“Have your say!”

This last week, like a lot of people, I’ve been laid up with a chest cold and I’ve watched and listened to more TV and radio than I normally do in a whole month!

Apart from the aftermath of the death of Margaret Thatcher and the tensions between North Korea and most of the rest of the world, the one thing that’s struck me most coming over the airwaves is the almost constant invitation to ‘Have Your Say’…

It seems that there’s not much going on in the world that you and I are not required to have an opinion about: has the local authority got its social care policy right, did the murderers get a long enough sentence; does global warming really exist, what do you think about the proposed route of the High Speed Train, should we bring back dog licences, should we eat more horsemeat, the list is seemingly endless and we’ve all got to be on one side or another, it seems, and we’ve all got to have our say – let everyone else know where we stand!

Opinion has been sharply divided this week between those who are fans of the late baroness Thatcher and those who are not; on the one hand those who believe she ‘made Britain great again’ and on the other those who like Glenda Jackson see in the Thatcher era’s spiritual legacy “Sharp elbows, sharp knees, greed, selfishness, no care for the weak…” – The one thing everyone seems to be agreed on is that Margaret Thatcher in death as in life divides opinion.

The thing about opinions is that while most people seem to have them, the ones that get as far as the TV or radio are not really listened to – in the sense of being taken seriously; they don’t seem to have any real power or influence; it seems to me they are just there to fill the air-time or maybe to lend some dignity to the idea that our opinion actually matters, if only to ourselves listening to ourselves on the media, being famous.

There are those who look at the opinions of the masses even more cynically: Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying, “By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”

But whether educated or worthy or not, the point of having an opinion is surely to try to persuade others to agree with it and all this got me thinking about what happens when our opinions are just discounted or ignored… and it seems to me that two things tend to happen: Either

1) Frustration understandably leads to anger. The danger here is that if no one heeds our call we can be drawn into letting the sharpness of life make us sharp-elbowed – and that way lie aggression and even violence. OR,

2) Frustration understandably leads to apathy The danger here, like so many broken ex-working communities is to then fall into depression and even into despair.

Opinions are to do with a desire for power or influence and at root I guess they are about making judgements – and judgement is about taking responsibility.

For us Christians, judgement and responsibility are things w of the church for the e need to take very seriously. For us, being the eyes and hands and feet and mouthpieces of Jesus Christ, our opinions, reflected in the judgements we make and the responsibilities we take, speak volumes about just how much Jesus actually influences our lives.

This next week sees the Annual General Meeting of the church here at All Hallows and we shall be electing some of the leaders of the church for the coming year.

You may or may not think that the leaders of the church should demonstrate the same qualities as the late Margaret Thatcher – although one thing everyone I’ve heard who has been thoughtful and gracious in their responses to Mrs Thatcher’s legacy has mentioned the fact that whatever else you thought of her, she took her responsibilities very seriously.

We at All Hallows are a very small congregation in number and it’s vital for the life of the church that everyone here takes very seriously the fact that we all have a part to play in one form or another, whether on the Parochial Church Council, or helping with admin or caretaking or room bookings or cleaning or helping with Kids Church or taking communion to sick people at home or whatever. It’s far too easy to “let others get on with it” and treat the church like a club that you might belong to, but not take responsibility for… because the world we live in, whether you believe it’s Thatcher’s legacy or not, is full of people who need to hear the gospel message from a church that is full of people who take that message, and those people, seriously enough to take responsibility for them.Today’s gospel ends with the three-fold ‘Do you love me?’ question to Peter and the command at each response ‘Well then do something about it – feed my sheep’

Have your say by all means but love needs to be seen in action.

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