We have managed, now, to get our old number back for the Church Office! More Halleluias! So 734514 is back in action! All we need is our internet connection now!
Sunday has been marked as our official “Back to Church Sunday”, and over 30 folk who have tailed away over the past years have been sent a personal invitation to come back on Sunday. If you haven’t had one, please accept this as your own personal invitation.
Gavin & Connie Elder’s grand-daughter, Hannah, is being baptised, and we expect the church to be full. There is even a buffet with wine after the service!
Maybe you don’t need to come back, but simply want to come for a first time! You will be made very welcome!
We have a line in the new hall! It’s not our number, but we have a line! It’s not internet enabled, but we have a line! The main box isn’t in the right room, but we have a line!
During a break in full-time ministry, I actually worked for BT. I was part-time in a Call Centre in Glasgow where we prided ourselves on excellent customer service. It was the time where choices had become available and we had to work hard to keep our existing customer base. I hung up on nobody until they were fully satisfied. That’s how it was.
Today’s equivalent is a total pantomime, involving Indian Call Centres, invisible people, multichoice phone options when you call them that make you lose the will to live, and staff that seem to be absolutely and totally incompetent.
Request: We have a telephone line, broadband enabled in the church building. We want it transferred to the new hall we have built.
Response: They disconnected the church line.
Request: Can we have a line please in the hall? You forgot to connect us to the new premises, 6 feet away from our church building.
Response: Oops! And we’ve given your phone number back to OFTEL so you can’t have that back, unless you request it after we’ve given you your line in your hall with a completely new number.
What happens next is unbelievable. They RECONNECT the phone to the church with this new number and without it being internet enabled. We still have to see an actual person although for two days now we have had to have someone down in church before 8am.
We were told 3 times today that an engineer would come to look at our “fault” by 1pm. Nobody had arrived before 1.15pm.
Meanwhile BTCARE are following me on Twitter! Fat lot of good that’s doing! Nobody has come near the new hall. (See original request).
We have spoken to managers and supervisors, Indians, English folk, and BT Enniskillen are now on our trail, (we think), but nobody has looked at our hall yet!
We’ve lost our number, lost our internet connection, lost our faith in getting anything done, and lost the will to live. This has been a 4 week saga and has cost us literally days on the phone, or waiting for someone to come.
Talk Talk sent me a mail shot today. They couldn’t be any worse than what we have – could they?
Laura Dyer is being married to Brian Warden. Wedding of the Year!
The September Magazine and Photos from the Parish Outing and the Confirmation and Hall Blessing are now up in the Multimedia Section of the Site. Enjoy!
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2: 1-10, 14-17)
The average annual income of each adult working person in the United Kingdom is £27000. I think that those of us who earn less than that, some of us, considerably less, should ask for a rise. Though I doubt that we’d get it. Those of you who earn over £27000 per year,well, I’m sorry, you’re going to be first against the wall come the revolution. But, to be honest, people earning £20000 arguing with people earning £30000 about their relative earnings are squabbling over pennies. When you look more closely at the statistics you discover the real inequalities, the obscenity of how wealth is distributed in our country. For example, just 1% of our population owns 34% of the wealth. That cannot be fair, surely. But the statistic that really knocks me sideways is the fact that 50% of our population own 99% of our national wealth. That means half of us are trying to get by on just one hundredth of what the other half have to live on. So, even within developed countries, like the United Kingdom and the United States the wealth gap between the rich and the poor is immense. We live in a country where a top surgeon in one of our public hospitals will earn ten times as much each year as the cleaner who washes the surgery floor after the surgeon goes home at night. And this gap in wealth is growing year on year. But these differentials pale into insignificance when you look at the world as a whole and include the developing countries and those countries which are stuck in complete poverty.
There are 800 million people (that’s fifteen times the entire population of Great Britain) who live in absolute poverty. In other words, 800 million human beings do not have enough money to survive on and go to bed hungry every night. Half of those people are children. In fact, 25000 children die because of their poverty every day of the year. The terrible obscenity of this is that most of the total wealth of the planet is owned by a ridiculously small number of people. For example, just the 500 people who are billionaires own 7% of the wealth on the planet. 7% of our wealth is owned by 0.000008% of our people. And although their are 6.5 billion people alive at this moment in time on our planet, 76% of the wealth of the world is owned by just one billion of them.
The injustice of all this is mind-boggling. But, the injustice actually becomes worse when you look at how we spend our money. As a race we obviously have no idea how to prioritise our spending. The number of people suffering in real poverty today is greater than it has ever been. The gap between the rich and the poor is greater than it has ever been. But, of course, there has been a disparity in the distribution of wealth for thousands of years. It is most likely that it all began when most of the human race stopped hunting and gathering to feed themselves and their families and became agriculturalists. It was only a matter of time before some people came to own more land than others and before some people ended up having to work for very little money in order to make these landowners even richer. Certainly, there was a huge gap between the rich and the poor when Jesus was walking around Palestine with his disciples and despite the world becoming dominated by his followers over the last two thousand years things, as we have seen, have only got worse. Let’s face it, when it comes to rescuing the poor from their suffering we have completely let our Lord and Saviour down. We have failed big time. Especially those of us who live comfortable lives in the richer countries of the world. The big question is, “Why?” One thing that I’ve never understood is why the 90% don’t just make the 10% give us their money? In this country we wouldn’t even need an armed revolution. We could just vote for it. Perhaps the poor are frightened of the military clout of the rich. Maybe it is because we have seen that when the poor do overthrow the rich and powerful it is only a matter of time before just a few of the former poor become rich and powerful themselves and everybody is back to square one. Perhaps we are just kept inactive by the sheer size of the problem. I expect there are elements of all of these things involved. But, I fear, that in the richer countries, at least, it is mostly down to greed, self-interest and idolatry.
I am told by my American friends that one of the reasons the poor people of their country keep voting Republican and are demonstrating against a national healthcare system at the moment is because they would rather live in poverty than lose the possibility of one day become stinking rich themselves. It seems to be human nature to believe that we will one day obtain that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, even though we all know, that the nature of rainbows is such that nobody can ever physically stand at the end of a one to pick up that illusive pot of gold. Also, and this is very sad, the relatively well off, the comfortably well off, are almost as greedy as the very rich. Just as the very rich don’t want to give up any of their great wealth, the reasonably well off don’t want to give up any of their wealth either. We may give to charity but, with the exception of a very few Godly people, we never give till it hurts, so to speak.
But there’s something else, Something even more sick in us than our inherent greed. It is obvious to me that too many of us actually venerate the rich. We look up to them, we copy them and model ourselves on them, we follow them, we aspire to be them, we worship them as if they are gods. I mean, look at our obsession with the rich in our newspapers and magazines and how we will watch television programmes about the minutia of their mundane but “richer than thou” lives. This is what James is on about in our first reading this morning. “My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor.”
More than any other writer of scripture, James understood what Jesus was on about. Unlike Paul, who was heavily influenced by gnosticism and Greek, philosophical thought, James stayed on message. And the message of Jesus Christ that James is referring to here is the one that we hear on Christ’s lips over and over again in the synoptic gospels – it doesn’t matter how holy you are, how spiritual your life is, if you don’t actually do something to physically free the poor from their poverty, you are spitting in the wind. You are a hypocrite. And you are stupid, says James. You are sucking up to and emulating those whose lifestyles God abhors whilst pushing aside those whom God loves so much that they will inherit his kingdom. You are grabbing hold of the coattails of the rich who will drag you to hell, when you should be holding on to the coattails of the poor who will pull you with them into heaven itself. Why do we come to church? If it is only because we want to enjoy the spirituality of worship, if it is only because we want a spiritual top-up to get us through the week. If it is only to worship God with our lips, then, quite honestly we should stay at home. Our presence here makes us into hypocrites and, therefore, more evil in God’s sight than those who deliberately ignore him. However, if it is because we want all our assumptions about life, all that we hold dear in life and our very lives themselves completely overturned, thrown out and replaced with that which is of God, then, because it has been promised, we will one day be rich, very, very rich in deed. And we won’t have to wait till the kingdom comes for our pay rise. If we honour those whom God honours in this world, the poor, the outcast, the prisoner, the oppressed, our lives will be wealthy here on earth. We will enjoy, here and now, those treasures “that neither moth nor rust consumes and (which) thieves do not break in and steal.”
Our reading from the letter of James, this morning, finished with a question and a statement, and I will finish this sermon with the same question and statement. “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”