Category Archives: Politics

Sermon by Paul Magnall – 4th June 2017

Notes from the sermon by Paul Magnall on 4th June 2017 – Pentecost and Environment Sunday (there was a PowerPoint presentation as well)

Reading:
Psalm 104
Mark 4:30-34

Good morning. No apologies but “there now follows a party political broadcast on behalf of…”

I hope I don’t offend anyone, but if I do it is not intentional! I need to point out that there will be political content and you will probably guess my politics (see the colour of the slides!) but I am not here to tell you how to vote. What I will do is to encourage you to join the debates around the election and to make your voice heard by voting on Thursday.

This Sunday is Pentecost, it is the Sunday when we celebrate the working of God’s Holy Spirit and, in particular, when God poured out His Spirit onto His followers days after Jesus had ascended into Heaven.

This Sunday is also Environment Sunday when we celebrate God’s Creation and how we look after it.

Today I am going to combine the two!

There are many images of the Spirit of God, a white dove, a wind, tongues of fire but one of the earliest is as breath. The Hebrew word is Ruakh and has many interpretations, is it gentle breathing or a passionate snort? Or maybe both?

The Bible talks of God as Spirit right from the very beginning – “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” Genesis 1:1-2

We then see God breathing life into a man made from the dust of the ground.
So the image of the Spirit of God is there in creating and in bringing about life.

The Spirit of God also brings change and disruption. In a story harking back to breathing life into a man made from the dust of the ground, Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the dry bones in the middle of a valley and they all join together but are still lifeless. Ezekiel is then told to prophecy to the breath and God breathes life into the bones (Ezekiel 37)

And throughout the Old Testament the Spirit of God comes upon people inspiring them to do great, crazy, disruptive things in order to bring people back to God’s ways of justice and love.

In the New Testament we see Jesus, full of the Spirit of God, preaching, teaching, performing miracles which change and disrupt people’s lives, showing and challenging them to live in peace and harmony, to stand against the injustices of the time, to love one another even if they were the equivalent of Conservatives, or Liberals, or UKIP supporters, or Labour or Greens, even if they were oppressors or murderers.

And then, on the day of Pentecost, more change, more disruption. The Spirit of God falls on the followers of Jesus and they go out preaching and teaching about the Good News of God’s Kingdom – of love. And the disruption was so much that many people “devoted themselves …. To fellowship” and “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” What a huge disruption!

Second Reading: Mark 4:30-34

I think that the parable of the mustard seed is all about disruption. No one in their right mind would have planted mustard in their gardens in the days of Jesus, in fact it was seen like we see invasive species today, I believe they even had laws about planting it. Once planted it took over everything, like bindweed or goose grass but possibly even worse! So when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, was he saying that even a tiny little thing like a mustard seed could cause incredible disruption?

So, what about the Environment? It doesn’t seem to be getting any press these days! (Picture of Trump)

When God saw His finished Creation he didn’t just think it was good, He thought it was Very Good (Genesis 1:31), so much so that he took time off to relax and enjoy it!

But if I think about breath and creation now, what do I think of? I think of choking
– Choking on air pollution
– The seas choking on plastics and chemicals
– A world where animals are being choked out of existence
– A world where human beings are choking on the injustices that we impose on them.

Instead of a world where we have everything in common, where we have Fair Share (Permaculture ethic!), instead we have a world of greed and destruction:
– We make money out of armaments which exchange hands again and again and are used indiscriminately aroundthe world to kill and maim people and to destroy the environment that we depend on for life
– We extract as much out of the ground and air as we can with little or no thought of the consequences
– When we think we have got everything out of the ground we find other ways of getting stuff out of the ground, even if it is not economically viable! We seem fixated on Fracking!
– We continue to pollute the air that we breath even though we know that we don’t have to and that it makes us ill and it kills us
– We pollute our water with plastics and chemicals doing untold damage to the life in the sea that sustains us
– We continue to erode the very soil that we are dependent upon for growing our food
– And of course, there is climate change.
And we do most of these things, not through ignorance but through greed. It is done to make some of us rich but it makes the world a poorer and more unsafe place to be.

So, on this Pentecost Sunday, where do we see the work of the Spirit of God in all this? Where is His disrupting influence?

To find out we can stop and look and observe
– where Life is being enhanced and celebrated, where life is being breathed.
– And we can look at where there is disruption and change for the better.
– In Permaculture we have a principle about observing (which I have spoken about before) and we have a principle that we should “Use edges and value the marginal” – it is at the edges and boundaries that things happen, where it is most fertile for change. Even the Franciscans were aware of this – St Francis wanted us to live a life on the edge of the inside—not at the centre or the top, but not outside throwing rocks either. ( https://cac.org/at-home-in-the-world-2017-06-02/ )

So here are just a few of the places where I think the Spirit of God is at work, breathing new life and bringing about change and disruption for the better:
– David Attenborough, educating us about the wonders and the fragility of Nature and that we are part of Nature
– Children growing up and learning about nature
– Caroline Lucas and the Green Party, a smallish voice speaking out for the Common Good
– Green Peace, protesting against the damage that we do to the planet
– Protestors such as the Anti-Fracking groups who make us aware of the damage Fracking causes and the fact that we don’t need to do it.
– People growing their own food in ways that work with Nature rather than against it eg Agroforestry and Forest Gardens
– People helping to reclaim the deserts and marginal lands that we have abused
– The Permaculture movement
– Climate change talks and agreements
– Emanuel Macron and other politicians who stand up for the planet
– And there are loads more! So be encouraged!

So, what little things can we do that might be part of God’s ongoing work in creation, of building God’s Kingdom of love and justice, Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share?

Every little thing helps. I’m going to suggest a few simple and relatively easy things that came off the top of my head
– A vote on Thursday (assuming that you are voting for the correct party!)
– Using a bar of soap instead of plastic bottles of liquid soap – this reduces packaging, waste, weight of material transported, and natural soaps will be even more environmentally friendly. I use soap made from goats milk!
– walking or cycling or using public transport instead of driving, or even car sharing
– growing some of your own food, even if it is just a few strawberries

Over to you – I challenge you to think of something, little or big, that you can commit to doing over the next year, write it down on a piece of paper and then come and put it on the balance at the front. Let’s see if we can tip the balance!

References:
– For natural soap bars I use http://itsbaaathtime.co.uk/ in particular I like the Chunky Baa
– Toothbrushes – if you google bamboo toothbrush you will find many suppliers. Look for one who supplies them with biodegradable bristles then you can throw the whole thing into the compost bin when you finish with it.
– Journey of a toothbrush video – https://youtu.be/Pd_C3YK3kI4
 Permaculture Principles

Conscientious Objectors Day

Every year, 15th May marks International Conscientious Objection day – a day to celebrate those who have and those who continue to resist war, especially by refusing to be part of military structures.

100 years ago The Great War was raging in Europe – we now know it as the First World War – and those who objected to the war and refused to be conscripted could be imprisoned, many ended up doing hard labour in Dartmoor prison, civilian ‘work of national importance’ or conscripted into the Non-Combatant Corps. Some volunteered to serve in the Friends Ambulance Unit or other medical organisations but if they were drafted into the army (some by force) they could face a court martial and even be shot. Many famous people were conscientious objectors but for a long time their stories were suppressed as the government thought that conscientious objection would weaken the war effort. There are some links at the bottom of this blog to some resources about conscientious objectors.

Whatever your views are about the armed forces, Conscientious Objectors have played a major role in the protest against war and the campaign for peace. On our website we have the International Prayer for Peace, a prayer that we long to see answered:

Lead us from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.
Lead us from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love,
from war to peace,
Let peace fill our hearts,
our world, our universe.
Let us dream together, pray together, work together
to build one world of peace and justice for all.
Amen.

http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/conscientious-objectors-in-their-own-words

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27404266

http://www.methodist.org.uk/mission/conscientious-objection

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscientious_objector

Subversive Peacemakers: War Resistance 1914–1918: An Anglican Perspective by Clive Barrett (I have a copy of this if anyone wants to borrow it – Paul)

Who will you be known as?

‘You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.’
Isaiah 58:12 The Message version

I love this version of Isaiah 58:12, it is so “Permaculture” but also speaks so much about what I think our faith is about. The whole of Isaiah 58 speaks of how we should live – the kind of “fasting” we should exercise, we are called to “loose the chains of injustice, untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke”.

If we were to change the word fasting to “voting” then perhaps this would give us an indication of some of the things we should be taking into consideration when we choose who to vote for in this coming election. Which party or parties are going to work towards these things, towards justice, a loosening of burdens and release from oppression, who is going to promote sharing food with the hungry, sheltering the homeless and clothing the naked. Which party is going to help us restore, rebuild and renovate so that our communities are “livable again”?

Permaculture is based on the ethics “Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share”. As I have said here before, for me, these fit so well with my Christian faith and I use them to help me make every day decisions like “what do I buy (or not)” and “who do I vote for”. In these coming elections let us try to steer clear of the media hype, the fear mongering and name calling and let us apply our understanding of our faith to making a decision who to vote for.

If you would like to meet for a conversation around this topic over the next few weeks do let me know.

Paul Magnall

Sermon for Transfiguration / Church Action on Poverty Sunday

Reading: Mark 9 – The Transfiguration of Jesus
Lord, I pray that the words that I speak, and the words that are heard contain something of your transforming glory so that we can join together in the work of bringing about your kingdom here on earth. Amen
In Mark’s Gospel so far, Jesus has been leading his followers up a metaphorical mountaintop to give them a new view of God’s kingdom which he was ushering in. However so much of what Jesus has said and done has been a mystery to those experiencing it. Gradually, though, their eyes are being opened and they are starting to get glimpses of things as they really are. Jesus’ many miracles and parables are starting to show them that he is the Messiah and they are beginning to understand more fully what that means.
At the Transfiguration, it is no longer just metaphorical, we are on an actual mountaintop. God’s voice confirms what the disciples are gradually realising: “This is my Son, and I love him”. Just like Moses and Elijah received their calling from God on a mountaintop, Jesus also meets God on a mountain. He is sent out to finish the work started through the Law and the Prophets. The transfiguration is a sign of Jesus being entirely caught up in the transforming love, power and kingdom of God, so that it transforms his whole being with light. This is the sign that Jesus is not just indulging in fantasies about God’s kingdom, but that he is speaking and doing the truth. It’s the sign that he is indeed the true prophet, the true Messiah.
For us, experiencing the kingdom of God in Jesus shouldn’t mean merely a few minor adjustments to our ordinary lives. Jesus’ whole being was transformed until he was shining with the light of God. The transfiguration account invites us to a whole-hearted transformation of ourselves, so that we too can pick up our cross, like Jesus did, and follow him. We should be transformed by God’s light, until we’re overflowing with the light of the world. We know that, but do we really allow ourselves to be fully transformed into the likeness of Jesus? Are there areas of your life that continually resist full transformation?
Our Chapter of Mark continues with the argument between the disciples about which one of them was the greatest. It amazes us that they have spent so much time with Jesus and yet they still don’t understand the upside down kingdom that he has been talking about and bringing about. But, if you’re honest with yourself, do you really get it? Are you completely immune to the pressures of this world for material success and status?
We know that in God’s upside down world God is biased towards the poor. The theme of Church Action on Poverty Sunday is “Poor Church, Transfigured Church”. What can the account of the Transfiguration teach us about what we should be like as a church? If our churches are to be communities that put the poorest first, how must we change? What must we let go of? What sacrifices are we called to make? How can we allow God to transform us into what Pope Francis has called a “poor Church for the poor”?
First we need to see God in Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel the accounts of Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration are two times that Jesus is identified as the Son of God, both times by a voice from heaven. The only time he is actually recognised as the Son of God by a human being is at his crucifixion. And this wasn’t by someone who had walked with him and listened to him – Jesus was recognised for who he really was by a gentile, a Roman centurion. And it didn’t happen when Jesus was at his most powerful. In fact it was when Jesus was at his most vulnerable – he had been stripped of everything and was at the mercy of the authorities. Jesus’ divine identity was most truly revealed when he was at his weakest.
We need to see God in Jesus and then we need to see God in each other. I think Emma reminded us last week that the Quakers try to see “That of God in everyone”. Do we really see God in those who, by the world’s standards, are weak and seemingly at the mercy of the “system”? Those people who are as weak and vulnerable as Jesus was at his crucifixion? When we see people in poverty do we see the face of Jesus Christ, and want to listen and learn – or do we see “them” as people who are not “us”, do we see “them” as a problem, do we want to fix “them” and sort “them” out? Fixes that come at cost to “them” but not to “us”; that change “them”, but fail to transform “us”?
Part of Church Action on Poverty’s mission has always been to give a voice, a face and a name to those of us who experience poverty on a daily basis. To create a space where there are different voices and people truly listen to each other.
I think we, at All Hallows, are not too bad at doing this. We have a lot of things going on in our building during the week. Through our work with refugees, through our café, and through many other things that we as individuals are involved with we encounter people different from ourselves.
In our café just last week we took part in a Big Conversation as part of the End Hunger UK campaign which is co-ordinated by Church Action on Poverty, and Student Christian Movement is part of. Emma, Sarah and I asked people to write on paper plates their response to the question: “What one thing would you ask the government to do to end hunger in the UK?”. The significance of using paper plates was that we were asking the government to “step up to the plate”! It was fascinating to listen to people’s conversations as they struggled to narrow it down to just one solution! You can see the ideas they came up with displayed in the café. It was a vivid reminder to me how much I have to learn from listening to people and learning from their experiences.
Have a think about your week ahead. How often will you make time to encounter someone with a different lived experience to you? Can you make some more time to sit and listen, maybe to someone who has had their benefits sanctioned or who has had to make the impossible choice between heating or eating? Can you make more time to hear people’s experiences for yourself and be transformed by them?
When thinking about the possibility of being a poor church for the poor I’ve been challenged to think not only about what we do in mission but also about our act of worship here on a Sunday morning. We like to think of ourselves as an inclusive church, and we try very hard to be, but how varied are the voices who lead us? Heston is very conscious of being a white male, although at least he is from another country and challenges other stereotypes of a parish priest! How many people of different colours, countries and financial situations are involved in designing our worship services? Is it actually possible to be inclusive for the person who struggles to read, while being inclusive to those who love the beauty of liturgical language? And what about being inclusive of the person who didn’t finish school, while being inclusive of those who like an intellectual debate about the finer details of eschatology? I don’t think there are easy answers but, to truly be an inclusive poor church for the poor, they are issues we need to be grappling with. How do we ensure we are a church where people from all backgrounds and life experiences can meet with the transforming love of God?
Instead of providing our own opinion of the solution, how do we equip and enable those individuals with personal experience of the challenges of life to exercise leadership? How do we empower them to make the changes they themselves have identified as necessary? It’s probably more costly, especially in terms of time which is a real challenge when we feel so time poor, but is it what we should be doing? Like Church Action on Poverty, how are we ensuring that we’re not just a voice for those without a voice, but that we’re helping those who are not heard to use their own voice?
As I finish I’ll leave you with some inspiring words from Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche which could transform us as individuals and as a church if we’re brave enough to follow them and really become a poor church for the poor:

“If you enter into relationship with a lonely or suffering person you will discover something else; that it is you who are being healed. The broken person will reveal to you your own inner hurt and the hardness of your heart, but also how much you are loved. Thus the one you came to heal will be the healer. If you let yourself be moulded thus by the cry of the poor and accept their healing friendship, then they may guide your footsteps into community and lead you into a new vision of humanity, a new world order, not governed by power and fear but where the poor and weak are at the centre. They will lead you into the kingdom Jesus speaks of”.

Lydia Groenewald

For further inspiration: ‘Poverty is many things’ by Tony Walsh

Poverty is not entertainment, it’s not noble or romantic.
Poverty is… heavy.
It’s heavy hearts and heavy legs.
It’s sore skin and hollow eyes.
It’s upset and downhearted.
It’s hunger. Malnourishment. It’s always thinking about the next meal.
Poverty is bailiffs, it’s food banks, it’s queues and lists, it’s never being told what you’re entitled to but always being told.
Poverty is being shown up then put down.
It’s missed payments and mistrust.
It’s always answering questions but never answering the door.
Poverty is hiding in plain view. It’s hiding.
Poverty is high bills and low pay.
It’s higher costs and lower self-esteem.
It’s invisible scars and visible pain.
Poverty is living nextdoor, it’s living on your nerves, it’s not living, it’s… barely surviving.
Poverty is… everywhere. With… nowhere to turn
It’s a gut-wrenching silence, screaming.
Poverty is depressing, demotivating and dehumanising.
It’s degradation, desperation and despair.
Poverty is feeling… worthless, it’s feeling anxious, it’s feeling excluded, it’s feeling rejected, it’s feeling ashamed, it’s feeling trapped, it’s feeling angry, it’s feeling fffrustrated, poverty is…. exhausting.
It’s not feeling anything. It’s… numb.
Poverty is… crushing. Empty. Lonely.
Poverty is cold. It’s damp. It’s ill health. Bad housing. Sadness, fear and human misery.
Poverty is ignored and abandoned. It’s sanctioned and sectioned. It’s late payments and early deaths.
Poverty is not something that happens to… “others”.
Poverty is our old people, our young people, our sick people, our disabled people, our mentally ill people, our homeless people. Poverty is people seeking asylum, it’s people who are refugees, people who are migrants. Poverty is over-worked, under-paid everyday people.
Poverty is people. It’s children. Babies. Not… “them”. Us.
“Poverty is the worst form of violence.” (Mahatma Ghandi)
Poverty is growing in our country. In 2017.
Poverty is many things, but
it is not
acceptable.

A collaboration between Church Action on Poverty and Tony Walsh

Exodus and EU referendum in conversation (or, ‘Being read by our Bibles’)

twain

 

 

 

 

“When we let the story of the Exodus read us, we realise to our horror and dismay that in this story we’re not the innocent Hebrews. We’re the Egyptians.

Notice what Pharaoh says in Exodus 1: ‘Look,’ he says. ‘Egypt is crawling with immigrants. There’s too many of them. If we’re not careful they’ll outnumber us. They’re un-Egyptian. They have too many children. They’re at fault for everything that’s wrong around here.’ That’s the kind of thing we say.

Pharaoh believes he’s rich and powerful because he worked hard, and he thinks, ‘I’m not going to let the weak, the immigrant, or the underclass take away my entitlement.’ That’s the kind of thing we think.

Pharaoh makes up a story, a story of fear and mistrust and suspicion. He says, ‘They might outnumber us; there may be a war; they might fight against us with our enemies…’ That’s the kind of story we make up, and then we run to politicians who stoke our fears and play on our mistrust.

BUT here’s the surprising good news. Egyptians we are, but there’s more than one way of being Egyptian………”

(From Sam Wells: Learning to Dream Again; Rediscovering the Heart of God)

Leeds People Pilgrimage

Globally millions are taking to the streets to stand up for climate justice on the eve of the COP21 Paris climate change talks.

On Saturday 28th November the Leeds Peoples’ Pilgrimage is happening in Leeds. Groups of people are walking together from different areas of Leeds to meet for a service at Leeds Minster and then joining the Climate March and Rally.

There are groups walking from Kirkstall BridgePark Halt on the Middleton RailwayTemple Newsam and Meanwood Park

Peoples Pilgrimage Flyer Nov 2015

Waterside Court Protest

Today saw the Friends of Raja and Mahmoud (#foram) protesting outside the Waterside Court Immigration Centre where the UK Border Agency’s Leeds office is situated. About 150 people came along to protest against the forced removal of Raja and Mahmoud.

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A huge thank you to all who came to speak out in support of Raja and Mahmoud.

Stop the deportation of Raja and Mahmoud

Raja Khouja, a women’s rights campaigner from Syria, is detained at Yarls Wood and threatened with removal to Saudi Arabia on Thursday 25th June 2015.

Raja and Mahmoud

Raja (56) is a member of the Syrian Republican Party and was involved in human rights activism on the internet, focused on the wider Arab world. She has written many times about her views on the denial of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Mutawa (the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) has denounced her and she has received email and phone call threats of death, imprisonment and mutilation including for ‘the opposite limbs to be cut off the body’ were she ever to go to Saudi Arabia, the very country to which she is to be removed.

Raja is a Syrian national who has been living in Leeds with her Saudi husband Mahmoud Alhassan (67) for four years. They were stranded in the UK by the emergency in Syria. They are much loved and respected by her community of friends here in Leeds and we are gravely concerned for her safety were she to be removed to Saudi Arabia.

Raja and Mahmoud’s application for asylum has not yet been fully considered. Despite this the Home Office plans to remove them imminently to Saudi Arabia on Qatar Airlines, where Raja will be in extreme danger.

Raja and Mahmoud are great friends of All Hallows and we have grown to know and love them over the last few years.

Please show your support for Raja and Mahmoud by adding your name to this petition, and joining the campaign to stop the forced removal of our friends.


Write to Theresa May
write

If you have signed the petition to Theresa May on Change.org  why not email or write to her in person as well? You can use this template letter to get you started, but feel free to customise it!


Contact Qatar Airways

qatar

Raja and Mahmoud are scheduled to be removed on Qatar Airways Flight QA008 to Doha. Qatar Airways prides itself on being a high quality airline and doesn’t miss an opportunity to trumpet it’s SKYTRAX five star rating. It was apparently rated world’s best airline for 2015.

We can buy some time for Raja and Mahmoud by persuading Qatar Airways that it is not in their interests to allow the Home Office to remove them using one of their planes.

Please write to Qatar Airways, using this template if you like, asking them not to participate in the removal. Remember, remain polite and try to be as persuasive as possible, don’t make accusations.

You can send your messages to Qatar Airways London Heathrow Office by fax(0208 797 5003) or by email through Qatar Airways’ website (select Customer Services from the drop-down menu and fill out the form). You can also email the chief executive of Qatar Airways directly at akbar@qatar.net.qa – but I would recommend doing that as well as and not instead of contacting customer services as we’re not 100% this email address is correct.

You can call Qatar Airways Customer Services 0333 320 2454 (this is the number for ‘General Reservations’) and dropping them a line is an alternative option.

You can also tweet (@qatarairways) Qatar Airways and post to theirFacebook (Facebook.com/qatarairways) page – the same rules of politeness and persuasion apply!

Flight Details

Qatar Airways flight QR008 to Doha from Heathrow T4 25/06/15, 16:00.


Demonstrate outside Waterside Court

Monday 22nd June 12:30-1:30 
Please commit to join with Friends of Raja and watersideMahmoud to protest the unjust decision by the Home Office to detain in Yarl’s Wood detention centre and threaten with imminent removal, two dear members of our community. Raja and Mahmoud are known to many in Leeds through their involvement with the All Hallows Church community and from the year they spent living with a family in the Lilac cohousing project.

By holding a peaceful demonstration outside Waterside Court we will raise the profile of the case in a bid to stop their imminent removal and allow time for the judicial review of their case.

Your participation will really make a difference, please join us and speak up for the right to sanctuary in our city.

Getting there: Waterside Court is at 471 Kirkstall Road, LS4 2QB. The number 33/A bus leaves the Leeds City Centre Bus station at 12:05 then at 10 minute intervals.

FaceBook www.facebook.com/RajaAndMahmoud

Twitter #foram

Hunger for Justice weekend

Over the weekend of 18-19 October, hundreds of churches nationwide will be urging their local MPs to tackle climate change, and praying for our sisters and brothers around the world. If you want to know more then visit the Christian Aid website

Here is a special Prayer from Malawi for us to use:

Lord, you are our rock, our fortress and our strength;

guide us, lead us and have mercy on us.

We thank you for the precious gift of your earth, in all its beauty and fragility.

Through it we are each bound to one another in a million ways.

For the sake of those facing rising temperatures, drought and water shortages,

strengthen our movement for climate action.

For the sake of those facing unpredictable weather, disrupted seasons and failed crops,

bless our leaders to work together to find positive, lasting solutions.

For the sake of all those who feel the impact of our changing climate, the poor and the vulnerable,

bring the hope of a brighter, cleaner future.

Lord hear our prayer and fill our hearts with a hunger for justice.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will set up our banners to call for change. May the Lord fill our petitions!

Amen

Yamikani Dakalira from Malawi is visiting in October to speak to churches about her work, and has written a special prayer for us all to use over the prayer and action weekend (18-19 October).

Yamikani works for Christian Aid’s partner, CEPA, in Malawi to combat the impact of climate change, involving the poorest communities in the solutions.

Use this prayer in your service or at your event over the Hunger for Justice weekend (18-19 October).

Sermon – 24th August 2014

Notes from the sermon preached by Paul Magnall

Exodus 1:8–2:10
Romans 12:1–8
Matthew 16:13–20
 
And Jesus said “who do you say that I am”?
And Peter replied “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the enigma of which is borne out in our interpersonal relationships”
And Jesus said “What?”
 
Maybe it is a sign that I am having an early mid-life crisis but reading this passage in Matthew leads me to ask the question “who am I” and “Who do we believe ourselves to be?”
 
One thing is clear to me, I am one person, one of 7.25+ billion people in the world, a population that is growing at a rate of about 80 million people a year. We live on a beautiful but finite planet occupied by over 8.7 million different species of life – excluding bacteria and single celled organisms.
 
Unfortunately many of us are living a lifestyle that would require several planets if we wanted to maintain that lifestyle. We are consuming resources faster than they are replaced.
 
In the last two hundred years we have used up fossil fuels that took millions of years to form. Over those millions of years carbon dioxide from the atmosphere was absorbed by plants and organisms which were then trapped deep underground. We have been releasing this trapped carbon in a way that is dramatically affecting our planet.
 
The mechanisms that initially trapped that carbon dioxide are still functioning – trees and plants continue to absorb the gas, organisms in the sea and the soil still sequesters carbon, and although we are beginning to understand all these systems we are destroying our rain forests, polluting our seas and trashing our soil.
 
And we are not content with wrecking our planet, our life support system, we also trash each other. We use something called economics, which no one really understands, but is a god that must continually be fed in order that its growth is maintained. As long as there is economic growth then all is well. And to maintain this growth
– we make sure that part of the population is working too hard whilst another part of the population has nothing to do.
– We make things we don’t need and then persuade people that they do need them, that they can only be attractive to others if they have them.
– We maintain the economy by making sure that things have a short life, that they either break or that they go out of fashion.
– We maximise profits by mass production of food and other goods even if it means that quality is poorer and choice is reduced.
– And we stimulate the economy by creating weapons that destroy and then selling them to anyone who is likely to use them particularly if it means that they might be our friends and supply us with other rare resources.
 
We are making a huge big mess.
 
So back to the question “who am I in all this?”
 
I, personally, believe that I am someone who is loved by the creator so much that he wants me to be redeemed and sustained. That love is shown in the life and death of Jesus.
 
And the 7.25 billion people, they also are loved by the creator, just as much as me. As is the planet and all the life that exists on it.
 
Realising this amazing love, should I not also love what my creator has created?

My change of lifestyle over the last few years has allowed me to slow down, to take time to observe. As I look at the view over Leeds from this garden and as I walk, cycle and work around Leeds what do I see?
– Hungry children in schools and on streets
– Supermarkets so full of food they have to throw huge amounts of it away
– Homeless people sat on street corners begging
– All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
– Ridiculously expensive cars
– So much waste
– An economic system that favours the rich and keeps the poor in their place with a middle class who keep their heads down in case they rock the boat and fall out
– A media that encourages a climate of fear and greed and encourages people to express their prejudices
 
The world that Jesus lived in wasn’t that much different? The area around Galilee had once been a wonderful place to live. Fishing was good, everyone had sufficient food and a place to live. But now the occupying forces and the local rulers and business men had taken control of the economic system paying ridiculously low prices for the fish which was transported around the empire. The occupying forces taxed the local people and the money and profits went to the rich people back in Rome and to run the Roman military machine which kept the Pax Romana by force. Society was split into the rich and powerful minority, the middle classes who kept their heads down and the poor.
 
And Jesus stood in the middle of this world and said “who am I?”, “who do you think I am?”

Peter’s response was that he saw Jesus as the Messiah, in other words, “the anointed”, the one who is our saviour or liberator.
 
Saviour or liberator from what?
 
I believe that the way Jesus lived demonstrated a “counter culture” to the issues of the time. He talked of revolution but it wasn’t a violent overthrow of the oppressors. He showed how people could live in harmony, overcoming the barriers that divide, bringing people of different backgrounds and politics together so that they could understand one another and accept each other, see that they are neighbours and dependent upon one another. That together they could be, as Gandhi is supposed to have put it, “the change they wanted to see in the world”.
 
This is why I am excited about Permaculture.
 
Permaculture has many definitions, the word originally came from “permanent agriculture” but now has been expanded to “permanent culture”. It is essentially a design tool with a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature. Of observing how things work and then working with them.
 
There are three core tenets or ethics in Permaculture which can summarised as Earth care, People care, Fair share and I hope that no one here would disagree with them!
 
Many people who practice Permaculture believe that by observing nature and carefully designing systems we can produce enough food and other resources in a way that builds a sustainable pattern of life on Earth for everyone and everything. In order to do this we do need to learn from nature and our mistakes eg we need to find a way of controlling our population, we could live more simply, embrace the concept of enough is enough, etc
 
Permaculture isn’t just about agriculture though, it is also about culture, about how we choose to interact with each other and the world, how we run our businesses, spend our leisure time. It’s about how we choose to live.
 
Permaculture has a series of principles, the number varies depending upon which of the main practitioners you read. I have put some information about these on the garden noticeboard, there are loads of books and articles on the Internet and I will write a little about them on the website at some point but these principles can be applied to just about every area of our lives, the aim being to produce a sustainable way of living in harmony with the rest of the world.
 
So I see Permaculture as a useful tool that can help us to care for each other and for the world. In our society it is a “counter cultural” tool because it is counter to the economic system that controls our society. It says “enough is enough” when our economic system demands more growth. It says “let us think of the next generation, and the next, and the next” when our society can’t get past the next election. It says “everyone is of equal value” when our society favours the rich and the powerful and devalues the dispossessed and those who are different.
 
But isn’t that what Jesus was saying? Isn’t that what his life and death demonstrated? A counter cultural, non-violent revolution? A change of mind and heart? That the abundant creator has provided us with more than enough? That we should love one another because we are all part of God’s beloved creation?

In our Roman’s reading Paul told the Church in Rome not to think more highly of themselves than they should, that they should “not be conformed to the pattern of this world” but be transformed. He then goes on to describe how they are all members of one body and how they should love one another using their skills and gifts in the service of all. The way Paul was calling the church in Rome to live was “counter cultural”, a reaction to the Roman society around them and that they should “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”
 
So, back to that question Jesus asked and to Peter’s reply – you are the Messiah, the liberator, the saviour. As we open up our lives to God’s creative and sustaining spirit I believe that we can see the power of the resurrected saviour and redeemer working in us and transforming our interpersonal relationships not just between ourselves in this congregation but with our community, our environment and throughout the creator’s world.

References:
http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/