Reflection – Sunday 09 May 2021

Here’s my reflection for Sunday 09 May.

If you’d like to join in our online worship follow this Zoom link. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85061262911?pwd=SjFoODcvOVdFZUhTengxRVRkNzJPUT09

I am preaching this week – our worship session starts at 11.00 British Summer Time.

Mark

Sunday 09 May 2021 – A Reflection

Call to Worship – Psalm 100

Sing to the Lord, all the world!
Worship the Lord with joy;
    come before him with happy songs!

Acknowledge that the Lord is God.
    He made us, and we belong to him;
    we are his people, we are his flock.

Enter the Temple gates with thanksgiving;
    go into its courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise him.

The Lord is good;
    his love is eternal
    and his faithfulness lasts forever

Opening Prayer

You call us,

Wanderer of seashores and sidewalks,

inviting us to sail out of our smug harbours

into the uncharted waters of faith

to wander off from our predictable paths to follow You

into the unpredictable footsteps of the kingdom;

to leave the comfort of our homes and accompany

You into the uncomfortable neighbourhoods we usually avoid.

As we wait,

in our simple, sometimes crazy,

constantly uncertain lives,

speak to us, Spirit of Grace:

of that hope which is our anchor;

of that peace which is our rock;

of that grace which is our refuge.

Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

We’re still on our theme of Stewardship. Today I want to do two things. I want to build on what Martin said last week about using what we have. And I also want to talk about the need for us to take action on environmental issues.

That’s the plan anyway – let’s see how we do.

But first our Bible readings for today. Firstly Jesus calling the four fishermen.

Mark 1:14-20

Jesus Calls Four Fishermen

After John had been put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee and preached the Good News from God. “The right time has come,” he said, “and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!”

As Jesus walked along the shore of Lake Galilee, he saw two fishermen, Simon and his brother Andrew, catching fish with a net. Jesus said to them, “Come with me, and I will teach you to catch people.” At once they left their nets and went with him.

He went a little farther on and saw two other brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They were in their boat getting their nets ready. As soon as Jesus saw them, he called them; they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and went with Jesus.

Our second reading is from a letter written by one of those 4 fishermen – the first letter of Peter

1 Peter 4:1-11

Since Christ suffered physically, you too must strengthen yourselves with the same way of thinking that he had; because whoever suffers physically is no longer involved with sin. From now on, then, you must live the rest of your earthly lives controlled by God’s will and not by human desires. You have spent enough time in the past doing what the heathen like to do. Your lives were spent in indecency, lust, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and the disgusting worship of idols. And now the heathen are surprised when you do not join them in the same wild and reckless living, and so they insult you. But they will have to give an account of themselves to God, who is ready to judge the living and the dead. That is why the Good News was preached also to the dead, to those who had been judged in their physical existence as everyone is judged; it was preached to them so that in their spiritual existence they may live as God lives.

Good Managers of God’s Gifts

The end of all things is near. You must be self-controlled and alert, to be able to pray. Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins. Open your homes to each other without complaining. Each one, as a good manager of God’s different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. Those who preach must preach God’s messages; those who serve must serve with the strength that God gives them, so that in all things praise may be given to God through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

Our first hymn is – Inspired by Love and Anger

Inspired by love and anger, disturbed by need and pain,
informed of God’s own bias we ask him once again:
“How long must some folk suffer? How long can few folk mind?
How long dare vain self interest turn prayer and pity blind?”

From those forever victims of heartless human greed,
their cruel plight composes a litany of need:
“Where are the fruits of justice? Where are the signs of peace?
When is the day when prisoners and dreams find their release?”

From those forever shackled to what their wealth can buy,
the fear of lost advantage provokes the bitter cry,
“Don’t query our position! Don’t criticise our wealth!
Don’t mention those exploited by politics and stealth!”

To God, who through the prophets proclaimed a different age,
we offer earth’s indifference, its agony and rage:
“When will the wronged be righted? When will the kingdom come?
When will the world be generous to all instead of some?”

God asks, “Who will go for me? Who will extend my reach?
And who, when few will listen, will prophesy and preach?
And who, when few bid welcome, will offer all they know?
And who, when few dare follow, will walk the road I show?”

Amused in someone’s kitchen, asleep in someone’s boat,
attuned to what the ancients exposed, proclaimed and wrote,
a Saviour without safety, a tradesman without tools
has come to tip the balance with fishermen and fools.

Talk

So why these two readings? Well I want us to think about the unexpected – about doing surprising things – about not just going along with the crowd.

You see when Jesus walked along the shore of Lake Galilee on that day many years ago and saw those four fishermen Andrew and Simon (later to be called Peter by Jesus), James and John my guess is that they thought they’d always be fishermen. In James and John’s case it was clearly the family business – their Father Zebedee was in the fishing boat too. It wouldn’t be that surprising to hear that these families had been fishermen for generations. We don’t know what Jesus saw in these 4 individuals, but what we do know is that they were about to set off on a most unexpected journey – their lives would be turned upside down and things would never be the same again.

And I bet the other fishermen on the beach looked at what had happened and thought they were quite mad. Fishing was a steady job – they might never be rich but they’d probably never be hungry either. To turn your back on all that you know, all that you’re used to, to follow some unknown man that just happened to pass by. Madness!

So Peter knows what he’s talking about when he comes to write his letter and writes about doing surprising things. He writes:

“Your lives were spent in indecency, lust, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and the disgusting worship of idols. And now the heathen are surprised when you do not join them in the same wild and reckless living”

Now looking around the faces in front of me today I’m guessing that not many of you have spent your lives in indecency, orgies and drinking parties. There may have been occasional drunkenness (I may not be blameless in this regard), maybe some lust from time to time (no comment as they say on Line of Duty), but I’d be very surprised if that was the default behaviour of anyone here.

But what I think Peter is getting at here is that followers of Jesus are expected to do unexpected things. Not to do what everyone else is doing just because it’s easier than thinking for yourself and it’s what you’ve always done. And he goes on to say:

“Each one, as a good manager of God’s different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God.”

So what does this have to say to us about Stewardship, and in particular about how we should act in relation to the environment and climate change?

I’ve been reading this book recently

L is for Living – subtitled Christian Living that doesn’t cost the earth.

It’s a really interesting read. The book goes through the alphabet with a short chapter under each letter about how to improve our environmental impact.

Some of the letters deal with subjects we might be able to guess. Let’s try

R is for

– Recycling.

E is for

– Energy

P is for

– Plastic

I think we probably all know that recycling, reducing energy usage and reducing use of disposable plastic is a good thing.

Just in passing though – do you know why is recycling good for climate change?

Of course it’ good in itself not to waste things – but the main reason it’s good for climate change is that recycled products use far less energy to make new things that using raw materials.

As an example an aluminium can. There’s no shortage of aluminium in the world. It makwes up about 8% of the earth’s crust. The problem with it is that it takes a huge amount of energy to get the metal from the ore – bauxite. In fact 3% of the energy used in the world is used to extract aluminium.

But if you use recycled aluminium it cuts the energy required by 95%.

At the minute the world used about 180 billion aluminium cans in a year. But we only recycle about 120 million – less than one in a thousand.

Anyway as I said that’s a bit of an aside.

Because what I’m more interested in is some of the other chapters. Some of the things that might be more unexpected. Perhaps things we haven’t thought about.

So for example

F is for Food

We’re used to being able to get any type of food we want at any time of year. Do you remember when Strawberries used to be on the shelves only for a few weeks each summer? Now we can get them any time of year at all – from somewhere in the world. But the problem is the environmental costs of the transportation (food miles). Perhaps we ought to look to buy more food produced as close to home as possible. Even within the country food accounts for 23% of all the freight transport. And a large proportion of the food that we spend a fortune transporting all over the place goes to waste.

Then there’s the issue of meat. Livestock farming is thought to give rise to 18% of all carbon emissions. If you stop eating meat your carbon footprint goes down by about about a third. If, like Martin, you go Vegan that’s even better.

But even if you want to keep eating meat then just not eating beef and having chicken instead is 25 % better for the environment.

And then there’s palm oil – used in so many products. Growing increasing amounts of palm oil results in the destruction of tropical rain forests – cutting down trees releases carbon and also reduces habitats for animals – such as the orang utan.

I is for – Investments.

Now not everyone is fortunate enough to have investments. But some of us have. Those of us that have retired may well have a pension fund. Some of us might have investments in shares or unit trusts. We’ve probably all got bank accounts.

What has that got to do with Climate change?

Well the banks the pension funds and the Unit trusts don’t keep our money in a giant (or not so giant) piggy bank. Your money is invested in companies. And not every company in the world is interested in the environment. Do you know what businesses your money is being used to support? Might it include companies that are cutting down the rainforests, or that are continually expanding the extraction of fossil fuels?

You probably don’t know. And most people probably don’t give it a thought. So long as the pension keeps coming in, so long as the value of our investments keeps going up do we care how it happens.

Well perhaps we ought to.

One thing Deborah and I have done is to look at our unit trust investments. Last year we contacted our adviser and asked if they had an ‘ethical investment fund.’ They do. So we told them to take half our money and put it in an ethical fund. It made us feel better knowing that half our money wasn’t actively contributing to things we don’t agree with.

The interesting thing is that the half we have invested ethically is now worth £1000 more than the other half. Not only have we done something good – we’re also better off as a result.

And A is for Activists

There’s lots we can do in our own lives to have a positive impact. But we can also do our bit to influence others. We can think about how we use our votes. We can write to MPs and companies about things that concern us about the environment. We can read books or newspaper articles or look on the in ternet for information that will help us understand the issues better.

But one thing is really important in all this. It’s no good telling other people to improve if we carry on doing things wrong ourselves. People won’t take any notice of the church if the church isn’t doing something to improve it’s own performance. What did Jesus say about removing the plank from our own eye before removing a speck of sawdust from someone else’s?

That’s why it’s really important that we are looking to improve our own church’s environmental performance. Julia tells me we will soon be able to claim a Bronze Eco-Church Award. That’s brilliant. We’ll be only the third church in Newark to do that and it’s something to be proud of. But let’s not rest on our laurels – let’s try and be the first in Newark to get a Silver award.

And then yes – let’s be activists. Let’s try and persuade all the churches in the town to take part in the scheme so we can say Christians are aware of the problems facing our planet and we’re doing something about them.

That really would be unexpected – and it might actually get us Christians noticed in our town.

We can’t all do everything. We haven’t all got investments, we might not all feel able to be vegans or vegetarians, we might not all be confident enough to write to our MPs or to lobby our supermarkets. But let’s try and do what we can with what we’ve got in our own circumstances.

Perhaps we can do something so unexpected that we surprise ourselves.

Our second song today is Earth Song by Michael Jackson

What about sunrise?
What about rain?
What about all the things
That you said we were to gain?

What about killing fields?
Is there a time?
What about all the things
That you said was yours and mine?

Did you ever stop to notice
All the blood we’ve shed before?
Did you ever stop to notice
This crying Earth, these weeping shores?

Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

What have we done to the world?
Look what we’ve done
What about all the peace
That you pledge your only son?

What about flowering fields?
Is there a time?
What about all the dreams
That you said was yours and mine?

Did you ever stop to notice
All the children dead from war?
Did you ever stop to notice
This crying Earth, these weeping shores?

Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

I used to dream
I used to glance beyond the stars
Now I don’t know where we are
Although I know we’ve drifted far

Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

Hey, what about yesterday?
(What about us?)
What about the seas?
(What about us?)
The heavens are falling down
(What about us?)
I can’t even breathe
(What about us?)

What about apathy?
(What about us?)
I need you
(What about us?)
What about nature’s worth?
(Ooh)
It’s our planet’s womb
(What about us?)

What about animals?
(What about it?)
We’ve turned kingdoms to dust
(What about us?)
What about elephants?
(What about us?)
Have we lost their trust
(What about us?)

What about crying whales?
(What about us?)
We’re ravaging the seas
(What about us?)
What about forest trails?
(Ooh)
Burnt despite our pleas
(What about us?)

What about the holy land?
(What about it?)
Torn apart by creed
(What about us?)
What about the common man?
(What about us?)
Can’t we set him free
(What about us?)

What about children dying?
(What about us?)
Can’t you hear them cry?
(What about us?)
Where did we go wrong?
(Ooh)
Someone tell me why
(What about us?)

What about baby boy?
(What about it?)
What about the days?
(What about us?)
What about all their joy?
(What about us?)
What about the man?
(What about us?)

What about the crying man?
(What about us?)
What about Abraham?
(What about us?)
What about death again?
(Ooh)
Do we give a damn?

Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

Time for Prayer

O God, giver of all good gifts,

you have given me life.

You have bestowed upon me your love

and that love includes your plans for me.

What am I to do?

All life is a call and a response.

I pray for grace to hear God’s voice

and a heart to respond.

I am ready to listen.

Help me to listen to the rhythm of each day, day by day,

so that I am not overwhelmed with thoughts of the future.

Yet guide me into that future so that I know who and whose I am.

I shall listen.

I shall listen to the voices of those witnesses who have lived before me.

I shall listen to those who are here to give me guidance and encouragement,

for it is clear that whatever plans you have for me,

I will never journey alone.

I will listen to my feelings as I grow and change,

processes that I know will be lifelong.

I shall listen to you.

And even though I want easy answers,

I know that what you want is a relationship.

So when I answer you,

may my response be to my potential

and to your love of all creatures on your good earth.

Let me serve with the gifts you give me.

O God, I know that vocation is truly a gift of your love.

What am I to do?

I am ready to listen.

Amen.

Finally we will close by saying the grace:

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

and the love of God

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all

evermore.

Amen

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