Imaginative Contemplation: The Woman at the Well

Posted: August 2, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

We have spoken before about the importance of reading scripture with open hands, and imaginative contemplation is one way of doing that. The reader places themselves in the story and engages their sense and emotions, in order to bring the action to life and create a space in which they are open to new insight and revelation. It can be as simple as reading a passage and then let the imagination take over, but a little bit of guidance can be helpful, especially if this is a new practice, so while we are on our summer break I will be offering a few written contemplations for you to use. Obviously this is a less analytical approach to the Bible than we have been taking over the past few months, but I hope it will provide some balance and refreshment.

 

SamaritanWomanAtTheWell-HeQi

 

You leave your house and walk into the centre of town. It’s the middle of the day and it’s hot. The air is still and almost shimmering in the heat. Take a moment to place yourself in the scene and imagine what you can see…hear…smell. 

You head for the cool of a tree and feel yourself relax as you reach the shade. You’re out of the sun and the scrutiny of your neighbours. Stay in this place a while and rest in the peaceful atmosphere of a cool place in the heat of the day. 

After you’ve rested for a moment, you’re startled by a voice asking for a drink. You turn around and see a man sitting just a few feet away. He is a stranger here and yet he feels almost familiar. How do you feel as you look at him? 

Again he asks for a drink. Something in you resists the request. What may be stopping you from responding to his call? 

The man gets up and walks towards you. He looks at you with kindness and understanding. After a moment he speaks again. “If you knew the gift of God and who is asking you for a drink, you would ask me and I would give you living water.” You look around but the man has nothing with him. He has no water to give. It doesn’t make sense. What else feels confusing or impossible to you now? 

The man doesn’t give up and walk away. Instead he says “No one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives eternal life.” What does it feel like to hear those words? 

You hear yourself asking for some of that water. What is it that makes you long for it? 

You are half expecting him to produce a flask from somewhere, but the man simply smiles and sends you on an errand. Your heart sinks as you realise you can’t do what he asks. He obviously doesn’t know the truth and you must come clean. What is it that you need to tell him about? 

You could fall down as he tells you he already knows and praises you for your honesty. How does it feel to realise this man knows you so intimately? 

There’s clearly something important on his mind because suddenly he tells you, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.” What does this mean and how are you called to respond? 

You know that this man is very special, but still you are amazed when he tells you he is the one you have been waiting for. How does it feel to be in the presence of the one who calls you back to God? 

You run to tell everyone you know about this man you have met, and your enthusiasm is clearly catching because they want to meet him too. When the crowds have quietened down you go back to find him. What do you say to him now?

Take this time to talk with Christ or simply sit in his presence. You may like to return to any thoughts or feeling raised by this contemplation or bring him something else that is on your heart.  

I now invite you to bring this time of contemplative prayer to a close. As you do, be aware that you remain in the presence of God, and ask the Spirit to continue to speak to you through this experience of Christ. 

Imaginative Contemplation: The Rich Young Ruler

Posted: July 26, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

We have spoken before about the importance of reading scripture with open hands, and imaginative contemplation is one way of doing that. The reader places themselves in the story and engages their sense and emotions, in order to bring the action to life and create a space in which they are open to new insight and revelation. It can be as simple as reading a passage and then let the imagination take over, but a little bit of guidance can be helpful, especially if this is a new practice, so while we are on our summer break I will be offering a few written contemplations for you to use. Obviously this is a less analytical approach to the Bible than we have been taking over the past few months, but I hope it will provide some balance and refreshment.

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Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-23)

Imagine the scene. It is a hot and dusty day, and you are on the road out of town. The road is busy at this time, with people heading home from the market with arms full of cloths and spices, and others pushing the other way, hoping to find a last minute bargain.

The group you are with is animated, but more interested in picking over the finer details of the day’s teaching than comparing notes on merchants or indulging in gossip. Suddenly your chatter is interrupted by the sound of someone calling Jesus’ name. A young man runs past you and throws himself onto the ground at Jesus’s feet.

You notice the dust spoiling the hem of his fine robe, and the sweat staining his expensive shawl where he has used it to wipe his face. He doesn’t seem to care though, as his eyes are fixed on Jesus. You smile at his enthusiasm, and then you begin to wonder. Do you feel so passionately about approaching Jesus?

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” the young man asks. You think you know where this is going so you are surprised when Jesus replies “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Jesus has never asked that question before but it gets you thinking. Do you call Jesus good? 

Jesus continues “You know the commandments”, and the young man declares “I have kept all these since my youth.” When he says that, Jesus gives him a curious look, a look so full of love that it must fill his soul. You start to think back over your time with Jesus. How does it feel to know that Jesus looks at you like that too?

Jesus tells the young man “You lack one thing. Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come and follow me.” You feel a shockwave go through the crowd. It’s such a big thing to ask and it makes you nervous. What one thing are you lacking?

The young man leaves and you can see that he is struggling. He clearly has much to sell and it will be hard for him. You wonder what he will do now, if he will do as Jesus has commanded and how long it may take him. Are you ready to do as Jesus calls and follow him?

As you think about this, you lose the thread of the conversation, but then you hear Jesus say “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”. It makes you gasp. You are not as rich as the young man appeared to be, but you have a house and food and clothes to fill it. And you have other riches too, things that can’t be measured but are certainly valued. You wonder if Jesus is talking to you.

The others seem to have the same idea, as they ask “Who then can be saved?” Jesus smiles gently and says “For God all things are possible.” In that moment, you know that what he asks of you will not always be easy, and that there will be things you will have to give up in order to follow him, but you also know that you will not have to struggle through on your own, and that there will be far greater rewards.

The group start to move on, and as people discuss what has just happened, you seek out Jesus, knowing that you must learn something of his heart for you, just as the young man did. What is that you need to ask him and what is it that he says in response?

Someone else needs to speak to Jesus, and so you step away for the moment, falling back into the crowd to reflect on all that has happened.

On Being and Doing

Posted: July 21, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

I had hoped to leave you with a beautifully poignant reflection about the last year before heading off on holiday, then I got sick and Eddie got fussy and that idea went out of the window, and instead I find myself sitting in front of the computer screen at 4am because I’ve randomly woken up and so I might as well do something useful with the time.

That in itself is probably a fairly accurate reflection on how the last year has gone. Thankfully 4am wake ups are unusual now, but it would be honest to say that things have been even less likely to go to plan since we became a family of three, and I’ve had to learn to roll with the punches and do what I can when I can.

It’s been a struggle for the part of me that instinctively likes order and pattern. I always knew that ministry would spill over any fences I tried to put around it, and I was prepared to welcome a little holy chaos into my life, but I had at least hoped that the more predictable elements would be able to find a more predictable routine. Recently though I have started to look at things a little differently…

I have been thinking for a little while now about the debate over whether ministry is ontological (to do with who you are) or functional (emphasising what you do). Personally I think it’s a bit of both, because I believe that the ministry we are all called to as believers is primarily about the character that is formed within us, and the ministry I am called to as a minister is about the particular role I take on within the community.

Seeing my position as functional reminds me that I am called to serve those who have commissioned me to this role, and to encourage them to find the roles they in turn have been commissioned to. But understanding that there is an underlying ontological dimension reminds me that I am called above all else to be the best version of myself, and that means that who I am in every aspect of my character and my relationships is of vital importance to what I do as a minister, and so I need to spend time being as well as doing.

That is an important corrective to the anxieties that creep in when my focus becomes entirely about my to do list and then life gets in the way of it. I want to find and model healthy rhythms of work and rest, for me and for my family and for my community, but the ministry I am called to is a whole of life commission, and that is always going to resist routine.

So far this has been something of a stream of consciousness, and you might be wondering why I really need to share any of this, but there are two reasons why I’ve not hit delete and kept this as a private reflection. The first is that I take my commitment to my community seriously, and I believe that commitment includes a degree of accountability. The second is that it’s easy for any of us to slip into purely functional mode, but the truth is that we all have whole of life commissions, and what any of us do can only come out of who we are.

And so my prayer for the community I have come to love so dearly, as many of us prepare to have our usual routines upended by the summer holidays, is that we will all find the freedom to simply be so that we can more joyfully do.

 

A Little Gardening Practice

Posted: July 14, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Sunday was our last teaching session before the summer, so I wanted to draw together everything we’ve looked at so far in our exploration of the Bible, and hopefully leave us with something which felt refreshing as well as challenging.

Simon T said two weeks ago that study can enrich our reading of scripture even if most of the time it doesn’t change the essence of our faith, and Giselle spoke some time ago about reading the Bible with open hands, so I wanted to use our study to deepen our engagement with a piece of scripture, then give us some space to sit and hear what God might want to say through it in that moment. We managed more of the former than the latter, but I hope that you will be able to create some space to sit with God after reading this.

The passage we focused on was John 14, although a slight brain blip on my part meant I interpolated part of John 15. It’s all good stuff, so I will treat the two as a single passage, and I would thoroughly recommend reading both chapters before continuing with this blog.

I’m afraid as my brain starts to wind down for the summer, I can’t think of a more creative way of recreating our discussion than simply presenting my notes, so I hope you will forgive the lack of imagination. I have however managed to find a still of the frame from the QI credit sequence which has John 14:8-9, so you can start with a nice picture and proof that I wasn’t just making things up to play for time.

 

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We started by looking at how the Bible came to be, which included questions of ‘when’, ‘who’, and ‘why’.

In terms of the ‘when’ of the passage, John is understood to be the latest of the four gospels as it contains more developed ideas – see for example the high understanding of the nature of Christ in John 1, where he is portrayed as the Word made flesh. Oral tradition at the time was strong, so there is no reason to believe that the stories and teachings recorded are not genuine, but it does mean we are reading theological reflection as well as history.

Moving on to the ‘who’, the Gospel of John, the three Letters of John and the Revelation of John are traditionally attributed to the disciple named John. That might seem obvious, but the naming came from the tradition and there is no firm evidence to support it. However common themes and language link the gospel and the letters, so scholars speak of them coming from same community if not the same person. The gospel attributes itself to the ‘beloved disciple’, so there is an idea that the community was centred around him, and whether or not he was called John is perhaps less important.

And finally turning to the ‘why’, the gospel itself says that it was written that ‘you’ might believe Jesus is Christ and have life in his name. That suggests it was never intended to be an objective reporting of the facts, but it was written from a place of conviction not manipulation, and I think that speaks for its importance not against its value.

 

Next we looked at genre, that is what type of writing we are looking at and how that effects our expectations and interpretation.

This passage is part of a gospel, which is a fairly unique literary genre, with crossover from both history and prophecy, as it is part biography and part collection of teachings. The gospels were written to testify to Jesus, who came to reveal God and set in motion the coming of the kingdom, and so our focus when reading them must always be on what they teach us about him, and what that means for the way we live in relationship with God and the world.

Thinking more specifically, this particular passage is part of the ‘farewell discourse’, the final teaching Jesus shared with his disciples before he was arrested and crucified. It is part programmatic summary and part pep talk, in readiness for the time when Jesus would no longer be physically present. John is very clear that Jesus knew what was about to happen to him, and so this may well have been a prepared speech rather than a spontaneous firing of thoughts.

A few chapters later, Jesus prays not only for the disciples but for those who will believe because of them, and if that wider view is reflected backwards, then this may be read not just as a record of what was said to those meeting over supper that night, but also as a direct word to us. And the worship of  the first Christians is often seen as paradigmatic for the church, so this gathering to hear from God and pray for one another in the context of fellowship may also be seen as a pattern, although not necessarily a formula.

Towards the end of our conversations about genre, we debated the value of seeing the Bible as myth. I suggested it as a way of talking about the fact that the Bible contains deep truths that are more important than simple facts, but there were very understandable concerns that the word myth comes with other associations that are less helpful. Simon T suggested on Sunday that we may borrow the language that Jesus himself uses in the Gospel of John and speak of the Bible as a sign, because it points beyond itself to God, which very neatly said what I had been fumbling around. If this passage is a sign, it is because it speaks of relationship with God, which is the truth that the whole Bible is trying to express.

 

After that, we looked at how Jesus used the scriptures, suggested that he stripped the violence out of the Old Testament passages he quoted.

There are no direct quotes from the Hebrew scriptures here, but peace is something of a buzzword, so this at least accords with the idea that Jesus was bringing a radical new way of non-violence.

It is also interesting to compare John 14:8-9 and Exodus 33:18-23. In the Exodus passage, Moses asks to see God and is only allowed to see his back, but in the John passage, Philip asks to see God and is told he has already seen him in the flesh. As Dan so rightly pointed out, there are other Old Testament passages that seem to suggest that Moses did see God face to face, but there is a similarity in the request-response pattern of John 14:8-9 and Exodus 33:18-23 that makes me wonder if this was a deliberate attempt to highlight just how much greater our experience of God has become because of Christ.

 

Continuing with a Christ-centred reading of scripture, we looked at how we might read the Bible in the light of Jesus’ teaching, focusing on the Sermon on the Mount.

It might seem odd to do that here as this is Jesus’ teaching, but comparing gospels, and even different passages within gospels, can be valuable in identifying key themes and tensions, so we looked at the passage against a few points from the Sermon on the Mount.

The Beatitudes suggest that everything we think we know is turned on its head in the kingdom of God, but the promise of the Spirit and the giving of the love commandment are the renewing of old words rather than the reversing of old expectations. Both challenge the status quo by suggesting that things are not yet as they are meant to be, but there is revival as well as upheaval in the kingdom.

The Lord’s Prayer makes our relationship with God central, and this passage from John puts some meat on those bones by saying that this relationship is about mutual indwelling, with some rather complicated relationships finally imagined as a vine and its branches.

The Sermon on the Mount is shot through with the idea that it is attitude and not just action that is important, and that tells us a little about what the love for one another that Jesus commands should look like. Of course love must be active, but it must ultimately come from the heart and not simply out of duty. Sometimes we will need that sense of duty to keep us going, but we ought always to seek to love others as God loves them.

 

We then looked at the idea that the Bible contains different circles of narrative, which which function in slightly different ways.

The Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggeman talks about the saving action of God as the primal narrative, which widens out to the expanded narrative and then to the narratives of instruction and vocation, like ripples from a stone dropped in a lake.

This passage would be part of the expanded narrative as it provides part of the context for the primal narrative of  Jesus’ death and resurrection, but it is also part of the instruction and vocation of the community as it contains the crucial love commandment and the promise of the Spirit. Ripples don’t overlap so the image doesn’t quite work, but it is important to remember that this passage sits in that crossover. It can be so easy to add lots of stuff to our instruction and vocation, and that’s not always a bad thing, but it’s those things that are rooted in Christ that keep us rooted in him.

 

And finally we looked at the importance of reading in context, knowing the cultural background instead of making assumptions based on our own experience.

I looked a little into the historical background that was relevant to this passage, and I came across a suggestion that the peace that the world gives may be identified with the Pax Romana. That would meant that this is not just a nice promise of a better quality of calm, but a political statement which criticises the Roman way of enforcing peace through force, and which says that Jesus has come with a radical alternative not a competing system. The article I was reading also suggest that this verse may now speak against a kind of Pax Americana, and we may equally speak of a Pax Britannia, so this is still a political statement today.

I have always struggled with the idea that believers get what they ask for, as this is demonstrably untrue. We talked on Sunday about the significance of the condition that prayers are made ‘in my name’, and the importance of recognising that we do not always understand the will of God, but the context adds an interesting note. It was held that some rabbis could receive whatever they wanted from God, and so this passage extends and equalises that promise, and that assertion that all believers are equal before God may be a crucial part of what Jesus was saying here.

And getting down to the nitty gritty of the language, another translation of ‘counsellor’ is ‘advocate’, literally ‘one who walks alongside’. We tend to make Satan a proper noun, but ‘the Satan’ was ‘the accuser’, so this naming of the Spirit is perhaps intended to balance that, drawing on the image of a courtroom. That doesn’t necessarily mean we will be made subject to a heavenly trial in the style of A Matter of Life and Death, but it does say that if there are powers against us, there are also powers for us.

 

We have come to the end of this exploration of a chunk of gospel, using some of the tools we have picked up over the past few months.

This was never intended to be an exhaustive guide to the passage, but I hope it has shown how the different approaches we have taken to the Bible might be worked out in practice, and how they can spark all sorts of insights and revelations.

Most of all, I hope it has felt like an encouragement to roll your sleeves up and dig into and around the Bible, because great things can grow from those efforts. (Does the title finally make sense now?!)

 

And so I would really encourage you to take the time to sit with open hands and listen for God speaking through this passage, perhaps by practicing Lection Divina.

Lectio – Reading Savour the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightning or ecstasies. In Lectio Divina, God is teaching us to listen to him, to seek him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, he gently invites us ever more deeply into his presence.

Meditatio – Meditation Take the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas. Do not be afraid of distractions. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself that, when they rise up during Lectio Divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.

Oratio – Speaking Speak to God. Whether you use words, ideas, or images–or all three–is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to him what you have discovered during your experience of meditation. Experience God by using the word or phrase he has given you as a means of blessing and of transforming the ideas and memories that your reflection on his word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.

Contemplatio – Contemplation Rest in God’s embrace. And when he invites you to return to your contemplation of his word or to your inner dialogue with him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.

Sunday is coming

Posted: June 27, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

On Maundy Thursday I blogged about my annual sense that I’m doing Easter wrong. Every year I regret the fact that I can’t hear the story of Good Friday without also hearing the story of Easter Sunday. That I can’t enter into the pain and disorientation in order to fully appreciate the surprise and the joy. That knowing “it’s Friday but Sunday is coming” stops me from really living in that story. 

 

And yet this week I had a sense that I don’t need to try to live in Good Friday because I already do. The last few weeks have brought event after event that have devastated us with anger and fear and sorrow, that have brought us to our knees and left us dazed and confused, that have made the world we hope for seem a little further away. If that doesn’t feel like Good Friday I don’t know what does. And that’s why it’s so important that we do know that Easter Sunday is coming.

 

Knowing that Easter Sunday happened for Jesus might stop us from living in the first Good Friday. But more importantly it helps us to live in our own Good Friday because it says that Easter Sunday will happen for us too. It is the promise that every story will end in resurrection. It is the hope that suffering can be redeemed, and a world that has seemed strange and cruel can be made more beautiful than before. It is the sign that death and hate will not win.

 

It seems an inescapable fact that most of my reflections these days come back to my little boy. I have cried many times over the past year for the world I have brought him into. He’s too young to understand any of it yet – the worst thing he knows is cutting a new tooth or being told he can’t chew on my phone charger – but one day he will understand. And when he does, I hope he knows that there is no Good Friday without an Easter Sunday. I hope you know that too.

 

sundayiscoming

Living the Lord’s Prayer

Posted: June 15, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

In case you haven’t already heard my confession, I grew up in an Anglican church. I realise now that we were so low that we were practically falling out of the bottom of the church, but we still used certain patterns and prayers in our worship. The repetition of these meant that I learnt them at a very young age, and they still come back to me very easily, even after twelve years away.

As much as I value the freedom of more informal worship, I still have a great fondness for those patterns and prayers, as they were significant in shaping and expressing my faith. They taught me that there were many ways of speaking with God, and gave me words when otherwise I would have had none.

At the heart of our worship was always the Lord’s Prayer, and so I have prayed it many times. I have also prayed it many ways, and am building quite a collection of different translations and interpretations. And yet nothing has brought home what it means to pray it so much as the meditation that Ruth offered as she led us in worship on Sunday night.

The prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples is a bold prayer that demands more than simple assent. It must move us to action and transform our attitude, or it is nothing but noise and wasted ink. It must be the spirit in which we pray all our prayers, and as we seek a life of prayer, it is the spirit in which we must live all our lives. Of course I already knew that, but it hit me with greater force than ever before on Sunday night.

I began by talking about my childhood in the church, because I have been thinking recently about what patterns and prayers I will bring my own child up with, and these threads of reflection have become tangled together. The Lord’s Prayer has to be at the top of the list, but I want him to understand the fullness of it and live in that understanding, not just say the words to please his parents.

But I cannot want that for my son and not for myself. I too must understand the fullness of it and live in that understanding, and so I will be dwelling in this meditation in the coming weeks, until I have absorbed it as completely as the words it reflects on. I offer it to you now as Ruth offered it so us on Sunday, with an invitation to dwell in it with me, that we may not just pray the Lord’s Prayer but understand and live it too.

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I cannot say “OUR” If my religion has no room for others and their needs.
I cannot say “Father” if I do not demonstrate this kind of loving relationship in my daily living.
I cannot say “WHO ART IN HEAVEN” if all my interests and pursuits are in earthly things.
I cannot say” HALLOWED BE THY NAME” if I, who am called by His name, am not holy.
I cannot say “THY KINGDOM COME” if I am not willing to give up my own sovereignty and accept the righteous reign of God.
I cannot say “THY WILL BE DONE” if I am unwilling or resentful of having His will in my life.
I cannot say “ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN” unless I am truly willing to give my life here and now to His service.
I cannot say “GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD” without expending effort for it or by ignoring the genuine need of others.
I cannot say “FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS” if I continue to harbour a grudge against others or anyone.
I cannot say “LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION” if I choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted.
I cannot say “DELIVER US FROM EVIL” if I am not prepared in the spiritual realm with the weapons of prayer.
I cannot say “FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM” if I do not give the King the disciplined obedience of a loyal subject.
I cannot say “FOR THINE IS THE POWER” if I fear for what my friends and neighbours might say.
I cannot say “FOR THINE IS THE GLORY” if I seek my own glory first.
I cannot say “FOREVER” if I am too anxious about each day’s affairs.
I cannot say “AMEN” unless I can honestly say, cost what it may, “this is my prayer”.

(Written by Ruth Bortner and Lela Wegman)

On the Eve of an Election

Posted: June 7, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Today is June 7th. That would be a perfectly innocuous statement except for the necessary implication that tomorrow is June 8th. And that means tomorrow is election day.

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Politics has a way of bringing out the worst in us at the best of times, and the heightened atmosphere of an election only compounds the problem. Anger. Suspicion. Tribalism. It makes for quite a heady brew, and it can be difficult to know how to avoid drinking it in the first place, or how to sober up once we have.

In my last blog, I suggested that the Sermon on the Mount may have something to teach us about how we ought to approach the Bible. That came out of a conviction that it says so much about character and conduct that it really ought to speak into every area of our lives. If my hypothesis is right, it should have something to teach us on this election eve, so here are my thoughts on how we may approach tomorrow in the light of the Sermon on the Mount…

 

I suspect that most of us will have already decided which box we will be ticking tomorrow, and I trust that our decisions have already been shaped by our prayer and our discipleship, but the pencil has not hit the paper yet. As we prepare to cast our votes, we must remember that Jesus’ words are the surest foundation on which we build (Matthew 7:24-27), asking how we may act with wisdom and use our democracy to advance the kingdom he preached. We may also take heed of the advice that “by your fruit you will know them” (Matthew 7:16), paying attention to the actions and not just the words of our elected and would-be-elected politicians.

But it’s not just about us marking a piece of paper in a little box, because voting is a participation in our society, with all it’s differences and disagreements. When it comes to dealing with those whose political beliefs do not line up with ours, we must remember that Jesus calls us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to resist pronouncing judgement on others (Matthew 7:1-2), holding our convictions with a humility that allows us to listen to and seek to understand others.

And it’s not just about tomorrow, because on June 9th we must all decide how we respond to the results of the election. If things don’t go our way, me must take hope from the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) and from the assurance that we do not need to worry (Matthew 6:25), trusting that we follow a God who can turn things upside down and there is no situation that cannot be redeemed. We must also continue to act as salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16), keep praying for the kingdom (Matthew 6:10), and never cease from asking and seeking and knocking (Matthew 7:7-8), because we are a people of hope and perseverance.

 

I end with a prayer from this reflection published by Baptists Together.

God of every time and season,
Whose reign and rule extends beyond any earthly realm;
In the midst of the uncertainty,
The debate and expectancy of a forthcoming General Election,
Help us to centre ourselves afresh on you;
Not to escape the issues and argument,
But that we might be engaged
With wisdom and faithfulness
That reflects our identity as your people.
 
Protect us from indifference
That we might promote attitudes of grace
And seek to uphold the narratives of truth and goodness.
And may we not become so consumed
With the agendas of our own concern
That we forget the lives and needs
Of a world that extends beyond our immediate horizons.
 
We pray for those who seek office
And those to whom this responsibility will be given
May we never take for granted
The service that they offer
Or the freedom we have
To determine those who govern us.
 
Help us to act wisely;
To listen prayerfully;
To debate honestly;
To disagree graciously;
And to seek the ways of your Kingdom
In the decisions we make together.
 
Through Christ our Lord and King,

AMEN