At the end of last week I was on retreat staying in a simple hermitage set amidst a glorious green landscape. The brother who greeted me said that he had been carrying buckets to and fro to water new tree saplings which had recently been planted. Being British we inevitably spoke about the weather and the need for rain. Yet, we also noted how different it is for us compared to so much of the world where severe drought and famine continues to increase, not least due to the climate crisis. Here in the Diocese of Gloucester we have heard about the reality of that from our partners in the Diocese of Western Tanganyika and many of us will have watched the short interview between Bishop Sadock (now retired) and Bishop Robert in 2021.
Next week is Christian Aid* week (May 15-21) and the focus is on drought and famine.
As well as severe drought in many parts of the world, the price of food continues to escalate, and the lack of wheat and cooking oil as a consequence of the horrific war in Ukraine has the greatest impact on those who are financially poor. Everyone’s choices and actions, including mine and yours, have a very real impact on our neighbours, near and far.
I was acutely aware of that today as I attended the State Opening of Parliament. There was opulence and grandeur about it, but once the pomp and ceremony, robes and fine dress are removed, what really matters is how we live our lives and use who we are and what we have for the good of the world. Will those with political power and authority seek to live the justice, hope, generosity and love which is at the heart of God, and how will you and I play our part in that in our personal choices, words and actions?
A few minutes after the host brother had seen me into the hermitage to return to his watering, a lone deer appeared in the long grass just beyond the window and I found myself quietly reciting those words of Psalm 42: ‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God’.
Our desire to respond to the brokenness of our world, including drought, war and famine, must surely begin with our thirsting after God. On the cross we hear the words of Jesus, ’I thirst’ and I believe their meaning went well beyond the excruciating physical longing for liquid in a tortured and contorted body as Christ died and lived the overwhelming love of God.
As we are watered by the abundance of God’s love, so our giving to the world around us, including our financial choices, will be an offering in response to God’s generosity and a desire for that to be shared with the world, near and far.
The following words of the prophet Amos are often quoted, and reflect a generous abundance which is appropriate for us to focus on in Christian Aid Week: ‘..let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream..’ (Amos 5:24).
Thank you for all the different ways you will be engaging locally with Christian Aid week – and it is a good week to remind people that our ‘Giving in thanks for our vaccines’ is still up and running!
As an aside, I ended my retreat listening to the rain pounding on the roof of my tiny hermitage, and I was thankful.
With my thanks and prayers as ever
* Christian Aid is the official relief and development agency of 41 Christian churches in the UK and Ireland, and works to support sustainable development, eradicate poverty, support civil society and provide disaster relief in South America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.