I’ve just returned from my holiday, and being super efficient I had planned my service before I left, the hymns and the scriptures were carefully chosen. I even had a the beginnings of a message forming but speaking about riots and rioters was far from my mind, a lot can change in two weeks.
What then shall I say? So much has already been said, news reporters, newspaper analysts, through the T.V., the radio, the papers, everyone has been asked their opinion, from comedians and magicians (The Guardian carried articles from Paul Daniels and Russell Brand) to politicians and community leaders.
Some blame the politicians, some blame the system, some blame the breakdown of society, and some blame the rioters calling them wild animals. Some blame greed and lack of community, some blame one another…
One thing becomes abundantly clear as you read reports and listen to the news; everybody is looking for somebody else to blame and very few want to take responsibility! But I suspect that deep down we know that the awkward truth is that we are all responsible at some level!
Yes I really did say that and I’ll repeat it just in case you think you misheard me: “we are all responsible at some level.” Now I know that most of us did not take to the streets, that we did not loot and pillage or set buildings alight, we didn’t and we wouldn’t…
…and yet we are responsible…
We are responsible for the generations who have grown up in this country without hope:
Though the newspapers are right in pointing out that single parent families, illiterate and impoverished youths were among the main perpetrators they were by no means alone, and the Daily Telegraph rightly states:
“Something has gone horribly wrong in Britain. If we are ever to confront the problems which have been exposed in the past week, it is essential to bear in mind that they do not only exist in inner-city housing estates.
The culture of greed and impunity we are witnessing on our TV screens stretches right up into corporate boardrooms and the Cabinet. It embraces the police and large parts of our media. It is not just its damaged youth, but Britain itself that needs a moral reformation.”
Britain itself needs a moral reformation! I’d go further; Britain does not just need reformation it needs deep transformation, for that we need to get away from selfishness that pervades every pore of our society and that I believe includes the church.
Listen to Jesus words again:
"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?
Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Jesus was not speaking into a vacuum; he was speaking to his followers. His followers who loved among people who were suffering under political oppression, among people in an occupied land who were being heavily taxed people who were in some cases tired and worn down. People who needed hope….
Jesus was speaking to his followers and calling them to be those who brought hope, hope and flavour and colour to a world that needed salty light bearers!
Jesus is speaking to us too, calling us to be that salt seasoning, to bring light into the dark places; calling us to be aware of the needs of our communities.
We are going public with this message of hope says Jesus, as public as a city on a hill! I’m putting you on a light stand he says! I want you to shine…
This is a huge challenge to us, and it requires a big decision from us. It requires us to examine ourselves individually and corporately it requires us to understand and accept our part in the problem that faces us. It requires repentance from us, and a renewed, restored and even transformed desire to become bearers of hope…
It requires us to lay aside our wants and comforts in order to engage with the needs of others…
But before this all begins to sound like hard work and a call to a miserable way of being lets not forget that Jesus promises us his Spirit, promises us that to walk with him is to walk freely and lightly, to move in his unforced rhythms of grace! It also means that we don’t have to generate the love and compassion from within ourselves because they spring from the heart of the God who loved us first, and from whom all of the fruits of the Spirit flow…
Choosing to become a part of the solution requires action from us, listen to the words of Romans again:
1-2 So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
God will bring out the best in us! God wants to bring out the best in us; God blesses us and calls us to become a blessing, a blessing to those who need his touch of love, his colours and his flavours running through their lives. He calls us beyond our comfort zones to touch the unlovely and unloved, to speak out against injustice at all levels, to be different and to make a difference!
And yes it will be risky and costly, but we are followers of the God who gave all for us, leaving the glory of heaven for us, who went to the cross for us, and then conquering sin and death he was raised to newness of life by the mighty resurrection power of the Holy Spirit working in and through him. It is that restoring, renewing and transforming power that he calls us to move into again, to receive from him, to live and move and have our being in him…
He was not concerned with our religion or tradition; he is not so much interested in how we sing our hymns or say our prayers as he is with our attitudes and actions towards the folk he has placed us amongst. His words to us are the same as they were to his early followers:
"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world.”
And he asks the same question of us:
Will you follow me?