Reflection – 13 February 2022

Here’s my reflection for Sunday 13 February.

Wherever you are in the world you can join in with the worship using this link to Zoom – https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84890359132 – worship starts at 11.00 GMT.

Order of Service – 13 February 2022

Call To Worship

God our Maker

You call us here to worship You together.

To bear witness to Your creativity

seen, heard and found in all who gather.

We are all Your children,

bearing Your divine image,

shaped by Your imagination and breath.

You have gifted us with

the beauty of difference

the blessing of diversity

the pleasure of individuality

and the bond of love and peace.

Good morning

In a change from the advertised programme I’m not going to talk about an ‘I Am’ saying of Jesus today.

Have you noticed how nearly every day is a special day of some sort now?

Yesterday was Darwin Day apparently. The evolutionary scientist not the city in Australia.

Tomorrow will be Valentines Day of course. But did you know it is also International Book Giving Day?

Today is World Radio Day. But it’s also Racial Justice Sunday, and the good people at Churches Together in Britain and Ireland sent me a really packed book of resources and ideas for use in church today.

And for two reasons it seemed sensible for me to use some of them. Firstly – it’s really good material on a very important subject, and secondly it’s been a bit of a busy week what with me having to wait on Deborah hand on foot as she recovers from her operation, so taking a bit of help with preparing Sunday worship was very helpful.

Now I haven’t just copied bits from the booklet – but it was a source of ideas to which I’ve added a few of my own.

Let’s start with a prayer by Martin Luther King

Ever present God,

you called us to be in relationship with one another

and promised to dwell wherever two or three are gathered.

In our community, we are many different people;

we come from many different places,

have many different cultures.

Open our hearts that we may be bold

in finding the riches of inclusion and the treasures of diversity among us.

We pray in faith. Amen.”

Let’s say The Lord’s Prayer together.

Our first hymn is Graham Kendrick’s Beauty for Brokenness

We’re going to hear Graham singing his own hymn but the lyrics will be on screen so we can join in.

Beauty for brokenness
Hope for despair
Lord, in your suffering
This is our prayer
Bread for the children
Justice, joy, peace
Sunrise to sunset
Your kingdom increase!

Shelter for fragile lives
Cures for their ills
Work for the craftsman
Trade for their skills
Land for the dispossessed
Rights for the weak
Voices to plead the cause
Of those who can’t speak

Chorus

God of the Poor

Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame

Refuge from cruel wars
Havens from fear
Cities for sanctuary
Freedoms to share
Peace to the killing-fields
Scorched earth to green
Christ for the bitterness
His cross for the pain

Chorus

Rest for the ravaged earth
Oceans and streams
Plundered and poisoned
Our future, our dreams
Lord, end our madness
Carelessness, greed
Make us content with
The things that we need

Chorus

Lighten our darkness
Breathe on this flame
Until your justice
Burns brightly again
Until the nations
Learn of your ways
Seek your salvation
And bring you their praise

Chorus x2

We’re going to start with a couple of questions

Who is this?

Yes of course – easily identifiable as Jesus.

The second question might be a bit trickier.

Who’s this?

It’s actually an impossible question because it isn’t anybody. What it is though is a reconstruction of a face from a skull from the Galilee area in a period when Jesus was around.

It’s much more likely that Jesus looked like the second picture that the first.

Now I’ve been reading a couple of books recently. One of them is this one

Why We Kneel, How We Rise by Michael Holding.

Michael Holding was a West Indian cricketer. He was a fast bowler with the nickname Whispering Death. Basically because his run in was so smooth you couldn’t hear him coming. And if the batsman didn’t know what he was doing he could quite easily have killed him he bowled so fast.

Nowadays Michael Holding is a commentator and pundit for Sky Sports. Back in 2020 England were playing a Test Match against the West Indies and, very unusually for this country, it was raining so play was delayed.

They turned to Michael Holding to fill in a bit of time – and this is some of what he said.

Michael Holding Video – watch particularly from 1:48 to end.

It caused a sensation. Speaking unscripted he spoke from the heart and it led to him writing the book where he expands on his thoughts.

I’ll leave you to ponder what he said for a few minutes:

  • Jesus represented as a white man;
  • Judas as a black man;

Here is a still from the 1973 film of Jesus Christ Superstar in case you don’t believe him

  • The information about the role of Lewis Latimer in the invention of the light bulb – had you ever heard of him?
  • The talk about white privilege.

If you’re interested in reading more about what he has to I’d highly recommend you read his book.

Let’s have another hymn now – this one is called They will know we are Christians by our love

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We’ll have a short Bible reading now from the Gospel of John – Chapter 17:21-23

21 “May they all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they

also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be

one, as we are one,

23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the

world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you

have loved me.”

This is a prayer of Jesus for his disciples just before he goes to his death.

But it can also be a prayer for us all here and now.

Now it would be lovely to be able to stand up here this morning and say to you – Michael Holding has it all wrong.

That there’s no such thing as White Privilege. After all it’s against the law for people to be discriminated against on grounds of ethnicity.

But let’s have a look at a few facts:

This picture shows the proportion of people being subject to Stop and Search in this country.

As recently as 2018/19 (and I’ve no information to suggest things have changed by now) you were 10 times more likely to be stopped and searched if you were black than if you were white.

People of minority ethnicities made up 27% of the prison population compared with 13% of the general population.

You’re twice as likely to end up in prison if you’re not white

This slide shows the death rates from Covid 19

Despite the population being only 3.5% black 5.8 % of deaths were among black people – 66% more than expected.

This was headlines last year – what happened to the three young black players that missed their penalties at the end of the European Championship.

I could go on and on. But I won’t – just one more.

Out of 21000 professors in UK universities and colleges only 140 were black . That’s 0.67%. A fair share based on population would be not 140 but 7300.

Denying that there is still significant white privilege in this country in the face of these numbers is difficult to maintain isn’t it?

Let’s hear another verse from the Bible, from Genesis chapter 1 verse 26

Then God said, “And now we will make human beings; they will be like us and resemble us. 

We are made in God’s own image.

Now those of you that have been listening to me over the last 10 years or so will know that I am not someone who believes literally in the Genesis creation story. But let’s say for a moment that the first people were moulded out of the clay by God. What would they have looked like?

I think there are two options to look at.

The first is that Genesis is right and the first people were from somewhere in the Middle East.

The second is that science was right and the first humans were from Africa about 2 million years ago.

Whichever of those you choose – they sure weren’t white. If God did make humans in his own image they were either brown or black.

I’ve nearly finished but just a word about Black Lives Matter as a slogan. We’ve seen and heard a lot of it over the 2 years since the murder of George Floyd in America.

And a common response I’ve heard from Christians is ‘All Lives Matter’

Well Yes – of course they do

But the evidence is all around us that still in 2022 Black Lives don’t matter near so much.

This Racial Justice Sunday, as followers of the man Jesus who prayed, as we heard earlier, ‘May they all be one’ let’s think about what we as Christians can do about in in how we behave and in what we say.

Prayers of Intercession

When I say In the stillness we pray…

Can you respond

Creator God, hear our prayer The words will be on the screen

Creator God, when the disciples got into their boat, it was dark and Jesus had

yet to come to them.

We pray for those who experience the absence of security because your peace

has not yet come to them. We remember in our hearts and pray for those whose

countries are in the midst of the war, famine, persecution.

In the stillness we pray…

(Response) Creator God, hear our prayer

Whilst the disciples were in their boat the sea became rough.

Creator God, we remember and pray for those who are in the midst of national

and international storms, and for those in whose hands lie the way that makes

justice and peace.

We also pray for those we know whose battle is against personal storms:

difficulties, challenges, hurts, confusion and uncertainties which are overwhelming.

Forgive us for our apathy and compliancy. May we who profess to be followers

of Christ, willingly do what we can to work towards justice and peace, for people

both within and outside of our communities and the country in which we live.

May we too be willing to share in the joys and pains of those here who need us.

In the stillness we pray…

(Response) Creator God, hear our prayer

When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea, they were afraid. Jesus said,

‘It is I. do not be afraid.’

Creator God, we remember and pray for those who live in fear;

in fear of abuse; in fear of loneliness; in fear of the future.

And for those of us who live with fear each day.

May we remember the words of Christ – ‘It is I, do not be afraid.’

As we begin another day may we keep our hearts and our minds fixed on you

and rejoice in you.

In the name of Christ. Amen

Our final hymn is Christ be our light. Again the words will be on the screen so you can join in.

In deepest night, shadows are lifted
Now let your servant go forth in peace
Your Word fulfilled, your promise honored
Love that will never cease!

Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts
Shine through the darkness
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today

With our own eyes, we see salvation
Within our hearts, we are set free
Your Word made flesh, hope of the nations
Light for the world to see!

Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts
Shine through the darkness
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today

Christ, be our hope! Christ, be our purpose!
Christ, be our vision, radiant and bright!
Christ, be our Way, shatt’ring our blindness
Gifting us with your sight!

Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts
Shine through the darkness
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today

Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts
Shine through the darkness
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today

The grace

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all now

and for evermore.

Amen.

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