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The week in focus for week beginning Sunday 15 May 2022

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Up-to-the-minute jumping-off points for sermons, linking the reading to the latest news and global issues

Hope in the present?

What offers hope for renewal in our destabilised and fractious world (Revelation 21.1-6)?

 

Context

This week seemed to open with strife, distress, and confrontation everywhere. Rancour and threats were the headlined aspects of the attempt to re-form Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive after Sinn Fein’s unprecedented emergence as the largest party, and today the drama is in Westminster. From Ukraine’s conflict we heard of Russian losses as the UN estimated huge Ukrainian casualties, starvation threatened, and news came that there were still civilians in devastated Mariupol and little has changed. In Westminster a Queen’s speech was delivered containing several contentious bills for the coming months. And today (Wednesday) the headline is the devastating rise in the cost of living.

 

Ideas for sermons or interactive talks

  • Does it help to look beneath the politicking to the grassroots; to look not at intransigent Northern Irish and Westminster politicians grand-standing, but at the future promised by a new generation in, for example, Ulster?
  • Or is it enough, sometimes, just to read beyond the headlines? Look further down the first Telegraph’s account above, or choose a different viewpoint, and you find constructive ideas and the seeds of hope even among politicians. One may reflect also that politicians’ fulminations often conceal real fears and apprehensions. Is the way to the ‘new heaven and new earth’ (v.1) through less ideology and more simple humanity?
  • Even more among Ukraine’s troubles should we look among ordinary people to rejoice at the human qualities displayed: the sheer resilience of spirit manifested there; the courage and generosity towards all in danger including many volunteers; and the concern of people of good will in the UK nationally and indeed locally.
  • The debate over the priorities revealed in the Queen’s Speech has only just begun. But would we get closer to a world renewed by emphasising ongoing practical concern for real people rather than foregrounding the economy in abstract?
  • Is it that first-hand life experience shows God’s renewal plans better than the media record? Is it when we reject media constructions of reality and look around us at God’s diverse people that we find the offered ‘water’ (v.6) in so many generous and compassionate urges offering heartening reflections of the divine love?
  • Are too many church communities, perhaps because of their age-profile, too often nostalgic for past certainties and deprived of the cheering though undefined promise of babies, children, young people, and ‘twenty-somethings’? How do we then shake ourselves out of a media swirl of doom and gloom, particularly those of us who grew up in the 1950’s glad that we did not face the horrors of war or its consequent deprivations as our parents did? How about a deliberate shift of focus? It was hard to see God making all things new when amid desperate news we prayed for Ukraine in church on Sunday morning. All became much clearer when I played with my laughing eighteen-month-old grandson in the afternoon!

 

Questions for discussion

  • Are you or your church or community involved in charitable endeavours, e.g. food banks or schemes to help refugees?
  • Does it help renew your faith in the present and the future?
  • What do you think is most likely to help people most as the cost of living rises, government measures, or charitable efforts like Food Banks and lunch clubs, or something else?

Brenda Vance is a retired university teacher and an elder and member of Christ Church LEP in Sussex.

 

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Connecting faith with everyday, real-life issues for young people

“BUILD BACK BETTER”

“ON YOUR SIDE”

“MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER”

“SCOTLAND’S CHOICE, SCOTLAND’S FUTURE.”

“MAKING A DIFFERENCE”

“TIME FOR REAL CHANGE”

You might have seen a mixture of these slogans on signs hanging on lampposts across the United Kingdom as election day loomed last week.

These words are a barrage of positivity and promises from individuals and parties that say a vote for them is a vote for a better future. And this week the election winners now have the tricky task of living up to their pledges about making their communities’ futures better.

There can be times for all of us when a better future seems like a nearly impossible task. Whether that is because of a daunting pile of revision to do before sitting important exams or because of the heart-breaking news that floods the news and our social media.

It’s easy to assume that things won’t change. We might think people like politicians are incapable of keeping their promises. Or perhaps we don’t think we can achieve the goals we’ve set ourselves.

The book of Revelation offers a reminder that no matter how twisty or difficult our paths can be, when we follow Jesus they will eventually leads us to a better future - the new heaven and new earth where the painful things of this world - death, mourning, crying and pain - have been defeated.

How would our lives look if we lived each day as if we really believed God’s promise “I’m making everything new” was true? What if every day we remembered that just because things are difficult today doesn’t mean things will always be hard?

Now that’s a slogan which could really make a difference.  

Chris Neilands is the co-founder of Play it by Ear, a Belfast-based drama company that uses performance and workshop to help people explore the Bible.

 

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