May I speak and may you hear through the Grace of our Lord: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Today marks the beginning of Christian Aid Week and later some of us will enjoy a meal designed to raise funds for the work that the charity carries out around the world. Their recently retired CEO, Amanda Khosi Mukwashi, whom some of us will recognise from our Lent Course1, has spoken about the work of Christian Aid being based on three pillars, poverty, prayer and prophetic voice.
As she has said, ‘extreme poverty robs people of their dignity and denies them their rights. It renders them powerless and unrepresented, and vulnerable to abuse.’
The charity works with the poorest of the poor in some of the hardest to reach places in the world. When natural disasters strikes they are almost always one of the first aid agencies to be on hand to assist and give relief. However, what they would rather see is the world free from poverty and need. Hence their slogan ‘Life before death.’
Those three pillars, poverty, prayer and prophetic voice are reflected in our three readings this morning, and I say three readings because although we haven’t heard one because of the necessity of hearing Acts as well as a Gospel reading; the missing one from Revelation is quite possibly one of the most beautiful and hope filled passages in the bible, which is why it is so often chosen as a funeral reading.
Paraphrased from Revelation 21:1-6 ‘Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away … And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them… ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away… I am making everything new!”
Here is life after death, a promise for all those who believe, brought about by the death and resurrection of Christ. But until that unknown future time, we are called to do all we can to make this current world a place where people have the opportunity of life before death.
34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.’ John 13:34-35
Jesus tells his disciples that ‘where I am going you cannot come,’ which isn’t a final negative but a ‘not yet.’ Instead, he gives them a new command and direction that they are to use the love he has shown them to be reflected in what they do and say amongst themselves and towards others, so that through love others might be relieved of things that cause pain and sorrow; including the crushing pain caused by poverty.
We have so much that we take for granted in the developed, capitalist and also to a considerable extent communist, industrialised countries of this world, and democracies that give us what we see as inalienable rights. However, we should not forget that despite differing political systems or geographical climate, every person on this earth is deserving of a life to be lived in dignity and safety. If we are to be true disciples then we need to find ways to bring Christ’s love to all those in need wherever they are.
Sometimes, the only way we can show our support for others is through prayer. Prayer doesn’t make us lazy or inactive; prayer can be the most powerful weapon we have to change lives. Prayer connects us with God and can be an insight into what he is doing and calling us to do.
It also gives us an opportunity to hear his prophetic voice. For Peter, his experience literally changed the course of the early Christian movement. Now longer was this to be a Jewish Christian sect but was to be a way of life that was available to all people. God’s chosen people had actually been chosen to witness at first hand the power that could change people’s lives.
For Peter, the prophetic vision and subsequent meetings with the gentiles confirmed that God was the God of all peoples. It turned Peter’s world upside down, set aside life-long rituals and blessed him with the understanding that he was, ‘not to make a distinction between them and us.’
The giving of the Holy Spirit, in the same way as the disciple had received it, displayed the true nature of God, that love was the most powerful gift that could bring life to all.
Love can help us move mountains. It can make us generous with our wealth, our gifts, and our time. It can turn the world upside down so that everyone is given the opportunity to experience life in all its fullness before being called into what will become the glorious infinity of a new earth and heaven.
Love will ultimately crush poverty; prayer will bring about change and God’s prophetic voice will be heard and seen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End’ for now though it’s what we do in the middle that’s important.
Let’s then make sure that how we choose to fill that time is by doing everything we can to bring about life before death for all.
1The Lent Course in which Amanda Mukwashi featured in was Embracing Justice by Isobelle Hamley