Category Archives: Sermons

Caring for Creation – Climate Change

Global Warming… Luke 14:7-14

It is a very simple message about humility and hospitality. Jesus noticed that people liked to sit in places of honour. They liked to sit at the top table at weddings and enjoy the good life. They liked to receive the best treatment. Traveling first class can be fun but it’s also addictive. It’s very easy to think this is normal and forget that for most it isn’t normal. Jesus said be careful, be humble.
He then talks of who you might invite into your own home for dinner. Is it just your friends and people who are just like you? Is it people who are already part of your circle of friends and family? Jesus talks of another way when he says make sure you invite the others, the poor, the ones you don’t normally mix with, the ones that don’t really matter. And he says when you do this, when you invite the people from outside the fence to your table you’ll be blessed.. You’ll learn something.
Now I suspect there is plenty here to challenge in the way we live our day to day lives. Humility and hospitality are key elements of a Christian life. Our celebration of communion where we all gather around around a table no matter who we are is a constant message and reminder of how it is in the kingdom of God. All are equal, and it doesn’t matter if you are Donald Trump or Joesephine Bloggs you are welcome. We are all interconnected as part of Gods creation.

I wonder what that might have to say to us as we address one of the most pressing issues in our world – climate change. However we might want to look at it, we are part of the small group that sit around the top table and there is plenty of evidence we are very good at thumbing our nose at everyone else in the world. They don’t matter. Who cares if the people of Tuvalu no longer have a home because the ocean has risen. I think it’s now an established reality that the world is heating up and that human activity is “extremely likely” to blame. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are now at levels “unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.” Sea levels are expected to rise and the oceans have acidified as they have absorbed increased levels of carbon dioxide. We can expect more mosquitoes, more extreme weather events, and a shrinking of land mass as oceans rise.

I see varying responses. The United Sates seems to be backing right off. They have a president who is more interested in saving coal miners jobs than taking a lead in addressing climate change. We may go tut tut, but I wonder whether as individuals we are pretty good at saying someone else’s problem. So what if hurricane wipe out life on some Pacific island or sea level rise destroys millions of homes in Bangladesh. So long as we are OK all is OK. Those others don’t really belong at our table. As a nation it’s easy for us to say we are just a very small contributor to the greenhouse gases that seem to be at the heart of the problem. But when you bring it down to the personal level there are only ten nations in the world that emit more greenhouses gasses than we do – per person. When it comes to pumping out carbon in various forms we punch well above our weight. The global average of carbon dioxide equivalent per person is something like four metric tonnes per year, but we manage just under 20 metric tonnes per person – five times the global average. Of course a key issue for us is cows – we have a lot of cows out there belching out methane, which is actually a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The only good news is that it doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere. To put it bluntly we sit at the top table in terms of lifestyle and we need to open our eyes and make some real changes to our lifestyles. We need to invite others to our table and understand we are part of a global issue that affects us all.

So where are the problem areas? Well we know for us kiwis the cows are an issue as they produce lots of methane and we also put lots of nitrogen onto the land. The methane is a short term greenhouse gas, but unfortunately it’s much nastier than CO2. We are going to have to find ways to reduce these emissions. The obvious answer is reduce the numbers of cows. But dairying is carrying our economy. It’s not easy. We have good people working on resolving this. It’s easy to point the finger elsewhere and say others need to change.

What about us? City folk. One of the big issues for us is that we consume lots of stuff, and just about every product or service we use causes CO2 emissions in its manufacture or in the transport to get it to us. Ensuring we consume less and live more simply is possibly one of the biggest things each of us could do. Buy products that last and don’t have to be replaced regularly. We often don’t need to replace our perfectly good cell phone or TV so why do we? Buy products without packaging. Sharing more stuff with others would really help. A group like us could start a stuff to be shared resource bank. Literally all the stuff we have is killing us and will certainly kill the planet if everyone has what we have. Cutting down consumption of stuff and living more simply is fundamental to a future planet that resembles the good creation God longs for.

Another major contributor of our CO2 emissions is our love affair with cars. We have more cars per head of population than just about anyone else in the world and we love to use them all the time. We could be walking or cycling more and incidentally enjoying better health, but no, even if it is a short trip to the shops we use the car. We have a great public transport system in Christchurch but often buses trundle around half empty. Far too many of us have never used a bus. Land transport, cars buses, trucks, including the trucks and other vehicles carting around all the stuff we really don’t need, accounts for about 40% of our CO2 emissions and it’s growing rapidly.

We also love to travel by air and we need to remember that one return flight to a European city produces about ten metric tonnes of CO2 per passenger, or two and a half times the global annual average in one hit. Travel is good as it reconnects us with family and opens our eyes to other cultures and peoples, but we really need to be careful about how often we use planes. Planes also bring in all sorts of food from around the world. How good it is to have Italian kiwifruit out of our season, but remember those imported food items are adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

We are it seems very definitely at the top table gobbling up the best food and living as we wish while the earth it seems is heading towards death and destruction for many. Climate change will affect all of us but it will be the poor who suffer most. It’s time we invited others to our table and looked beyond our narrow self interest.

The Bible has a term that describes what is required, and it’s the term repent! Repent means changing direction and that is never easy. It requires work and effort. But currently the way we live is the equivalent of taking our place at the top table and saying to hell with everyone else. Jesus would simply call it sinful, and invites us to head down a different road.
I don’t for one minute suggest it will be easy. There isn’t any immediate threat that we can see will threaten us in the next five minutes so why get worried. There is no elephant standing on our toe so why do anything? We find it hard dealing with issues that aren’t immediate and don’t have immediate effect. Like the frog being heated in hot water it’s easy to put off jumping out of the pot until of course it’s too late. Toss in an element of uncertainty because we actually don’t know precisely what will happen as greenhouse gas concentrations increase, and it becomes incredibly easy to put our head in the sand and hope that it won’t be so bad for our grandchildren as the scientists tell us.

I believe Jesus Christ came to heal and save the world, and as a faithful disciple I need to change my lifestyle. I believe Jesus cares so much about this sacred world that he would sacrifice even his life to save it, so where is the sacrifice in riding my bike or the bus more often. I believe Jesus meant what he said invite others to sit down and share our table and our life with them. Picture the people of every low lying country, listen to the cries of species going extinct as temperature rises. Hear the weeping of the planet, and the weeping of God..

I know I can’t solve the issue by myself, but I do believe we can be light and salt. We can work together to reduce the amount of carbon we are putting into the atmosphere. We can do things like choosing to live simply, sharing what we have – couldn’t someone with skills amongst us start a sharing pool of tools and other items, buying things that last. Reduce, recycle, reuse. Be someone who leads the way with an electric vehicle. I’m blessed to be fit enough to bike. I know I could use the bus more. Reduce our trips by air. , ensuring the power we use is generated by renewable means. Simply doing what everyone else does isn’t enough – we are called to be a light. We are called to be salt. God has given us responsibility to care for the earth. Conversation, encouragement, creative thinking, courageous action.
Let’s stop sitting around the top table with our heads in the sand. The first step is simple…. We have a coffee or cup of tea after worship. Have a conversation. Share something you already do that helps turn this beast around. Celebrate that. Then see if you can agree on something you can do together that will help honour the call to be salt and light.

Dugald Wilson

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Healing – Mark 5:21-34

Healing is a strange and mysterious business. I wonder if you have ever stopped to reflect on the healing power that resides in each of us. Cut your finger and what happens?
First up there’s blood gushing and that’s not good so your body sends messages to close down the blood supply – a little like turning off the water when the pipe bursts around home. It also sends in special proteins in the blood like fibrin and platelets to create clots and scabs to encapsulate the wound and give a protective covering. This happens within seconds but the repair work at the site will take much longer. There is usually an inflammatory response with a team of cells (including macrophages and neutrophils) sent in to clean up the site and get rid of baddies. Your body can then start rebuilding damaged tissue. New blood vessels are made that can help more blood reach the wound, and special cells start adding substances in preparation for rebuilding cells. It’s putting in the plumbing and the framing in the repair of a house as the wound is built over.
In the final stage of wound healing, a lot of remodeling occurs. Special proteins that were needed for early stages of healing are replaced with tools used for remodeling. A tissue called collagen is important for strength, durability, and scarring of your new skin. There are the final touches put on the house to make sure everything is in the right place. The electrician is involved as nerve endings that were damaged in the injury need to be rebuilt. After all the work is done, you have a completed repair!
The amazing thing I think is that all this just happens. This healing power is built in. It’s alive within each of us.

I think that healing power is of God.

I think we can encourage that power with medical knowledge, with love, with prayer.

I think that power is at work within each of us but it is also all through the universe.

We read the story of the haemorrhaging woman and I bet the question on most minds is ‘how Jesus did that?’ How did he fix her, and what was this faith stuff. We would do well to remember Jesus’ original hearers weren’t so interested in the ‘how’ question because miraculous healings like this were part of their world. People came to Jesus expecting healing. I suspect it is only the dramatic healings that were remembered and there were many other much less dramatic instances of what we might call ‘small steps along the way of healing.’ Some healing might have involved the strength to face what was, or maybe a growth in understanding with no physical changes. Healing is not just physical quick fix. Whatever in Jesus’ world healing happened when the gods smiled on you. Our world view is quite different and we need to be careful getting hooked on miraculous happenings that catch our eye.

Healing is about fixing something that is broken, but what is it that is broken. With Jesus it was usually something bigger than just the individual involved. In our story this morning we should take note that it was a woman involved. What in God’s name possessed her to touch a man and a rabbi. It was a big no no. I know when I greet my sister in law in Malaysia I never touch her. Men and women lead basically separate lives unless you are married. You eat in different spaces. Men touch men and women touch women in public. That was true for Jesus’ world. This woman was literally risking a public stoning in her actions. The original witnesses to this healing had plenty of raised eyebrows.

What courage she had to break the norm. Jesus talks about her faith, but what does that faith look like? Courage to say this issue can be fixed, courage to reach out and do something, courage to trust God might be at work in Jesus. This woman is a wonderful example of faith. She is a great encouragement for every time we sit back and say nothing can be done, or nothing makes a difference. Climate change is much bigger than me… God is small….. we are powerless. Think about this woman and have courage to do something!

But this healing makes you also wonder about the new Jesus community founded where men and women seem to freely mix and women are treated with real respect and value. This woman was reaching out in a radical way and risking public humiliation for breaking norms and rules of acceptability. She was unclean, and she made Jesus unclean. Those rules seemed to disappear in the Jesus community although later the men managed to reinstate some. The healing going on here was something much bigger than a personal fix it job. There were deeper things going on. There was a power released through Jesus but it was more than a ‘fix the physical issue’ power. He was giving witness to a whole new way of being community where there was no longer slave and free, male and female. It’s about relationships, acceptance, love, forgiveness, gratitude, self valuing….. getting a whole lot of things in order including our relationship with God..

The healing power of God was seen in healing individuals, but inevitably there was a societal healing involved as well.

In our society healing has become very individual focused, and very physically focused. We wait for new miracles in the forms of new drugs and new surgical techniques to fix our bodies. We have faith in science, but religious faith has been side-lined. Prayer and healing – that’s for the nutty Pentecostals isn’t it? But it’s strange that scholarly research consistently tells another story. Dale Matthews, Associate Professor of Medicine of Georgetown University, says I encourage everyone in my office to exercise regularly, eat properly, quit smoking, avoid excessive alcohol use, take medicines correctly, wear seatbelts and so on. Should I also tell them to pray, read scriptures, attend worship and work in a soup kitchen? When I look at the research my answer is an emphatic YES! Harold Koenig, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Duke University has a similar message. He points to recent studies that show that religiously active people live longer and have more robust immune systems. Mainline religion is by and large good for us. Others like Herbert Benson Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard point to the beneficial effects of prayer on healing and the importance of a relationship with God and the importance of faith communities who surround us with love and care. Religion is about connection – connection with God and connection with a faith community and by and large these connections are good for us. Prayer is about building that connection and re-orientating our lives in God. It’s not about calling down supernatural intervention, but about setting free the healing power of God that is present within and around us.

I’m interested in headlines telling us that mental health rates are sky rocketing and I can’t help thinking it has something to do with a lack of good religion, a road map to live by, and a sense that we are connected to something bigger than us. Rocketing rates of anxiety have something to do with the reality that our society has rejected religion and faith. Good religion offers a framework to live by, and offers meaning when we hit the big crunches of life like death or some other crises. It is good for us. Having a sense that we are part of something bigger is good for us. There are exceptions of course and religious communities can go horribly wrong, but by and large participating in this community of faith is good for you.

I think the evidence is overwhelming that there is a strong link between spiritual practice and health and it’s time for mainline churches and Christians to get their heads out of the sand and recognize talk of healing in our midst is not kooky or weird, but it is a core part of what we are here for. I believe there is a healing power within each of us that can be awakened, strengthened, and encouraged through prayer and the experience of love. It’s not that we should reject traditional medicine and the huge advances science has heralded in treating illness. They are also an expression of the healing power that is God. I hold on to a belief that God can be present in all treatments – drugs, diet, surgery, alternative medicines and therapies, counselling, love and acceptance, and spiritual practices. But what puzzles me is that people don’t turn to prayer and don’t ask for prayer more often. I don’t think I have a particular gift of healing but I’m happy to pray any time that the healing power of god will be set free in some way. There will be some in our congregation who have gifts of releasing God’s healing power, but I suspect they hide their gift for fear of being labelled kooky.

Calvin Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania is typical of a mainline church with a healing ministry. They said healing was an important part of their journey as a group of Christians. They appointed a prayer minister to lead this area of their work. The person currently exercising this ministry, Diane McCluskey, is a Reiki master and massage therapist. She believes healing comes not just through spoken prayer but through other means such as massage, reflexology, and other practices. At Calvin they regularly offer a time for healing prayer and the laying on of hands. They are discovering the practice of healing and prayer is important in their life as a Christian community, and you know what – they are a growing church. People see that religion makes a difference, and that the power of God is alive in their midst.

They have found at Calvin that healing is not just about physical healing and it isn’t just a personal matter. Healing will often mean someone finding a greater wholeness in their life and will often lead to someone understanding more deeply their unique purpose in life and their part in God’s plan to heal the world. People who experience God’s healing will often be turned outward and begin to undertake some ministry to others in the community. It’s not just about a personal physical fix. They have discovered at Calvin that some people seem to particularly channel the power of God’s healing – they have a gift of healing. They have also discovered that typically healing is not a dramatic event but that it is a process that takes place over time. It often involves being healed from the damage of un-forgiveness, or a sense of rejection and unworthyness. So it may involve finding God’s forgiveness for some event in our past, or the letting go of a grudge that we have been holding for some time. Invariably it will result in the discovery of greater acceptance of ourselves and a stronger sense of wanting to serve God in serving others.

I invite you to take the healing power more seriously.
The healing power that is of God.
The healing power we can encourage with medical skill and knowledge, with love, with prayer.
The healing power that is alive in you and through all through the universe.

Dugald Wilson 1 July 2018

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Matariki: A Season Worth Celebrating

Something strange is happening in our community. There’s a new festival being celebrated that isn’t imported from the northern hemisphere but is a reawakening of life in our own part of the world. Something special happens in the wonder of creation in our night sky around this time of year. There’s a cluster of stars called Matariki or the Pleiades which disappears for a month or so and then reappears in the early morning just before daybreak. These stars have just disappeared, and in early July they will reappear.

The Matariki cluster is sometimes called the Seven Sisters because usually seven are visable to the naked eye. Actually the cluster is about 400 stars and the closest is about 440 light years away. Known in many cultures because it disappears and rises again in both north and south hemisphere. The starts are known by another name in Japan– Subaru. In Greek world of Jesus the rising of the Pleiades was considered to mark the time of safe sailing in the Mediterranean. The Pleiades are among the first stars mentioned in literature, appearing in Chinese annals of about 2350 BC, and they are also mentioned in the Bible in the books of Amos and Job as part of God’s creation.

For Maori the new rising or sighting of Matariki signals the Maori New Year. Matariki translates to “Eyes of God” (mata – ariki) or ‘Little Eyes’ (mata – riki). This star cluster rises usually sometime in June (it’s late this year being early July), and usually the actual celebration is held at the first new moon after the sighting.

Matariki celebrations usually last about a month and are starting to catch on again in NZ as we look to develop our own celebrations. There is quite a push on to replace queen Birthday weekend with a Matariki New Year celebration sometime in June.

Traditionally for Maori it’s a time for whanau to gather to commemorate loved ones passed, and to celebrate the arrival of newer additions to the family. It is a time to celebrate unity, faith and hope through aroha. Because traditionally the food stores were full after harvest celebratory feasts were held as whanau and guests shared food together.

One of our Maori ministers in the PCANZ, Rev Hone Te Rire, explains the importance of Matariki…. “As youngsters my kuia, koroua, and parents remembered family reunions and re-strengthening of family ties with extended whanau. It is a time of aroha, giving of gifts, and sharing of food. In my Tuhoe whanau we use the term matemateaone, which means to strengthen our connections to our whenua, our marae and our families – close and extended – the people and places that have nurtured us.

Nowadays there are often other festivities – flying of kites and fireworks seem to be popular. Traditionally giving of food to others and helping whanau with restorative work around their homes or working bees on the marae were other ways to celebrate Matariki. Karaoke and disco nights and gathering together in the wharekai (dining room) for a succulent kaihakari hangi.

Hone says, “The emphasis on families and whanau living together in peace and unity is reflected in Pauls letter to the Corinthians (1:10) Let there be no divisions among you. That you are perfectly united in mind and thought. The values of Jesus are reinforced in the kaupapa Maori values of whanau (family), manaaki (caring), tumanako (hope), kaitiaki (stewardship), rangatira (leadership) and aroha (love).
My parents and grandparents taught me these values through action not word alone, every time during the season of Matariki. I am now teaching my children and mokopuna the same values.” He challenges us as a body of Christ, to celebrate Matariki not only in showing support from a bicultural perspective, but also for the important values that Matariki encompasses.”

So what do we take from Matariki. I warm to the reality that it arises from the gift of creation and of human experience in our patch. It’s not imported but it’s about our night sky and the traditions of this place we all call home. Good religion honours local experience and local tradition.
I like the reality that Mataiki is not about a single star rising but a cluster… a family of stars …. Its about community and Hone gives us two wise sayings from Matariki
“Matariki ahunga nui”
(Matariki brings us together)

“Matariki – whiria te tangata”
(Matariki – weave the people together)

The heritage of Matariki being a time to remember people of our past, to reach out to one another, to celebrate family and community. In this it is a clebtration of the kingdom of God. Whanau, Manaaki (caring), and Aroha are values of God.

The season of harvest is over it is time to give thanks to God for sustenance. As God has been generous to us so we too should be generous to each other and caring of creation….. It’s a time to celebrate our calling to stewardship – Kaitiaki.

In the midst of the darkness of winter the stars appear… like the star of Bethlehem saying the darkness will not win. The rising of the Makariki cluster brings hope that the darkness will never win. We celebrate Tumanako.

19 June 2018

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The Parable of the Mustard Seed – Mark 4 :30-34

Jesus was always talking about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. Clearly it was absolutely central in his message. But he never succinctly defines what it is, but it’s clear it’s about a new way of living. A way of finding life. The Kingdom of God is like mustard seed we hear today. It doesn’t help us much does it…. Jesus loves to talk in pictures and stories!

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. The mustard seed parable like so many of the parables has all sorts of meanings. It makes you want to say to Jesus, ‘just tell us straight’. But the point of parables is that you have to wrestle and question and work things out in your own context.

We need to get some sort of picture of mustards seeds and how they grow. The sort of mustard plant Jesus was talking about is obscure because he doesn’t use botanical names but I suspect it was the black mustard seed brassica nigra. That’s right it’s a brassica! In fact brassicas are known commonly as mustard plants. Your cabbage, cauilis, and broccoli are all mustard plants. A reason some people don’t like these plants is that they all contain a compound phenylthiocarbamide or PTC which is either bitter or tasteless to people depending on your taste buds. The good news is that brassicas and mustard plants are good for us. They have health providing properties, but I don’t think Jesus was thinking of that when he shared this parable.

The Roman author Pliny the Elder who was born in 23CE was a curious fellow. He was actually a little too curious because he died when he went to explore the erupting Mt Vesuvius in 79CE. But before this tragic end he wrote an encyclopaedic Natural History in which he tells us about the mustard plant. He tells us that with its pungent taste and fiery effect it was actually extremely good for your health. But he goes on, “It grows entirely wild, though it grows better when transplanted. But on the other hand when it has been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it as the seed when it falls germinates at once”.
It other words it grows like a whole host of weeds in my garden. It keeps popping up all over the place. The seeds s[rout in a few days and it grows easily, it grows all over the place, and it grows without our input. It happens! God is a power at work in our communities, in all sorts of places, inside and outside the fences, quietly nurturing life. God is at work as a power called life in all sorts of places including your life and mine, in our community, everywhere. Open your eyes. Like weeds popping up there are little bits of the kingdom of God happening all over the place if we have eyes to see them.
We aren’t sprouting the seeds, it’s just happening. There’s something else at work in our world and in our lives. But like mustard bushes they will grow better if we nurture and water the plants.

Jesus goes on to talk about the birds resting or nesting in the shade. The mustard plant was a shrub growing maybe just over a metre high, or maybe a couple of metres with nurturing. It’s not a great tree. But in Israel large trees are rare, any sort of significant vegetation is rare. The mustard shrub growing to over a metre was just a bushy shrub that would grow just about anywhere. In Israel it’s hot for much of the year and shade wherever you can find it is vital for life. I’ve walked out in the sun and unless you find shade life can be precarious. The common mustard shrub growing everywhere and anywhere offered life. There is I might say just a little bit of pesky humour in the parable because farmers not only didn’t want the mustard plants mixing with their crops, they didn’t want the birds either because they would raid their harvest. So not everyone welcomed the mustard plants like the birds who found in it shade and rest. They were a weed for some and a place of shade and life for others. Such is the Kingdom of God.

And for us – well we don’t literally have black mustard plants all over our gardens and community. I’m thinking cabbage trees. Attractive to birds, they seem to pop up everywhere in our garden, and everyone just loves the leaves when they fall. Cut them off at their base and they just pop right on up again because they have a long tap root. They are a tree that just happens.

The Kingdom of God is like a cabbage tree… and yes there are plenty of people who don’t like cabbage trees because they are messy. But the point…the kingdom of God is happening all around us. There are places where life is flourishing, where people find shade and food… places where God is alive. Many of these places are surprising, beyond the fences of church.

The Kingdom of God is alive in our midst. Surprising seeds of love, or life in which the power of God is present. Seeds we can nurture and water and help grow into bigger plants. Seeds that bring shade and refreshment, and life.

So I wonder where you might find a mustard plant in your journey this week? God is at work in your life, in our midst, and in the life of our wider community and world. Like a weed the kingdom is taking root and growing. Keep your eyes open, have your word of encouragement and watering can ready.

17 June 2018

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Global Day of Prayer to End Famine

Reading: Mark 6:30-44

I wonder what you make of this amazing episode. How did Jesus do that? Five fish and two loaves of bread feeds 5000 men along with women and children. 12 basketfuls of food left over. Before you get too far down the track of answering that I want to remind you that Jesus taught with stories. These stories were sometimes word stories. He taught using parables and pictures because I think he knew well that faith doesn’t reduce well easy simple answers… I think like many of contemporary rabbis he often answered a question with a question because he wanted to engage his listeners not with neat logical answers but with metaphors and images. God didn’t direct with neat rational certainties, but worked in the mystery of the images and stories to engage hearts and minds. It is an engaging approach in which we are drawn into to find the answers in our context.

So why would his actions be any different. Our logical un-poetic minds want simple neat answers, so when we read of so many of Jesus’ actions or miracles and we are left pondering, ‘so how did he do that?’ as if he went around performing magic tricks. We miss the point. We should be asking what this action, this pictures teaching us. What is Jesus trying to engage us with? Actions like feeding an army of people with fives loaves and 2 fish may tax our rational minds with how did he do that, but the real question is what Jesus is teaching us. Did it happen exactly like this – I have no idea, and actually that’s not important. It’s the message, the picture that we need to engage with.

I find my eye catching two parts of the story. The first is when the disciples look to Jesus to tell the crowds to disperse and go and get some food. It was well past dinner time and things needed to be closed off so they could eat. It seems a reasonable request. Get the boss to sort them out. But Jesus responds with a startling comment. “You give them something to eat”. The disciples are dumbfounded he doesn’t seem to comprehend there are thousands of hungry people. Imagine you are the disciples and you do the sums – we’ll need at least $10,000. You mean we should go and buy food for this lot. Well that wasn’t exactly what Jesus had in mind, so he asks them what they have. It isn’t much. They are able to rustle up five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. But as they offer what they have it proves to be enough. My eye catches the end of the story with 12 great basketfuls of leftovers. Where did all that food come from? Did Jesus secretly call in the catering ladies? Did he actually create more food out of the 5 loaves and two fish? Did he have a secret source of food he was hiding? ??? What do you think?

I have another question. Why did Jesus even care about their need of food? (He started off the day searching for peace and quiet with his disciples and ended up surrounded by hordes of people who he felt compelled to teach. If I was Jesus I think I would have happily sent them all away!)
So what do you make of this story….What is the picture that sits there for you? For me it is a simple picture of the new earth God is calling into being where there is no hunger. Everyone is fed. There is a plentiful supply of food and it finds its way into everyone’s mouths. Food is a basic need, we pray for food every day in the Lord’s Prayer and as we pray that surely it’s not just us we are praying for. We are praying for an earth where everyone has daily food aren’t we?

Today is a day in which churches around the world are asked to pray for the alleviation of famine. You know as I do that there are millions of people going hungry and needing dinner. Hordes of people. What can I do? The reality is possibly not much… I feel like the disciples felt…but what more do we learn from the gospel?

Do you sense the concern of Jesus? Do you feel the compassion of Jesus in your bones. Do you feel the agony of Jesus when in the western world our problem is obesity while elsewhere it’s famine. Something is very wrong. Listen to that voice from heaven….
I know it’s not as simple as shifting some of the food off my plate onto someone else’s plate, but don’t let the tension of the situation simply go into the too hard basket. There are issues of trade here. Pay more for your bananas with the Fairtrade sticker because you know the producers are getting a fair wage which will enable them to put food on the table of their families. Ask the clothing retailer when you buy clothes to assure you there is no slave labour used in the production of the clothing. Use the Tearfund ethical guide to find out which brands perform well and which have no ethical accountability in their supply chain. Use consumer pressure and ask questions – it does change things.

Keep talking to God about famine. One of the things I know I need constant reminding of is that the life of a black Somali person is of equal value in God’s eyes as mine. I find it too easy to forget that and to say I deserve more of the earth’s resources because …I don’t know really… I’m part of a society that has been more successful at harnessing the goodness of the earth, I have more education, I’m white and white is intrinsically better….I simply hear God saying – really??????

But also acknowledge the good. I am part of a church community where this week two of our members will be off to Tanzania to visit the Your Sisters project. That’s about education, giving young women skills to shape a better life, and they will bring change to others around them. Educating women is a huge thing in alleviating famine. Educate men and they want to buy guns, educate women and the want to feed the children. That’s doing something about famine and its root causes.

I am part of a church family that works through agencies like Tearfund, World Vision, CWS, to help when the typhoon or hurricane comes, when the rain fails or the rain never ceases (often these days caused by climate change of which we contribute). When the crises come and there is literally no food, these agencies provide. But they also work to educate, to build stable community where food production can happen locally.

And locally I am part of a church community that works through projects like Waltham Cottage, providing support, providing food to vulnerable people. Waltham Cottage helps build community in all sorts of ways and in that building of community people are fed. But they are fed literally in the support we offer through a food bank. It’s not dramatic – maybe 3-4 households helped every week. People on the edge faced with an unexpected bill and the first thing that is hit is the food budget. Our donations of food are put to good use.

So we pray today for the alleviation of famine because we know God cares. E pray because we know there is enough food to go round but we need to reshape trading patterns to be just. We pray for changes of heart that really do see all people as God’s children. We pray for educational initiatives especially for the women of the world. We pray for the local initiatives like Waltham cottage.

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