The week in focus
Connecting to the world right now
Up-to-the-minute jumping-off points for sermons, linking the reading to the latest news and global issues
Who matters to God?
Looking at Jesus’ perspective on who matters, and recognising we sometimes focus on the wrong things (Mark 10.2-6).
- Queues at petrol stations have made front-page news this week, as a shortage of HGV drivers has affected deliveries of petrol and other goods.
- The number of migrants crossing the channel in small unsuitable vessels has doubled since last year.
- This week the new James Bond film finally arrives in cinemas after a Covid-based delay, with some reviews focussing on the film’s different approach to its female characters.
Reflection and ideas for a sermon, talk or conversation
- The arguments about Brexit, immigration and HGV drivers has its counterpoint this week with news that the number of people attempting to cross the channel in small boats has doubled in a year. While politicians argue about whose responsibility it is to prevent people from making that hazardous journey, individuals and families continue to risk their lives in an attempt to reach the UK. I wonder if Jesus would sidestep the arguments about which is the first safe country and who should pay to patrol the English channel, and focus instead on the individuals involved and God’s love and care for each one. We often get animated by abstract concepts of responsibility or freedom and miss the human stories at the centre. The Pharisees were taking the legal abstract idea of divorce and using it to test Jesus’ integrity as a teacher. Jesus responded by focussing on the relationships of the people involved, the harm that divorce caused (especially to women who had no rights to own property and would be left destitute) and God’s created order that marriage should be for life.
- Let the little children come. Our church had a toddler group with a 3-year-old ringleader, Bradley. Every Tuesday he would arrive five minutes after we’d started, by banging open the doors and shouting ‘Yeah’ – to which the entire group would respond ‘It’s Bradley’ and the fun would start. After a year, his mum was persuaded that Jesus was worth getting to know and that she should come to church on a Sunday. They arrived, five minutes after the service started, with Bradley running ahead of his Mum to bang open the doors and yell as he had done every week. The look on this little boy’s face as he yelled at forty-five people sat in rows, who all looked round en masse, in place of his usual playmates was one of shock and horror. His mother was mortified, snatched him up and sat right at the back trying not to notice everyone now looking at them. No-one tutted or complained or criticised the mother at all, but her own sense of being out of place and unwelcome meant that she interpreted simple looks directed at an interruption as personal criticism. The disciples were deliberately stopping the children from coming to Jesus, but I still wonder if, by not getting out of my seat and loudly welcoming this mother and child, I kept them from knowing Jesus. Often, people expect that they are unwelcome and will read this into the body language of the people that they see. As Christians, we need to follow Jesus’ example and overtly welcome people as he did those children.
- How do you react under pressure? Can you retain your sense of humour or do little things suddenly seem much worse? The petrol forecourts have seen people laughing, sharing stories of why they have to queue for petrol or cheering as others fill up their tanks. They have also seen abuse directed at petrol station staff, police and fellow motorists with fistfights breaking out on occasion. We are created for relationship, for community but we can allow our own needs and concerns to overrule that and bring us into conflict. As Christians we are secure in the knowledge that we are created by God and provided for by him. Keeping that in mind helps us to respond with kindness and laughter rather than stress and shouting.
- Finally, the new Bond film has been praised for its strong female characters, that women are not passive objects for Bond to bed and then leave as in some previous films. There has been protest that this is part of a ‘woke’ agenda and is ‘political correctness gone mad’, but it’s worth looking at our cultural diet through the lens of the creation account in Genesis. Woman is not a separate creature to be named and controlled by man, but is created out of – of the very same flesh as – the man himself. Taken alongside the other creation account we see that both men and women have been made in God’s image and given equal value. We should be aware when the media we consume does not reflect this essential truth.
Questions for discussion
- Has anyone ever blocked your way to Jesus? What form did that take? How did it feel for you?
- How does your church welcome children? Do they have a sense that he blesses them directly?
- Are there any issues being discussed in the church where individual lives might be being forgotten in the broader argument?
Steve Taylor is joint-vicar of St James Alperton (CofE) near Wembley. He shares the job with his wife, Ali, and shares his house with their two daughters, two cats, and numerous fish.
Connecting faith with everyday, real-life issues for young people
The petrol stations are running dry, and people can’t agree whether a shortage of HGV drivers, panicking car-owners, Coronavirus, Brexit, or a mixture are to blame. This story has been dominating the headlines this week, but what about others? The November 2021 COP26 Climate Change conference in Glasgow is billed to be the biggest environmental conference in recent years – but after a summer of rising temperatures and climate-related events around the world, it is being relatively ignored. Does a lack of climate coverage mean it isn’t important? Of course not!
The same is true of the children in this week’s Gospel. The disciples try to focus on other people, but Jesus reminds them that everyone matters. Can you think of a time when something or someone important has been ignored or overlooked? Over the coming week, let us try and follow the example of Jesus and see the value in all things – not simply the things which the media and society influence us to see as important. The media and popular opinion often focus on one issue and ignore another – but they remain important. All things and all people, young or old, matter to God – and they should matter to us too.
Joe Allen holds a BA degree in Theology having graduated from the University of Exeter in 2021. The son of an Army Chaplain, he was born in Lancashire and has lived across the UK.
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