Hi all – yes, I know – it’s been a little while since I last posted. I have a very good reason for that – he’s called Edmund and he’s rather taken over my life!
Now, before you read any further this post is not about camping, cooking or motorbikes. If you’re looking for that then I’ll have some posts very shortly about Europe’s biggest overland traveller event – HUBB – and the Adventure Travel Film Festival (I’m speaking at both). This post is very personal and concerns God. Now – given the last time I wrote about God here I had a bunch of comments along the lines of ‘great blog, shame about the God stuff’ I’m giving you fair warning – this one is about the God stuff.
Today marked a very import day for me. I’ve been on a journey over the last year or so that’s brought me closer to God and left me exploring a calling to vocation within the Church of England – I appreciate that means very little to most people – but it’s very important to me. One of the first steps on that journey was to deliver a sermon – to preach – to my church family today. I spoke about Christian Aid week and the unity which all people of faith share in trying to make the world a better place. I recorded the sermon and pasted the text below – I’d really appreciate any thoughts or feedback. Over to you.
Download: (right click)
Sermon John 20 17 to end MP3
Lord, grant us the peace and grace to hear your word, your message, both here and in our actions throughout the coming week.
We’ve heard this morning about Jesus praying for believers and praying that as believers we are one. That’s a very simple thing to say of course – in our faith in Him we are one – of course we are – through His word we spread the message and in spreading that message we bring new people into our faith and into our unity.
Each Sunday we sit and we listen to the word of Christ. We listen to His message and each Sunday someone stands here and helps us to try and understand what Jesus is trying to teach us. But ultimately God speaks to us directly. The message that we understand is very individual – God speaks to our hearts and minds directly and we take that message out into the world, outside our church, and spread His message. When we do that, we are bringing other people to God’s message – and as Jesus prays here: ‘I have given them the glory which you have given to me, so that they may be one, just as we are one.’ We have brought people into our unity with Christ and each other.
That’s not to say that we must all go out and evangelise on street corners or to our co-workers by quoting the bible on some profound, mature understanding of that we have come to. Our actions are just as important in bringing people to faith – and therefore to the unity of our faith – as our words are.
This unity isn’t just us here in this Church, or even in the Church of England – it’s the unity of every Christian around the world. The unity Jesus talks of is so profound that it mirrors the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. ‘So that they may be one, just as we are one’.
It’s interesting that in a report by the Charities Aid Foundation in February of this year it became apparent that religious respondents – of any faith – gave an average of £576 in the previous year, those with no religion gave £235. Religious people donate more than twice as much to charity as those who are not.
The director of research at the Charities Aid Foundation said that, “The survey shows that there is a link between associating with a religion and charitable behaviour, even when people aren’t actively practising their faith. Their giving is not uniquely focused on their own religious activities, if anything, people of faith broadly give in line with the rest of the general public – to a variety of different appeals – primarily medical and overseas aid.”
I would argue that donating to charity – whatever that may be – is an active practising of faith – going to Church on a Sunday is not the only way to hear the word, to listen to and spread the message – that can also be done through our unity – through our actions.
Through everyday acts of kindness and generosity to others we practice our faith. Every time we think of others first, every time we take a step to bring people into our unity with Christ we practise our faith.
It could be argued that all people of faith are held together in unity and when brought together by the love of Christ we see beyond borders, beyond race, sex, gender or other dividing lines and want to help where we can. Faith helps us see the world through unity – not division.
All of this is very timely of course – it’s Christian Aid Week. The stories from Christian Aid – from all over the world demonstrate that even in the midst of debilitating scarcity, people of faith work together and demonstrate they can transform lives for a common good.
Again and again we hear of lives being changed through the empowerment of those who are most vulnerable – of those most desperate. The bible shows us time and time again that God is not impressed by national or racial identity. Rather His concern is for those who are powerless, the starving and suffering, those living in fear and anxiety, those drained of time or energy.
Those of us blessed with wealth, with time, with food and comfort should, through our unity, help others with understanding, patience, and of course through financial donations!
Christian Aid Week starts today and runs to next Saturday. The focus this year is on hunger – indeed the tagline for the week is ‘bite back at hunger’ – I see what they did there! If all of us play our part, if all of us nibble at the problem then we can make a massive difference – see what I did there?!
There is more than enough food in the world that everyone can eat – that no one needs go to bed hungry. This isn’t about food parcels or hand-outs – it’s about intelligent ways of helping people in the long term. Christian Aid is about helping people to help themselves.
For example we all take the weather forecast for granted in Britain – in fact it’s almost a national sport, never mind the first refuge of small talk. But living here in rural Buckinghamshire we also appreciate how important the forecast is to our farmers. Without detailed knowledge of rain, wind or sun farmers would struggle to know when to plant – when to harrow – when to get the combine out! But in Kenya farmers are experiencing increasingly erratic weather patterns and without detailed, scientific forecasts they can be left unable to feed or provide for their families. Planting seeds at the wrong moment can be disastrous when you only have one sack of seeds.
Christian Aid, through their partners, have helped farmers in Kenya by providing detailed forecasts via mobile phone. Most families have no access to a radio or television – but nearly every family has some sort of simple mobile phone – it’s often the only means of communication a farmer and his family has.
By sending small-scale farmers scientific weather perditions and forecasts via text message, translated into their local language, they enable those farmers to plant armed with valuable information. Farmers can respond via text with follow up questions or to share crop information that they believe may be valuable to others beyond their own community.
With training provided alongside the forecasts, farmers have been able to adapt their farming techniques and crop choices to the changing climate and provide food for their families and community.
There are many many stories of this kind from Christian Aid – it allows us to remember that we are part of a broad Church, that we are part of a united world where our belief, our faith, our unity can help those most in need.
Through our actions this week, let us make Christ’s name known, so that the love which God has for Jesus and for us may be in them and in us – uniting us against social injustice and poverty.
We can make a difference – however small – we can donate this week to Christian Aid (£576 seems the right amount according to the research) or even by just filling in the Gift Aid details on our donation slips for collection.
As Jesus said, “I am praying that they may all be one” – today I ask us to pray together: Lord, through our unity in faith, through our fellowship with you and each other, enable us to give freely of our gifts so that others may be empowered to live in your glory. Amen.