Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Sight and Blindness

 


The reading we have just heard (John 9:18-41) is the second half of a story that fills the whole of the 9th chapter of John’s Gospel. It is the story of how Jesus gave sight to a beggar blind from birth by anointing his eyes with mud made from spit, and what happened next. Let us reflect on the characters involved, and what they have to teach us.

Firstly, there is the beggar whose eyes were opened. Life must have been extremely hard for him as a blind man on the margins of society, with no other way to make a living than to beg in the street. And then, out of the blue one Sabbath day, Jesus comes by and cures his blindness. He is an open and truthful person. If we were all as open and truthful as him the world would be a much better place! When his neighbours and those who knew him ask how it happened, he simply says, ‘The man called Jesus made mud and spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’. Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ When they bring him before the Pharisees – the civil and religious leaders – he repeats his story. And adds that he believes Jesus is a prophet - words guaranteed to upset Pharisees who resent Jesus.

Secondly, there are the beggar’s parents. I feel sure they must have been kind parents to raise such an open and honest son. But they are not so open themselves. They guard their words carefully when they are asked to confirm that their son really was blind from birth, and to explain how he can now see. They know the Pharisees have already decided to throw out of the synagogue anyone who confesses Jesus to be the Messiah. So they confirm their son has been blind from birth, but they decline to say how he was cured, saying he is old enough to answer for himself. Perhaps they were afraid for themselves, or perhaps they hoped that their son would change his story when he saw the way the wind was blowing. But for whatever reason they failed to support their son. I am reminded of the many Irish parents of a previous generation, who failed to support their unmarried pregnant daughters in the face of prejudice.

Thirdly, there are the Pharisees, religious and civic leaders who prided themselves on their knowledge of and adherence to the Jewish law. No doubt most of them were good people, admired members of the community – remember, St Paul could boast that he was ‘a Pharisee born of Pharisees’. But their concern for the letter of the law could lead them to breach its spirit. On this occasion they were divided. Some said Jesus could not be Godly, because he did a work of healing on the Sabbath when work was forbidden. Others said he must be Godly, or he could not have given sight to someone born blind. To resolve this, first they call on the parents to testify, as we have heard, and then they call in the beggar to testify a second time. The beggar does not change his story. Instead, he challenges them, declaring that if Jesus were not from God, he could not have given him sight. At this point the Pharisees are outraged that the beggar should presume to lecture them. They come together to drive the beggar out of the Synagogue, ostracising and marginalising him once again. We are not told whether this decision was unanimous or not, so there may have been a dissenting minority. I am reminded of the way that some Christians seek to exclude LGBT people from their churches, while others stay silent for the sake of a peaceful life, and a minority – of which I am one - continues to oppose it.

Lastly, there is Jesus himself. Jesus hears that the beggar has been driven out and goes in search of him, to comfort him, I feel sure. The beggar responds to Jesus, saying ‘Lord, I believe’, and worships him. Then Jesus says, loudly enough for some nearby Pharisees to overhear, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind’. Jesus is confirming the beggar’s insight, but also accusing the Pharisees of being blind to the truth. He understands very well that ‘There are none so blind as them that do not want to see’. It is a warning to us all.

As we pray for eyes to see the world as God sees it, let us also pray for humility to see where we may be blind.


Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Transfiguration

 

A reflection on St Mark's account of the transfiguration, given at Morning Worship for the Community of Brendan the Navigator on Tuesday 16th February 2021

A Brocken Spectre, captured at Glencoe
for more on the science see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glory_(optical_phenomenon)

Mountain tops are special places, places where we feel awed by the immensity of God’s creation.

When the weather is good, the distant views reveal how puny we really are. When the clouds close in, we experience isolation from all that is familiar. And when the wind blows rain or hail or snow in our face, we understand our own frailty and vulnerability.

In today’s reading (Mark 9:2-9), Mark tells the story of three disciple’s very special mountain top experience. High on the mountain, Peter, James and John see Jesus ‘transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white’ – his appearance is changed: the Greek word translated as ‘transfigured’ is from the same root as ‘metamorphosis’. Alongside him they see two figures talking to him, whom they identify as Elijah and Moses, the two preeminent figures of Judaism, representing the Law and the Prophets.

Peter, always the impulsive one, says, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’. Peter does not want this emotional moment to end – such a human response!

Then the cloud closes in around them.  They are terrified. And they hear a voice saying, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!’ When the cloud clears, they look around, and they can see only Jesus, who orders them not to tell anyone what they have experienced, ‘until the Son of Man (has) risen from the dead’.

Their experience, which we call the Transfiguration, reveals Jesus to them as the Christ, the Son of God. They must have felt it was immensely important, because they remembered it and passed on their story after the Resurrection, so that it could be told to us not just by Mark, but also by Matthew and Luke.

There may be a scientific explanation for what Peter, James and John saw.

High on a mountain, with cloud around, is precisely where we may encounter an optical effect called a ‘glory’. In this effect sunlight is scattered back from water droplets in a mist, as a glowing halo - the technical term for it is Mie scattering.

The most famous example is the ‘Brocken Spectre’, so named because of sightings on the Brocken, the highest peak of the Harz Mountains in Germany. It appears when a low sun is behind a climber who is looking downwards into mist from a ridge or peak. The spectre is the shadow of the observer projected onto the mist, and it is surrounded by the glowing halo of a glory. Try googling ‘Brocken Spectre’ to find photos of it.

You might be lucky enough to see a glory yourselves, as I have. I saw one when I looked down from a plane at the shadow it cast on a cloud. The shadow was surrounded with a halo of light – this was the glory.

I imagine Peter and James and John close together on the mountain, with Jesus praying a little bit away, as the clouds swirl around them. Where Jesus has been standing, they each suddenly see a glowing figure. It is their own shadow cast onto a cloud, and wrapped in a glory. The other two figures they see, whom they take to be Moses and Elijah, are the shadows of their companions. Is it significant, I wonder, that each disciple sees his own shadow transfigured?

This explanation from physics convinces me that the Transfiguration was not imagined, but a real event. I believe that God is present in, and works through, the laws of the universe he created. The disciples accurately reported what they saw, even if they could not understand the physics, as we can now.

If this explanation is correct, it should not change one whit our awe and wonder at God’s power and glory.

What matters, surely, is what the Transfiguration reveals to Peter, James and John about the nature of Jesus and his relationship with God. They saw Jesus transfigured as ‘the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’, in St Paul’s words. The voice they heard told them to listen to him, and this is what they did. From then on Jesus intensified his teaching to them, preparing them for their role as apostles after his death.

The Transfiguration is, I think, the moment on their long road when they gave their complete commitment to Jesus and his teaching. Starting from their call in Galilee, this road led them ultimately to Jerusalem, to the Cross, to the Resurrection, to the Ascension, and on to Pentecost, where they started to blossom as Christ’s Church.

And as Christians it should inspire each one of us to make our own commitment to follow Jesus as his disciple, wherever that may take us.

 

 

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Sabath observance



Today’s reflection is about the Sabbath. It follows on from the reading we’ve just heard (Mark 2:23-28), in which Jesus says, ‘The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath’.

We should think of Sabbath as a gift from God, I believe. The ancient Israelites were, perhaps, the first to see that people can only flourish if they take time off from their busy lives every seven days - time to rest, time to enjoy being with friends and family, as well as time to give thanks to God for all his blessings. So they included this as one of the 10 Commandments in their covenant with God: 

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.’.

The Israelites handed this great insight down through the generations to the time of Jesus, and on to all the Abrahamic faiths, though we now observe our sabbaths on different days of the week: Saturday for Jews, Sunday for Christians, and Friday for Muslims.

By the time of Jesus, the religious authorities had surrounded the Sabbath with so many regulations that its purpose was in danger of being lost. Plucking heads of grain to nibble on a walk was seen as prohibited harvest work, which led the Pharisees to criticise his disciples. But Jesus would have no truck with such pettiness, and nor should we.

Down to this day Orthodox Jews still observe their Saturday Sabbath rigorously. Forbidden work for them includes lighting a fire, and many will not turn electricity on or off on the Sabbath, since to do so might cause a spark. I discovered this when I was staying in Italy with my wife Marty, and the next door hotel was hosting a large party of orthodox Jews for the Sabbath. All the lights were left blazing day and night because to turn them off might make a spark, the lift was out of bounds, and there was no hot food. I was very impressed by the happy family groups walking in the grounds, and by their willingness to stop and chat. They were enjoying their Sabbath rest, and made no attempt to criticise me as a gentile for not joining in their discipline.

So how should we as Christians observe our Sunday Sabbath? Until 20 years ago almost all shops were shut on Sundays, except for corner shops selling papers and food, and the occasional chemist. Nowadays all is changed. The car parks at supermarkets and shopping centres are full on Sundays. I feel a bit sad about this, as it means that most shop-workers are obliged to work on Sundays. True, they will have some other day off, but it must be difficult for many families to enjoy Sundays together. However, we must recognise that society has changed, and it would be wrong and counter-productive to force others who do not share our faith to behave as we might wish.

I am sure that it is wise for everyone to enjoy the benefits of a Sabbath day of rest with family and friends. My wife Marty and I choose to go to church on a Sunday to give thanks to God for all his blessings – by zoom for the time being. Then we relax and cook a Sunday roast. But it is really up to each person how to mark their own sabbath, and on what day of the week. We would do well not to criticise the choices of others.

Because the Sabbath is made for us, for you and me - not you and me for the Sabbath!


Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Was Mary ‘meek & mild’? – a reflection on Luke 1:46-55

Elizabeth greets Mary

The readings from St Luke’s Gospel set for this week as we approach Christmas are all about St Mary. Today’s reading, which we’ve just heard, is her great hymn of praise to God which we know as the Magnificat.

Mary, pregnant with Jesus, has travelled to a hill town to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who is 6 months pregnant with John the Baptist. ‘When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb … For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord”’.

And Mary responds with the Magnificat.

Most of us, I suppose, have grown up with a rather mawkish image of Mary as meek and mild, a demure teenager who couldn’t say boo to a goose. This has been reinforced in art, and in many of our favourite hymns and carols. ‘Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head’, we sing in one hymn. ‘Mary was that mother mild’, we sing in another. Gentle Mary – mild, meek, the handmaid of the Lord, head bowed in reverence. Can’t you see her there in so many paintings, stained glass windows, and Christmas cards?

But this is not the real Mary that we meet in her own words. The Magnificat is no sweet lullaby - it is a battle cry, bold and defiant. Secure in her faith in God as her Saviour, she cries out ‘From now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name’. She is certain that God cares for the poor, the powerless, the hungry, those with least in society, as he cares for her: ‘He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty’.

We short-change Mary when we idealise her as meek and mild. The real Mary was a fighter, fierce for God’s justice and righteousness. This is how we should remember her, and why we should revere her.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Rejoice, pray, give thanks


Address given at St Mary's Nenagh and Killodiernan church on Sunday 13th December 2020, the 3rd Sunday of Advent,
Guadete Sunday.

In today’s Gospel reading (John 1:6-8, 19-28), we hear that John the Baptist ‘came as a witness to testify to the light’.

This light is the light of Christ. It is the light of the goodness and love of God. It is right that we should rejoice in it.

‘Gaudete’ means ‘Rejoice’ in the Latin language, and this 3rd Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday, from the initial word of the Latin introit, or hymn for the day.

‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’.

In these words from today’s Epistle reading (1Thessalonians 5:16-24), St Paul encourages the Christians in Thessalonica to hold fast to their faith in the goodness and love of God – and you and me too, thanks to their preservation of his words.

And Isaiah too testifies to the goodness and love of God in today’s OT reading (Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11), through beautiful, heart-stirring poetry:

The Lord God

‘has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
   to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
   and release to the prisoners.’

It is powerful stuff, isn’t it? The Israelites to whom Isaiah is speaking would have drunk in his words. They had been living in exile in Babylon for many years. They know all about oppression and captivity. In a few years time, the armies of Cyrus, king of Persia would conquer Babylon, and the Israelites, or some of them, would be allowed to return home.

Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
   and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
   that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed’,

says Isaiah.

‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances’.

These words of Paul echo down the centuries to us. But let us be very clear just what a hard thing Paul is asking. To rejoice, pray and give thanks when all is well is one thing. But always? Without ceasing? In all circumstances? What of the man who has just lost his job? What of the single mother who cannot pay the fuel bill? What of the husband or wife whose life’s partner has just died of Covid-19, died alone? Isn’t Paul asking the impossible of them?

When everything seems to go against us it is very easy to become obsessed with our own misery, to fall into clinical depression. For those who have been there - as I have been there - life is very bleak, at least for a time. To be told to pull your socks up is worse than useless – it makes you feel worse. Medication helps many people, but at its root depression is a spiritual disease, I think. It is about feeling cut off from the goodness and love of God – as Jesus himself felt when said on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

Depression starts to be cured when, for all our troubles, we begin to see things to rejoice over, things to pray for, things to be thankful about.

For this reason, Paul’s words are wise advice, both for the Christians in Thessalonica, and for all of us who believe in the goodness and love of God. Quite apart from the theology, they are a tool to help us resist depression.

You might like this analogy: If you stand with your back to the sun you see your own shadow, but if you turn to face it your shadow is behind you.

‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances’.

It is different, of course, for those who cannot for whatever reason experience God’s goodness and love. Paul’s words won’t help them directly, only make them feel worse. But we can help them, you and I can help them, by showing through our love and care for them, that there are things to rejoice at, things to look forward to, things to be thankful for.

The coming Christmas season will be psychologically difficult for many people. Society demands that everyone should feel jolly, when many don’t feel jolly at all. And this year for many it is made even worse by the Covid-19 pandemic. Let us make a special point of letting those who have lost a loved one in the last year know that we are thinking of them. Let us keep an eye out for our neighbours who are lonely, old, or finding life difficult, and show them love and support if they need it. And let us give as generously as we can to those agencies who are trying to relieve the shocking poverty too many are living with.

God sends us, as he sent Isaiah:

‘to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
   to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
   the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit’
.

I shall finish in prayer with a Collect of the Word:

Eternal God,

you sent John the Baptist

to prepare the way for the coming of your Son:

grant us wisdom to see your purpose

and openness to hear your will,

that we too may prepare the way for Christ

who is coming in power and glory

to establish his rule of peace and justice;

through Jesus Christ our Judge and our Redeemer,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen



Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Faith and Works

 A reflection given at Morning Worship for the Community of Brendan the Navigator on Tuesday 17th November 2020

If you are accused before a judge of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

In today’s reading (James 2:14-26), James tells us we cannot claim to have faith if we cannot show works. ‘Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead’, he says. The works he is talking about here are good works, works of charity to help fellow human beings in distress, such as clothing the naked or feeding the hungry. This is the same message that Jesus taught in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. He told his followers, ‘You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’.  

Disciples of Jesus ought to be able to their good works as evidence that they are Christians. But are good works enough to prove the case?

On judgement day a brutal tyrant may try to persuade a judge that his good works outweigh the oppression and suffering he has caused. Are you and I so different? All of us have fallen short of God’s standards, we all have probably contrived to keep our shameful acts secret. We may try to claim that our good works, done for all to see, are sufficient to prove that we are good Christians. But no one can bargain with God. God sees right through our pitiful excuses for the bad things we have done.

St Paul understands very well that good works are not sufficient to justify the bad. In his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 3:21-30), he argues that we are justified through faith, not through works. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, he says. But God is righteous, God is good. By God’s grace freely given, those who believe in Jesus Christ can be redeemed through Jesus’s self-sacrifice. God will forgive our bad deeds if we change our lives, and we can be reconciled to God.

So for Paul, it is faith that comes first, not good works. People have sometimes seen this as contradicting James view. ‘Sola fide’, faith alone, was the catch phrase of the Lutheran reformation. But this is a false opposition. Luther himself, in his ‘Introduction to Romans’, said ‘A living, creative, active and powerful thing, (is) this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever...Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!’

The fact is, evidence of good works is not enough to convict anyone of being Christian, but an absence of good works – and bad deeds - is evidence someone is not. After all, speaking of false prophets, Jesus tells us, ‘You will know them by their fruits’.

And what of those who do not claim to be Christian, but who we can see do good works? We should give thanks to God for them, I think, and consider them people of good will with whom we are happy to work. And we should leave judgement to God.

 


Sunday, 11 October 2020

We must dedicate ourselves to justice and righteousness

Address given at the Harvest Eucharist in St Mary's, Nenagh on Sunday 11th October 2020, live-streamed in the absence of a congregation due to level 3 Covid restrictions.


The harvest has been brought in once again this year

How we miss our traditional Harvest Festival celebrations, don’t we!

Every year but this one, we bring the best of the harvest to decorate God’s house. We all enjoy the colours and the smells of the fruit and the vegetables and the flowers. We all enjoy the familiar harvest hymns. We visit each other’s churches to celebrate with them – and to assess their decorators’ skills. And we all enjoy seeing so many cheerful people, filled with a sense of accomplishment, now that the year’s work has been crowned with success.

But not this year. This year, as we wrestle with the Covid virus, there are no decorations, no singing, and now churches are closed again, and services are streamed over the internet. Even though we know the restrictions are necessary for our own and our neighbours good, we miss the old traditions keenly.

Yet the harvest has been brought in once again this year. By God’s grace we will have plenty to eat, and delicacies as well, to enjoy over the coming months. God, who is faithful will make sure of next year’s harvest too, when we may hope that we can celebrate it as we have done before.

 Let us take a moment to reflect on the sheer breadth and variety of the harvest. We have the staples: we have wheat for bread, barley for beer, oats for porridge, and forage for cattle. I asked a farming neighbour how his year was shaping up. ‘You know’, he said, ‘a farmer never says he’s happy, but I’m not too unhappy!’ He has had a good year, I reckon, though I expect he is anxious about what Brexit will bring next year.

And there’s so much more than staples for us to enjoy, isn’t there! There’s milk and butter, cheese and yogurt, fruit and nuts, blackberries and mushrooms, plums and apples, potatoes and turnips, pumpkins and marrows, cabbage and lettuce, peas and beans.

Let’s not forget the animals too – we have this year’s foals and calves and lambs, chicks, ducklings, and goslings to delight us. And we must not forget the fruit of our own bodies, our children and grandchildren born this year.

Psalm 65:12-13 expresses it in beautiful poetry, ‘The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy’.

Thanks be to God for giving us so much! Let us be sure to turn back to the Lord to thank him for all we have received, like the Samaritan leper healed by Jesus, as we heard in the Gospel reading (Luke 17:11-19) .

In the OT reading from Deuteronomy (8:7-18), Moses speaks to the Israelites as they wait to cross into the Promised Land.

‘The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land’, he says, ‘a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley’. Well, God has placed us in just such a land, hasn’t he? We too live in ‘a land where (we) may eat bread without scarcity, where (we) lack nothing’. It is surely right for us, like the Israelites, to ‘eat our fill and bless the Lord (our) God for the good land that he has given (us)’.

But Moses also gives the children of Israel a warning. As they enjoy all these good things, he tells them, ‘Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances and his statutes, which I am commanding you today’. For, he says, it is God who makes it possible to have all this wealth of good things. And, he adds, if you fail to keep his commandments – that is if you fail to live as God intends you to live – terrible things will happen to you. In the very next verse he says, ‘If you do forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish’.

In his long speech to the Israelites, of which today’s reading is a tiny part, Moses restates the Ten Commandments, and expands on them at length, as a rule of life for the Israelites. Moses believes God is just and righteous. God has made a covenant with the Israelites. This requires them to behave with justice and righteousness to other Israelites. Why? Because that is how God behaves.

“Justice and Righteousness”. These two words are like mirror images, because to do what is just is to do what is right and, vice versa. These two words run right through the OT like a vein of precious metal.

In his life and teaching Jesus extends Moses’ idea of God’s covenant of justice and righteousness to apply to all people, Israelites and gentiles alike. And it is Moses’ rule of life that Jesus summarises for us when he says: ‘You shall love the Lord your God’; and ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. Love of God and love of neighbour go together like two sides of the same coin.

In our Epistle reading, St Paul encourages the Corinthians to be generous (2 Corinthians9:6-15).

Paul is organising a collection for the poverty-stricken church in Jerusalem among the gentile churches he has planted. He has just told the Corinthians about how generous the Macedonian Christians have been, and now he urges the Corinthians to be generous too.

He tells them what every farmer and every gardener knows – you reap what you sow: ‘The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows generously will also reap bountifully’.

He says they must not think they are under any compulsion to give more than they feel they can, because ‘God loves a cheerful giver’.

But he reminds them that God has given them quite enough so that they can afford to be generous. ‘God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance’, he says, ‘so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work’.

And he tells them that by being generous, not just to the needy in Jerusalem but to all others, they will both glorify God and benefit themselves spiritually. ‘You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God … because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you’.

We must, I suggest, listen very carefully both to Moses’ warning and to Paul’s urging.

Moses warns against breaking God’s covenant of justice and righteousness. Consider the situation that faces us. There is a growing crisis of inequality in our globalised world, as the rich get richer and the poor poorer, and wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. And the gathering environmental catastrophe threatens to unpick the web of life on this planet on which we all depend. Could it be that both crises result from a failure to keep God’s covenant of justice and righteousness? I rather think they do. Both crises are driven by human greed - by people who always want more and more, because they reckon they are worth it – such people worship Mammon in place of God.

Paul urges generosity as a positive value. God who is just and righteous will generously supply more than enough to allow us all to flourish. But it is in our own interests to respond justly and righteously, by taking no more than we need, and by generously sharing the surplus with those who do not have enough.

I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that anyone here, or listening to me on the web, is greedy or ungenerous - though none of us is perfect. But it is plain for all to see that greed and lack of generosity are deeply embedded within the globalised world we live in. To change this won’t be easy, but it is necessary. Both as a society and as individuals, we need to cultivate justice and righteousness; we need to know when we have enough, we need to recognise when our neighbour has too little, and we need to listen when God calls us to share generously what he has so graciously given us. If we can’t do that, our future is dire.

So, let us rededicate ourselves to justice and righteousness.

Let us love God and thank him for his good gifts. Let us also love our neighbours and share his gifts with those in need of them. And let us pray that all without exception may have enough.

In this way we can join together to pronounce a blessing on all our communities:

Blessed are we when we sing God’s praises 

and walk together faithfully on God’s earth.

Blessed are we when we proclaim God’s justice 

and share together the fruits of creation.

Blessed are we when we are guided by God’s wisdom

and live together in harmony with God’s world.