Thought for the Week: 12th July 2020
This thought is an edited version of the talk from the Ryedale Methodist Church's Action for Children service led by Janice Clark and Steve Langton. Click on the link below if you would like to watch the full service.
Action for Children Sunday
Our society has changed for the better in many ways in our lifetime. We are a much wealthier society than when I was a child in the 1960s, and this is reflected in improved housing, better access to education and many other aspects of life. The older ones amongst you were born before the NHS was formed in 1948 and, at least until the current pandemic, we have seen consistent increases in life expectancy over the period since then. Things have improved in so many ways and yet, in the words of Action for Children, too many children still ‘face neglect and abuse, poverty and poor mental health. They don’t choose what happens in their lives. But we can choose to help.’ (quoted from Action for Children’s worship material).
Here is the old testament bible passage:
This is what the Lord says: ‘Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: “Hear the word of the Lord to you, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne – you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. This is what the Lord says: do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22: 1-3)
Here God tells Jeremiah to remind the King of Judah that the job of a ruler (and their officials) is to protect the weak and vulnerable, including the fatherless, foreigners and widows. This is of course a message that appears numerous times throughout scripture and Jesus makes it clear that it also applies in his own ministry.
A book that was hugely influential to me was David Sheppard’s 1983 book ‘Bias to the poor’ in which he took this biblical concern for the weak and applied it to the issues of inner-city London and Liverpool where he had served as a parish priest and then a bishop. This message was not new and the church has made enormous contributions to tackling poverty throughout its history, but David Sheppard’s book went beyond the immediate relief of poverty, examining the root causes of the poverty he saw in front of him. He did not neglect the church’s mission to relieve spiritual poverty, but saw that it needed to be accompanied by a real desire to change our society for the better.
So how can we live out God’s concerns for the weak and vulnerable in our lives today? Well of course we can give financially to the work of charities like Action for Children. But God’s words in Jeremiah were not directed at the King of Judah because he was rich, they were directed at him because he had the political power to change things for the better. We don’t have a monarch with absolute power today, but we do live in a democracy where that power ultimately rests with us. That power is partially in the ballot box, but we can also try to influence the process by lobbying on behalf of the poor. What is more, we can all be salt and light to our society by remembering God’s priorities in all our everyday conversations and our dealings with everyone we meet.
Lord God, We thank you for your word to us in scripture. Help us to remember your concern for the weak and vulnerable throughout our lives, and give us your strength to tackle both spiritual and physical poverty whenever we meet them. Amen
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