissioned to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to our own communities.

As we look around the world – like the prophet Isaiah – we see the threats and obstacles that block the freedom of life: heat waves that are keeping one third of US citizens confined to their homes; 7.1 million people displaced by fighting in Ukraine; a third of people in Sudan facing starvation; 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK; half the population of Chile living with water shortages. Are we sufficiently enraged as Christians, sufficiently enraged as were the prophets, sufficiently enraged as humans, to stand up and say this is not how God wants the world to be? How are we to bring Good News to our communities and to the world?

Isaiah 65:1-9

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.

I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
to a nation that did not call on my name.

I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people,

who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;

a people who provoke me
to my face continually,

sacrificing in gardens
and offering incense on bricks;

who sit inside tombs,
and spend the night in secret places;

who eat swine’s flesh,
with broth of abominable things in their vessels;

who say, “Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.”

These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all day long.

See, it is written before me:
I will not keep silent, but I will repay;

I will indeed repay into their laps
their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together,

says the Lord;

because they offered incense on the mountains
and reviled me on the hills,

I will measure into their laps
full payment for their actions.

Thus says the Lord:

As the wine is found in the cluster,
and they say, “Do not destroy it,
for there is a blessing in it,”

so I will do for my servants’ sake,
and not destroy them all.

I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,
and from Judah inheritors of my mountains;

my chosen shall inherit it,
and my servants shall settle there.

Psalm 22:18-27

18 Be not far away, O Lord; *
you are my strength; hasten to help me.

19 Save me from the sword, *
my life from the power of the dog.

20 Save me from the lion’s mouth, *
my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls.

21 I will declare your Name to my brethren; *
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

22 Praise the Lord, you that fear him; *
stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;
all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither does he hide his face from them; *
but when they cry to him he hears them.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly; *
I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
and those who seek the Lord shall praise him: *
“May your heart live for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, *
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the Lord; *
he rules over the nations.

Galatians 3:23-29

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Luke 8:26-39

Jesus and his disciples arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me” — for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Prayers for Creation 

Friday 17th June 2022

I will listen to you, LORD God, because you promise peace to those who are faithful and no longer foolish. Psalm 85:8

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.

Reading: Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;  and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. 1 Kings 19: 11b – 13a

The day is quiet. 

It catches my attention. 

No murmur of cars, nor drone of airplanes. 

No crash or thump of builders. 


Silence – 

Silence? Are you sure?

I can hear a bird – 

no not one but two, maybe three – 

singing. 

The buzz of a passing insect. 

The wind rustling a leaf.

The slight crunch of my shoes on the ground.

The soprano voice of a child – 

Mummy, why do ….?

God, creator and companion, 

Stay my attention on the sounds of ‘silence’, 

on the sounds of life. 

Attune my heart to hear 

the unabated sound of creation, 

to sift out the raucous noise 

of the unimportant sounds.

Open my ears just enough to know your presence.

Ever mindful God, be present 

with those surrounded with the noise 

of guns and bombs. 

Bring compassion 

into the hearts of those who wage war. 

Remove greed and pride from those 

who might otherwise make peace.

Ever mindful God, be present 

with those surrounded with the noise 

of traffic and engines.

Bless the work of those who create green spaces, 

those who bring calm to frenzied lives.

Lend strength to those who protect the environment 

and those who seek a quieter way of life.

Ever mindful God, be present 

with those who seek to tell the truth – 

however inconvenient. 

Open hearts and minds to hear your word, 

to discern your wisdom. 

Give grace to all who question, 

to all who seek to understand 

and to all who are willing to learn – 

for you the way, the truth and the life. 

Amen.

The Green Tau: issue 41

11th May 2022

A question of food

Food is a daily necessity, yet for many it is unaffordable. Recent research  points out that in the UK 2 million people cannot afford to eat every day https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/may/09/more-than-2m-adults-in-uk-cannot-afford-to-eat-every-day-survey-finds.   Is there a flaw in our food production and distribution system?

It seems to me that food production in the UK is caught between two objectives: that food should be produced as cheaply as possible, and that profits for the shareholders should be maximised. Producing food as cheaply as possible has been seen as a way of ensuring everyone can afford to eat. However producing food cheaply doesn’t necessarily make it affordable.

Reducing the cost of food can be achieved in various way:-

  • Industrialising processes whether that is the Chorleywood method of making bread or factory farming livestock
  • Large scale monoculture farming where land is cleared to grow single crops on a large scale – including the clearing of rain forests. 
  • Intensified farming where animals are kept in barns and fed high protein diets rather than having a free range lifestyle, foraging and grazing as they go – low intensive free range animal foraging requires a much greater area of land. On the other hand, eg high protein diets fed to indoor animals has to be grown somewhere.
  • Intensive use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers to maintain high crop yields. This can become an expensive option when the cost of these inputs rise.
  • Keeping costs down by paying low wages and/ or by employing people on a seasonal or zero hours basis only.  This applies throughout the food industry from the farmhand  to the supermarket check out.
  • Automation of processes whether that is robots picking crops or automated diary parlours miking cows.
  • Importing food from countries where labour costs are even lower. is of course a flaw here.

Many of these cost saving practices involve reducing wages and/ jobs. As wages and jobs fall  so the need for even cheaper food rises. There seems to be a flaw in the system!. Recently Ranjit Singh Boparan, the UK’s biggest poultry supplier of chicken, queried how it was that his industry could producing chickens that sold for less that a pint of beer – and whether such low prices could be maintained. In part he was questioning whether there were any ways in which costs can be cuts. Yet even at £2.66 (Tesco’s) for a chicken, chicken is still of the menu for a lot of people. 

During the year April 2021 to March 2022 the Trussell Trust (the UK’s largest food bank charity) distributed over 2.1 million emergency food parcel, an increase of 14 compared with the previous year. https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/

People who have to resort to food banks to eat, are not just people who are unemployed. They are also those who, because of disabilities and illness, receive disability benefits, those who are elderly and living on state pensions, those who are employed on zero hours contracts, and even those who are in full employment. The current minimum wage is £8.91 per hour for those over the age of 21. The Job Seekers Allowance is £77 a week for those 25 and over – depending on circumstances, this may be supplemented by Universal  Credit. The full basic State Pension is £141.85 per week. All of these are less than the minimum wage recommended by Living Wage Foundation – £9.90  (£11.05 in London). Whether even this figure will be sufficient at a time of sharply rising fuel costs (and the knock on effect that will have an all products) is yet to be seen.

We have created an economy that does not provide the poorest with the necessary financial resources to enable them to buy the daily food they need – let alone enough to pay for heating, period products, housing, travel etc. Why is this so? Because the economic model we use says that profits must take priority. If costs rise such that they risk profits, then costs must be reduced – even if that means reducing wages and employment opportunities. As a fig leaf, a vague promise is proffered that, by maintaining profits and ensuring that the economy continues to grows, the trickle down effect will – ultimately – increase the wealth of even the poorest in society.  No where does our economic system suggest that goods should be priced at a level that allows the workforce to be paid a genuinely fair wage – a wage such that they could afford the essentials of life including chicken and a pint of beer. 

If everyone was paid at levels of pay (including benefits and pensions) that allowed them to eat properly, heat their homes, pay for their accommodation etc,  then yes prices of some goods (such as chicken) would go up. And of course that proposed ‘fair’ level of pay would have to be sufficient for the recipients to pay those higher food (and other) prices. There would be a knock on for those already on higher incomes in that their day to day living costs too would go up – but usually the higher our income the smaller the proportion we spend on essentials such as food so the impact would be smaller the higher one’s income.  Would we not all feel more comfortable as a society knowing that everyone was being properly fed and that no one was benefiting because someone else was being underpaid? 

This reinvisiging of the economy is not a pipe dream but is to be found in the shape of Doughnut Economics. In her book, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, Oxford University’s Kate Raworth argues for a radical overhaul of our traditional economic models: “Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet,” she says. “In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials … while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend.”

Doughnut Economics challenges our existing profit orientated economics that sees economic growth as the only way forwards.  Doughnut Economics argues that we can have a more caring and more sophisticated economic model which has two key objectives. First that everyone should have a comfortable standard of living – one that meets all seven priorities of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Second that all economic activity should be sustainable and not cause irreparable damage to life on earth – ensuring a stable climate, fertile soils, healthy oceans, a protective ozone layer, ample freshwater and abundant biodiversity. https://doughnuteconomics.org/about-doughnut-economics


This economic model would not only prioritise the needs of the 2 million in the UK who cannot afford to eat on a daily basis; it would also prioritise the needs of the 3 billion globally who are malnourished. And it would prioritise the well-being of chickens that are reared for less than the cost of a latte!