Reflection written for Sunday 30 September. (Any Bible readings referred to are from the lectionary readings set for 30/09/18.)
This week I have been at college, in the rarefied air of the Cambridge academic bubble, beautiful yet somehow otherworldly. Otherworldly because it is a place where people read far more than the national average; a place that has a higher tolerance for eccentrics and people who are different than other parts of the country. But also because I could, if I’d wanted, have been completely shut off from the real world without watching TV news or listening to the radio; absorbed in navel-gazing with my fellow students, with our heads in the sand of pastoral reflection and future ministries. But to my mind, theological reflection apart from the world, without reflecting on the problems of our world and community is pretty pointless.
That is not my particular brand of Christianity. God came into the world, became human and lived among us, and we too should live in the world, not in some religious ivory tower thinking we are better than others because we have found the path to God. And not only did God live among us, but in the body of Jesus, God was humiliated, rejected, condemned and killed, like so many in the world today, and yet many of our churches do not seem to care. Many Christians seem to think that praying is all they need to do, but as I said last Sunday, peace and justice, and compassion, are not things you wish/pray for they are things you make and do.
Of course one may think, what can I do? Whatever I do will make so little difference it’s not worth it. But of course if everyone thought that, nothing would change. I have only walked about 125 miles so far in the British Red Cross Miles for Refugees month and if I am lucky I might raise £150 for the appeal, which is not much, but together all the people taking part in Miles for Refugees have walked over 63,000 miles and have raised £90,000. And of course the same goes for all the other charitable events happening all over the country every day – lots of small acts add up to a lot.
You may have heard the story this summer of a young Swedish student who boarded a plane at Gothenburg airport specifically to prevent an Afghan asylum seeker from being deported. She refused to sit down until he was removed from the plane and she live-streamed her protest on the internet. Her video was watched by over 4 million people. Stewards and passengers complained, but she stood firm. She said, “I am doing what I can to save a person’s life. As long as a person is standing up the pilot cannot take off. All I want to do is stop the deportation and then I will comply with the rules here. This is all perfectly legal and I have not committed a crime.”
The passengers eventually broke into applause when the asylum seeker was taken off the plane.
One person can make a difference.
Or as the passages for today from both Numbers and Mark say – whoever is not against us is for us – things don’t have to be done in Jesus name as long as good things are done, and we make the change we want to see, with others and for others.