29th May 2022
I spent a couple of hours on Monday and a few more on Tuesday with Christian Climate Action who had organised a 24 hour vigil outside the Methodist Central Hall where the Shell AGM was taking place. Like Paul and his companions, their vigil reflected their conviction that they were acting in the service of Jesus Christ, that they were witnessing to his love for the world and his wish for all to share in the gift of salvation. Whilst there were no earthquakes, there were frequent heavy outbreaks of thunder, lightning and torrential rain – umbrellas only have a limited effectiveness!
There were many passers by, some oblivious to the plight of the earth and the acute necessity of the protest, others vaguely or deeply interested, whilst others were clearly affronted by anything that threaded the status quo – all responses with which Paul as an evangelist would have been familiar. Not that Paul, nor Climate Christian Action, supported anarchy. The security guards and the police ‘supervising’ the demonstration responded in kind to the politeness of those taking part.
What really stands out in the passage from Acts and amongst those taking part at the vigil was the commitment to serving God. Note the words of the slave girl, “These are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation”. For Paul that salvation meant equality of all – free and slave, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor – and the vision of a world in which love and care for one other was universal. These are the very same aims of those protesting against the leadership and direction of Shell and other oil companies. For the continuing and expanding production of fossil fuels is the cause of global heating and climate change which is already killing and harming people across the world – from excess heat in the Indian sub-continent, from flooding in South Africa, Australia and Brazil, from droughts in the Sehal, Kenya, Argentina and California, to name but a few – and is decimating bio-diversity, melting icecaps and glaciers whilst at the same time creating huge profits for investors and shareholders. As Christians we are tasked with calling out inequality and injustice when we see it. We are tasked with responding to the needs of others, even or rather especially, those trapped in places where life is hard and support is limited. As last week we heard how Paul responded to the cry for help from the people of Macedonia, so today we we are called to respond to the cry for help that comes from Bangladesh and the Maldives, from Venezuela and the Lebanon and so many more countries. Jesus said that just as he and his Father were one, so they and we should be as one so that the world may see glory of God, see the salvation that is possible, know the power of love to heal and restore all things anew.
With Paul and Silas, we came to Philippi in Macedonia, a Roman colony, and, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptised without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
1 The Lord is King;
let the earth rejoice; *
let the multitude of the isles be glad.
2 Clouds and darkness are round about him, *
righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.
3 A fire goes before him *
and burns up his enemies on every side.
4 His lightnings light up the world; *
the earth sees it and is afraid.
5 The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, *
at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
6 The heavens declare his righteousness, *
and all the peoples see his glory.
7 Confounded be all who worship carved images
and delight in false gods! *
Bow down before him, all you gods.
8 Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice, *
because of your judgments, O Lord.
9 For you are the Lord,
most high over all the earth; *
you are exalted far above all gods.
10 The Lord loves those who hate evil; *
he preserves the lives of his saints
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light has sprung up for the righteous, *
and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, *
and give thanks to his holy Name.
At the end of the visions I, John, heard these words:
“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
Jesus prayed for his disciples, and then he said. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”