COP26 begins tomorrow. There is no more important & urgent issue facing our world today. There are many countries represented and about 3,000+ will be there in Glasgow. But there are billions who have a say in the future of our Planet, most of whom will not be heard.
So, though we cannot be present, we can take part on their behalf. We can pray for and hold in love those for whom this Conference is really about. That includes childen and those yet to be born. It is our responsibility to work for them. There are animals and birds and fish and all of the Natural world. They too have no voice unless we take our responsibility seriously and BE their voice. We are the voice to of the poor. Pope Francis has asked us to “Listen to the cry of the earthand the cry of the poor, who suffer most.” We are their voice too.
Here is a Prayer from Pope Francis to help us be that voice -a Prayer for the Earth
A Prayer for our Earth
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
photo by The Revd Lynn Hurry of Latton Foxes being chosen by St. Francis!
There is an Irish story about a traveller who stopped in a small Irish town to ask the way to a certain place. After scratching his head a bit, the Irishman looked at the traveller and said; “To be sure, if I was going to there, I wouldn’t start from here.”
I have been thinking today about the call of the first disciples amongst whom were St Simon & St Jude whose feast day is today.The New Testament reading at Morning Prayer was Luke 6: 12-16
Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Very little is known about either St. Simon or St. Jude – they were just numbered amongst the Twelve so we can assume that the experienced the same adventure of faith, its ups and downs, that the other close disciples of Jesus did. Presumably they played a part in building up the infant Church after Pentecost. We don’t really need to know much more about them because they fulfilled the work for which they were chosen, which was to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We notice that before he chose his disciples Jesus spent the night in a quiet place with his Father. Nothing of any importance in Jesus’s ministry happened without first being rooted in prayer and deep communion between them both. That led me to think whether that was true for me and maybe it’s a question you might like to ponder too.
One of the things we know is that the disciples in their own particular way, were flawed human beings. Sometimes they squabbled, sometimes they wanted to be special, they tried to outdo each other in zeal. They were sometimes impetuous. Often they hadn’t a clue what Jesus was on about. They were hot headed, judgemental, disloyal, cowardly and sometimes they shone with glory.
But it can seem a little odd that Jesus chose this motley crew on which to build His Church, his holy people. To alter slightly what the Irishman said earlier – if I was going to build God’s Kingdom, I wouldn’t start with them!
I don’t know whether you are familiar with the ways of Management Consultants who are used sometimes to interview and provide leaders for business organizations. I have a friend who does this for a living – he’s known as a ‘headhunter’ and it’s a very lucrative business, even in these hard Covid times. What often happens is that head hunters interview and test a number of possible people and then provide a profile on them. I believe that a similar system operates today in the choosing of Church of England bishops! (Though with prayer, of course)
Tongue-in-cheek, I offer for your perusal a document you may possibly have seen before. It is from the Jordan Management Consultancy, and it provides profiles on a number of people chosen to launch a new venture. As well as detailed profiles, the Consultants offer their client the following general comments:
“It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.
One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right hand man. We wish you every success in your new venture.
So, did Jesus get it wrong in his choice of followers?
Well, let’s be generous in our judgement. Those dear disciples got it right in the end and really did tell out the Good News. Also we need to be glad that, for whatever reason we can’t really fathom, Jesus goes on calling ordinary folk to follow him, whatever flaws they have. And, anyway, Jesus sees things very differently than we do. He doesn’t bother much about flaws. He’s delighted with hearts touched by love. He can do a lot with such people. Including us, of course.
We Planted the seeds : Female graffiti artists of Afghanistan
I was drawn to a profoudly moving article, in this week’s Observer newspaper, by Ruchi Kamar, an Indian journalist reporting from Kabul. On Twitter she has reported, “Last week I was a journalist. Today I can’t write under my own name. My whole life has been obliterated in days. I’m not safe because I’m a 22-year-old woman. and because I’m a journalist”
Ruchi is one of a group of women in Afghanistan who have challenged inequality, violence and the progress of women in an hitherto male dominated society. They have spoken through the medium of art, particularly graffiti art, using the buildings of their cities as their canvas. Art was the seed of change they planted in the fabric and the hearts of progressive Afghanstan. It was never plain sailing but since the takeover by the Taliban it has become, for the time being, almost an impossible dream.
Most of the women artists have fled from Afghanistan but even where the Taliban has whitewashed their art, the power of their story lives on. Most are continuing to paint and offer cartoons which challenge us all in the global struggle to foster inclusivity, peace, justice and freedom for all.
One of the leaders of the Art movement is Shamsia Hassani (born 1988). She is a graffiti artist, was until the Taliban arrived a fine arts lecturer and was associate professor of Drawing and Anatomy Drawing at Kabul University. She has popularized street art in Kabul and exhibited in a number of countries round the world. Excluded currently from Afghanistan, their voice lives on in their drawings.
After reading Ruchi Kumar’s article, I was moved to write this poem:
We cannot be erased
Men in black came. Shrouded in rags of darkness, they carried pots and crumpled brushes, grubby paint under their dirt-ridden fingernails.
But we eluded them. They did not capture our spirit, or even our fears and we slipped behind our art.
They found our murals – not hidden, but filling the streets. Statements of freedom, love and hope on walls and doorways, houses, alleyways and souks. Art in the public domain: picture-words addressed to those who would be changed by them, engaged through them. Hope, constantly embraced.
Dangerous words for those who want control, power and demonic servitude. So they came with their little pots to erase them – to erase us! Frantically obliterating all we stood for.
But by then we had gone, slipping beyond the darkness out of reach. We cannot be silenced – not even in Kabul. Our identity, our message, our struggle, our hopes are all there in the soil of our country, planted deep, but growing up through the darkness watered by tears shed abroad, until, one day…
Our hearts hurt yet also yearn. Sad now, but with joyful expectations and the determination to open our hearts one day to a new dawning…
In various forms, the saying: A picture is worth a thousand words, holds a truth. One carefully taken photo can hold us spellbound, our hearts touched. Joyce Smith’s offering here, of a Grey Heron, pausing in solitude among the beauty of autumn colours is one of those photographs.
It stills us and invites us to sit, pause from whatever we are doing or from things that worry or make us anxious. This can move us into a prayer pause. We let God touch our lives and remind us that whatever is occupying our thoughts, God is holding us. Change the direction of our thoughts and we will know this. The Heron seems to be sure.
All this photo needs is a prayer. Here is one by George Appleton. It is one of my favourites.
O Spirit of God, set at rest the crowded, hurrying, anxious thoughts within our minds and hearts. Let the peace and quiet of thy presence take possession of us. Help us to rest, to relax, to become open and receptive to thee. Thou dost know our imost spirits, the hidden unconscius life within us, the forgotten memories of hurts and fears, the frustrated desires, the unresolved tensions and dilemmas. Cleanse and sweeten the springs of our being, that freedom, life and love may flow into both our conscious and hidden life. Lord, we lie open before thee, waiting for thy peace, thy healing, thy word.
[Mr G] with thanks to Joyce.
P.S. St Bruno was the founder of the religious order known as the Carthusians