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Letter from April/May 2013

posted 18 Jun 2013, 04:32 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne

Eastertide Thoughts: What Would Jesus Do? 

‘When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.
When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist’
(Dom Helder Camara (1909-1999), former Archbishop of Olinda and Recife)

Dear Friends, 

I am writing this in the last few weeks of Lent, but when you read this we shall already have observed Holy Week and have begun to celebrate the great feast of Easter and Christ’s triumph over death. So let me begin by wishing you every blessing and joy in this Easter season, for ‘Christ is Risen – He is risen indeed! ALLELUIA!’ 

I also write this in the week in which Pope Francis I has been elected as the supreme pontiff for our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers, the first Pope ever to be elected from Latin America. The general impression we are given through the press and media is that Pope Francis is a man of great humility and compassion, who is concerned to stress the importance of social inclusion and to reach out to the poor, those in need, and those on the margins of society. Some have said that the new Pope’s choice of the name Francis, after the great saint who served those in need so unstintingly, may be a conscious sign of his desire to make such concern and compassion a priority in his pontificate and to call Christian people back to their responsibility here as a gospel imperative. If so, it will be interesting to see how this will be carried through further as the months and years go by. 

It is also of interest that having been seen as a conservative, and even rather ‘safe,’ choice for the role, in the same week the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has also stood up on behalf of some of the more vulnerable members of society, and put himself in conflict with the thinking of certain members of our Coalition Government. Basing his comments around the fact that a proposal to cap welfare benefits below the level of inflation would make life much harder for many children and families, Archbishop Welby has said that: 

“As a civilised society, we have a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need. When times are hard, that duty should be felt more than ever, not disappear or diminish. It is essential that we have a welfare system that responds to need and recognises the rising costs of food, fuel, and housing. The current benefit system does that by ensuring that the support struggling families receive rises with inflation. These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price for high inflation, rather than the government”
(from The Guardian, Monday 10th March 2013)

There have, of course, been people who have criticised the Archbishop for these comments, on the grounds that he should stick to ‘religious’ and ‘spiritual’ matters. But as I believe the above comment by the late Dom Helder Camara indicate, as Christians we are concerned with the whole of life, and should neither attempt nor let others try to make us confine our concerns to a separate area labelled ‘religion.’ As the late George MacLeod was fond of saying, Jesus was in the business of whole salvation, not just soul salvation. 

As part of the title of this letter, I have included the words ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ Some of you may have come across this slogan over the last few years, a plea to consider what we are really meant to be as Christ’s followers; and the answer is, to follow his example in all that we do in life. The fact that two leading church leaders have made these kinds of comments and propounded the ideas mentioned above is something I believe should be profoundly welcomed. We might say that in this season of Easter what great signs of hope and resurrection this points towards, where Christlike concern for the vulnerable and all those in need are highlighted as essential to what is involved in being Christ’s people,whatever our church tradition. Perhaps this is part of a movement within the life of the Church, signifying that it is time to turn once more from the fiercely individualistic culture that so many in our world adhere to, and to learn again what it means to be members of communities that genuinely reach out and care for one another.

‘What Would Jesus Do?’ Perhaps, to some, this might sound like an idealistic dream – but then, isn’t Easter a time for dreaming? The Day of Resurrection was the most unlikely thing to have happened, confounding everyone’s expectations, and crucially showing that with God nothing is impossible! This Easter, let us dare to dream, and to follow those who work for a world which is closer to the Kingdom that Christ came to inaugurate. 

Let me end with an Eastertide prayer: 

This Easter, come freshly to us, Living God: open our eyes 
that we may recognise you walking with us; open our ears and our minds 
that we may hear and understand; open our hearts 
that your love may flow through us and bring the blessing of new life to all we meet; 
for you are the God who makes all things new. 
(Ann Lewin, from Seasons of Grace)

James Curry