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.

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!

 Counting On … day 20

3rd December 2021

Christian Aid has already prepared  a giant Christmas card to send to Boris Johnson signed by over 50,000 people with a message letting the Prime Minister know that when it comes to the pledges made at COP26, the proof is in the pudding. The lives and well being of so many people, plants and animals are still at risk. You can still join the campaign by sending your own Christmas postcard.  https://www.christianaid.org.uk/christmas-card

Sunday Reflection

28th November 2021, first Sunday of Advent

Jeremiah 33:14-16

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

Psalm 25:1-9

1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
my God, I put my trust in you; *
let me not be humiliated,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2 Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3 Show me your ways, O Lord, *
and teach me your paths.

4 Lead me in your truth and teach me, *
for you are the God of my salvation;
in you have I trusted all the day long.

5 Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, *
for they are from everlasting.

6 Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
remember me according to your love
and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.

7 Gracious and upright is the Lord; *
therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8 He guides the humble in doing right *
and teaches his way to the lowly.

9 All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness *
to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Luke 21:25-36

Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Reflection

Today is the first day in Advent and the first day in the church’s year when we embark once more on the journey of expectation that brings us to the mystery of the incarnation and a season of revelations about the amazing nature of God; the journey of repentance and new beginnings that brings us to the mystery of both death and life, and a season of growing in faith as we come to realise the breadth, length and depth of God’s kin-dom of love. 

The reading from Jeremiah sets us off with the notion of expectation: a certain expectation that God’s promises will be fulfilled. Jeremiah points to the coming of someone who will stand up for justice and righteousness in the world, and specifically that that righteousness will be the righteousness – the right way of living, the right way in which to inhabit this earth – of God. How can we go wrong if we use God as the measure or pattern of what is right?

In the epistle Paul is writing to the fledgling community at Thessalonica. A community of people whose love for God and devotion to serving and following God in Jesus Christ is such that it bubbles over with joy. Simply through knowing them, Paul is filled with joy. It sounds like an infectious joy! 

I wonder how often we get say to someone in church, ‘Your faith, your love of the Lord, fills me with joy!’?

Where does that joy spring from? What nurtures it? Love, says Paul, love for one another and ‘for all’ – is this ‘all’ the all of creation: plants and animals, ecosystems and microcosms? A love that is reciprocated one to another. A love that builds up strength and holiness ready for the coming of Jesus.

That love is the way of God, the way to overcome adversity, the way to ride out threats of embarrassment and humiliation. Love, says the psalmist, is what God teaches us; it is the way of righteousness.

The passage from Luke’s gospel reminds us that times of threat and uncertainty are nothing new, and that they can lead to fear and confusion when people cannot make sense of what is a happening. Don’t be frightened, says Jesus, rather stand up and understand that redemption is at hand, that the power and glory – the way of life and joy – of Jesus will prevail.

Then Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree: learn to read the signs. Learn to understand what these signs, these events are telling you. Study how they should inform the way you live. Is that not what we should be doing faced as we are now with droughts and storms, wild fires and floods; with a growing greed among some that impoverishes and destroys the lives of others; with increasing global temperatures because we can not curb of production of carbon dioxide; with a blinkered view of the world that does not see that excessive consumption cannot be maintained from a world of finite resources?

If we can read the signs and understand what they say about the right and wrong ways of living, and adapt the way we live – and the way we love – then we will not be caught out! Be on your guard, says Jesus. Do not allow your worries to weigh you down. Don’t try and hide from your fears by simply consuming more and more – that is the way of drunkenness and dissipation. Rather be alert. Be prayerful. Seek the strength that comes from God – strength that comes through love.

Postscript/ action

This week our daughter has been protesting outside one of the Amazon fulfilment warehouses. Amazon does in many ways stand for what is wrong in the world. It makes huge profits at the expense of its workers and subcontractors – and without paying its fare share of taxes. It promotes the concept that the more you buy the happier you will be. It disregards any awareness that the world’s resources are finite – and returned and unwanted items are thrown away unused! It encourages long supply chains and severs connections between producer and consumer  so that the latter can buy oblivious to any damage that is being caused to the environment on their behalf. And with its huge size and financial clout, it seeks to remove all other sources of commerce. Here in East Sheen, where we have no lack of food shops, it has introduced its own form of fresh food store with the idea that we cannot/ should not have to spend time pausing to pay for what we buy!

We personally as a household choose now to boycott Amazon: we choose not to buy through their markets – we choose not to contribute to Amazon’s  profits; we choose not to be sucked into their  online shopping malls that offer anything and everything at the mere click of a button.

We choose to be ‘Amazon Free for the wellbeing of the world’. 

Counting on … day 7

20th November 2021

E.F Schumacher was a philosopher and economist whose book ‘Small is Beautiful: economics as if people mattered’  was a popular read in the 1970s. His vision was able to become a reality in the shape of ‘Practical Action’. This charity  provides practical (and often therefore small scale and local) projects that enable  and support small communities across the globe to raise their living standards. Recently Schumacher daughter was  asked  in an interview what her father’s views would have been in response to the crises we face as a world today. Towards the end she says, “Fritz was often asked what people should do as individuals to support positive change. He recognised that people can feel helpless in the face of such huge challenges and can feel that their own small actions aren’t worthwhile.

His advice was always that we should support the organisations that are taking the right actions. That  we should educate ourselves about the issues and share our knowledge with others. And that we should make small, positive changes in our own lives, which right now might mean reducing our carbon footprint or using less water.”

Reflection for Remembrance Sunday

Sunday 14th November 2021

Collect: God, our refuge and strength, bring near the day when wars shall  cease and poverty and pain shall end, that earth may know the peace of heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

Daniel: 12:1-3  https://bible.oremus.org/?ql=503649379

Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25 https://bible.oremus.org/?ql=503649490

Mark 13:1-8.  https://bible.oremus.org/?ql=503649562

Reflection 

Michael the great prince is more usually (for us) known as St Michael or as one of  the four archangels. These archangels are said to stand round the throne of God from where they watch over the four corners of the earth. Michael  also appears in the Book of Revelation where he engages in battle with a dragon which is Satan, ‘the great deceiver of the whole world’ and  drives him out of heaven. In pictures and statues Michael is often depicted with a sword or spear as he attacks Satan. 

Michael the archangel – on the basis of this passage from Daniel – has the particular role of protector of God’s people.  For the readers of the Book of Daniel the people of God were the Jews, and perhaps in particular those  exiled to Babylon and their descendants. For me,  God’s people are all people for all are part of God’s creation. If we were to create a contemporary representation of Michael  as the archangel who watches over the earth and protects God’s people, I wonder what symbols we use? 

Would we still see military arms as a way of protecting people?  Would we see confrontation as the way of subduing the great deceiver?

Or would we want tools that suggestion negotiation or justice? Mobile phones and cans of Irn Bru? Rainbow flags and circular seating plans? 

Would we want items that could protect people and build peaceable communities?  Things like food supplies, tents and roads, sanitation and drinking water, medicines and vaccines, seeds and solar panels?

Would we want arguments and adverts to reveal the deceits and green wash that hold sway across the world? Just and equal access to decision making processes? Scientific explanations rather  than political spin and one-up-manship?

Would we want words and actions that united people so that efforts to avoid war and distaste could flourish? 

Can we together tackle the crises that beset the world? Can we help each other, value and protect each other? 

Can we live and work within the divine plan that establishes heaven on earth?

The  passage from Hebrews , like that from Daniel, is imagining a time of salvation, of deliverance, when heaven on earth will be a reality. In Daniel it is a future event; in Hebrews it is an event that has taken place – a promise that has become a certainty through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. As in previous weeks’ readings, this heavenly realm, this place where God’s rule prevails, is depicted as  being a heavenly of which the one reverenced by the Israelites during their time in the wilderness was but a temporal version. It is a sanctuary that all, having been sanctified by Jesus’s blood, may enter. It is a sanctuary in which all may be washed clean,  consciences cleared of evil. And such is the wellbeing that this destination  gives, that the writer urges us ‘provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…’  Just as we have the image  of Micheal intervening to thwart  the great deceiver and to actively protect God’s people, so here we have Jesus as the beacon encouraging us to nurture one another’s well being for that is how the rule of heaven is made real.

In Mark’s gospel the disciples are overwhelmed by the scale of the temple and the security and magnificence it projects. They are persuaded – maybe even conned/ brain washed – into see it as the 

promise of their salvation and security. Jesus attempts to help them to see things differently. He tells them that those stones, that temple, will not stand for ever and will not protect them. If Jesus is talking about the end of days, the disciples seem perhaps to imagine that they will be whisked out of the way of any impending danger. Not so. Rather they will be faced with famines and earthquakes and all manner of disasters before the kingdom, the rule of heaven becomes a reality. 

It can be easy or perhaps simplistic, to think when we hear of disasters, earthquakes and famines, to stand by and wait to see what happens. But I think the example of the archangel Michael, and the words of the writer of Hebrews, tell us that we must face down the deceptions of the great deceiver (in what ever form they may arise) and must proactively encourage good and loving deeds in all people. 

Today is Remembrance Sunday and we remember with love and sorrow those who lost their lives because of war. But war is not an acceptable disaster, it is not the acceptable answer to danger and sin. Remembrance Sunday is the occasion that prompts us to build peace, to be brought under the rule of heaven, and to encourage, in and for all, good and loving deeds.

Midday Prayers during COP26

Friday 12th November 2021

Let’s seek God with all our heart

Amen. God be our centre.

Let’s seek God with all our soul

Amen. God be our vision.

Let’s seek God with all our mind

Amen. God be our wisdom.

Let’s seek God with all our strength

Amen. God be our souls’ shelter.

(From https://ourcommonprayer.org/2021/08/30/mondays-in-climate-emergency/)

Reading: Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. Deuteronomy 11: 19-22

On this the eleventh day of COP26 the focus is on our governments as negotiations come to a close, so let us pray:- 

We pray for all the participants,

the decision-makers and the protestors,

the bureaucrats and the prayerful,

influencers and bankers,

for producers and consumers.

May the agreements and the pledges that are made this week

bring justice and confidence 

safety and security for all.

May they be honoured and enacted 

for the wellbeing our world and our futures.

Loving and patient God,

may your will be done.

All: Amen.


Now is the sky blue!

Now is the verge blowsy 

with lady’s lace and buttercups,

and tousle headed  grasses.

The dog rose in the hedge 

the sheep beyond.

The burbling refrain of the curlew, 

the acrobatic swerve of the swift.

All is now, and now, and now!

But tomorrow, next week, next year? 

Merciful God will they still be there?

Will our apathy, 

our slowness to act, 

our aversion to change 

allowed all this 

to be threatened, 

diminished, and 

evicted from life?

Have mercy.

But not just mercy –

rather prod us, prompt us, 

push us into action.

Renew our hearts and minds,

reverse our expectations

so that we change the future 

and once more 

be restorers of creation.

Amen. 

Counting On …

Friday 12th November 2021

Who are we counting on to make a success of the COP26 conference? 

The biggest countries or the smallest? The richest or the poorest? Those with most to offer or those who are most vulnerable?

World leaders? Our politicians? Business leaders? Scientists? Investors and financiers? Charities and NGOs? Faith groups? Youth groups?

Ourselves? Ourselves alone or ourselves as communities?

Who is counting on the success of the conference in order to survive? Small islands? Indigenous peoples? The poor? The disadvantaged? Wildlife? Marine life? Plant life? Forests and woodlands? Glaciers and icecaps? Coral reefs? Alpine meadows? We in the developed countries? The comfortably middle class? Our children and grandchildren?

We are all linked as part of a finely balanced ecological network, where it is one for all and all for one. 

Do look back at past posts for ideas and thoughts about how we can be part of the solution, and do keep in touch as the Green Tau continues to address ecological issues. 

Climate March through London, 6th November 2021