Anger and advocacy!

Let’s be angry!

At times in today’s world, the danger is that we can feel a little numb, a little detached. Sometimes however, we can allow ourselves to feel- to hear another person’s story, and in our imagination to feel we are going through it with them, and to identify with their emotions. It could be listening to the person on the train, or a magazine article, some words from the family next door, or a person on the other side of the globe.

Some stories are about people who have overcome, who are settled and at peace, and we are thankful for these. Other people are in such pain and weariness, that it can be hard to listen. Just now, there seem to be so many stories of terror and loss-

The family in which some one has a disability, and whose support services have been cut because of the pandemic, people who have become more isolated and lost skills and confidence.

The prisoners, languishing in prison, although they have done nothing wrong – people like the Chinese Christian Gao Zhisheng, whose work as a human rights lawyer has resulted in him disappearing in 2017, and he has not been seen since.

And we think of the terrified in Afghanistan, as the Taliban reassert control, the cries of the vulnerable, of women and children fleeing from.rhe brutality and lawlessness of their rule.

How do we respond to these heartbreaking situations. Well maybe, just maybe, we should be angry! We should be angry that people with disabilities and mental health issues seem to be at the bottom of the pile in our society. We should be indignant that human rights lawyers, who courageously speak out for others, can disappear with so many people turning a blind eye. We should be furious that in so many lands, the rights of women and children are non existent.

To be healthy, we cannot focus on all these issues all the time. However to pretend they are not happening, is not the answer either.

As we listen to the cries of these individuals, we should be angry that they suffer so much, and so many do so little. But hopefully it is not the kind of anger that breaks dishes, but rather the kind of anger that we ask God to channel into a constructive energy for advocacy and action.

In Ephesians chapter 4 verse 26, it says: ” in your anger, do not sin.” We are allowed to be angry- it is what we do with it that matters. Jesus Himself was angry- about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, or the greed of the money changers in the temple. So he spoke out against that which was wrong.

In Proverbs 31:8-9 it says: ‘ Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute’. Part of our calling as Christians, as human beings, is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, or those who are not being listened to.

When we are touched by what has happened to some one, and have become indignant, whether it is the plight of the homeless, the story of the woman who has been human trafficked, or the lonely person in a hospital bed, may we channel these feelings of sadness and frustration into something good, to lobby for funding, for advocacy, for change. It might only be the words of a prayer, or writing to our MP, or giving to a charity, but every little helps.

Gracious God, we remember the roar of Aslan in C S Lewis’s novels, conveying the power and majesty of God. You are the God of justice, and You long for justice and fairness. Yet on this earth so many suffer- trauma, ill treatment, sexual exploitation and brutality. Forgive us for the times we turn away. Lord Jesus, help us be angry when another human being is treated without dignity or respect. And may your holy spirit helps us channel that anger wisely, to pray, to give, to be advocates for those on trouble. Give us energy to do this, and to be courageous in seeking to make this a more just world, Amen.

Longing for Shalom.

A quest for peace.

War and conflict are greatly reflected upon, at this time of year. We have thought of legacies, lamentation, and now we seek to explore our longings. Out of a November remembering the horrors and visicitudes of war, so now we plead for God to bring some good purpose out of all this.

Having thought of shell-shocked soldiers in the deep mud of the trenches of the first world war, and the bombings of the Atlantic convoys in the second world war, of the IED’s of more recent conflicts, the trauma and inhumanity of war experiences, broken bodies and spirits, are all too clear. The cost of conflict in human lives is incalculable.

Yet this is not the end of the story, because exposure to these military stories and experiences, reminds us of our purpose as human beings, our deep yearning for shalom, for healing and goodness and forgiveness and love and peace.

I was reminded of the biblical vision of of a peaceful Kingdom in Isaiah 11: 6: ‘ in that day the wolf and the lamb will live together, the leopard will lie down with the lamb, the calf and the yellowing will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.’

Desmond Tutu describes the fullness of biblical shalom ‘ God’s shalom, peace, involves righteousness, justice, wholesomeness, fullness of life, participation in decision making, goodness, laughter, joy, compasdion, sharing and reconciliatiom.’ In some ways, it seems like a long list of qualities, but shalom is just such a beautiful deep peace,the very presence of God- so it needs all these words and more just to catch a glimpse of it.

We have a deep yearning for a peaceful world, of justice and reconciliation and love. And the reason we have that, is because we have seen the alternative- a world where the loudest voice seems to win, where bullies get their own way, where lies prevail over truth, where mistrust and violence and conflict have become the norm. And the hurt and pain and tears are flowing in all nations and continents.

So let’s not just accept this as ok. Let’s not just put up with violence or abuse or exploitation. Let’s not say that the lives of children, or people with different views are lesser in some way. Let’s not say that where there is a dispute, that fighting and guns are the best way to resolve this. Have we learned nothing?

So may God give us a pure heart, to hear His voice. We need discernment, to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. We need the holy spirit of God to help us on our narrow path, and it is not easy.

Even if we resolve to do one thing, to pray for peace, to give to charity, to not escalate a dispute, to support a veteran, to breath before we speak- if everyone did these things, it would make such a difference. And because the task is great, may be not be put off, but have our inner compass always pointing to true North, to the larger purposes of God, for shalom for His people, for the world.

It is sometimes only when you have been through hard times, that you realise what is important in life. So out of the horror and brutality of conflict, may we yearn for something better, and resolve to work for Shalom in our lives and world, Amen

Let us pray, Gracious God, Maker of the Universe, You look upon our world, which you made to be so harmonious and beautiful, and You see the damage that our greed and selfishness has brought. Lord Jesus, have mercy upon us, and forgive us for our vindictiveness and struggles for status and power. Holy Spirit, humble us to seek the wellbeing of others before ourselves, to yearn for a true Shalom, and to be channel’s of your peace, Amen.