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Thought for the Week – 3rd September 2023

A Retelling of the Good Samaritan

My attention this week was caught by some news from Florida, where there is a memorial to the Northern Ireland journalist, Lyra McKee. Lyra McKee was killed in 2019 when she was struck by a bullet as she covered a riot in Londonderry. The main story was the death of a journalist doing their work, but a sub-text emerged as Lyra was gay and appears to have faced hostility by some as a result of this. Two years before her murder, she visited Florida as part of a delegation to visit the place where a gunman had recently massacred 49 people at a gay nightclub. As part of the trip, her party were taken to a mosque. She was not keen on this, as she later admitted; “I hated myself for much of my life because of what religion taught me about people like me and when I stopped hating myself I started hating religion,” (BBC News website). However, she found reconciliation through the mosque, where she was welcomed and learnt how it had led condemnation of the massacre.

As I read this, I found myself thinking about Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan, where the love of God is not shown by a priest or a Levite (a temple helper), but by a Samaritan, a person who the injured man would consider to be of a different faith.
Rev David Poyner

Thought for the Week – 13th August 2023

The Glorious 12th

A friend has just emailed me to remind me that today is the “Glorious 12th”, the start of the grouse shooting season. A day that is no doubt glorious for the shooters and those whose livelihoods depend on shooting, perhaps less so for the grouse, although, like most game birds, they are reared specifically to be shot. More generally.mid-August for me at least is a time I still associate with annual family holidays; a week away at the seaside, hoping the weather would be dry, the car loaded with enough baggage to keep an army in the field for a month. It is also the time which I associate with the work of harvest going into overdrive and it is noticeable how our local farmers have taken advantage of marginally drier weather to get busy with the combines; clouds of dust rising from fields, with tractros working late into the evening. No holiday for some in the coming weeks.

Our lives are built around rhythms, still largely determined by the cycles of nature. In rural parishes we are probably more aware of these than city-dwellers and I am grateful for the patterns they impose on our lives. They help remind us that we are but parts of something larger; the seasons will come and go long after we are gone and were celebrated by our answers before we were born. The Christian Church has inherited a pattern of seasonal worship that has roots deep in the Hebrew Bible, to a time when the regularity of seasons of sun and rain were really a  matter of life and death and these were used to remind people of their dependance on God. Today, the changing seasons still help us to connect with that which is beyond us and to help us meet our spiritual needs.

Rev David Poyner

Thought for the Week – 19th March 2023

The Enduring Power of Mothering Sunday

 This Sunday is Mothering Sunday. It is a strange mixture of religious and secular; a Sunday that has its origins in the Middle Ages as a celebration of the Church as a mother to all her had been admitted to her by baptism. More specifically, it was a time to visit the church in which the individual had been baptised; this was a person’s mother church. It was celebrated half-way through Lent, an excuse for some festivities and eating during a period when most would be expected to fast. By the seventeenth century the focus had shifted, now it was a day when those in service, either in houses or on farms, were given a day off to visit their mothers. The tradition of simnel cake and savoury buns comes from the Gospel reading for this day, where Jesus feeds the 5000 with a few loaves and fish. Mothering Sunday may have passed into the backwaters where we now find Rogation and Lammas tide, if it were not for developments in the United States, where Anna Jarvis had campaigned for a day to celebrate mothers. This inspired Constance Penswick Smith in this country to re-establish Mothering Sunday as a specifically Christian (initially Anglican) celebration of the role of mothers in Christian families. Thus in our very secular world, we still buy cards and flowers to send on what was once “Refreshment Sunday” in Lent.

On Sunday, I will be at Glazeley, where my mother was baptised; in my prayers I will give thanks for the love that I had from both Mum and Dad, the people from whom I learnt what love is. In our environmentally conscious times some now also see the day as a time to give thanks for fruitfulness of “mother” earth; Mothering Sunday is wonderfully adaptable. And I will join with others in celebrating all those who are mothers or act as mothers, through good times and bad; the times as children we love them, the times we find that less easy. They remain our mothers, the people who brought us into the world.

Rev David Poyner

Thought for the Week – 27th November 2022

When to be a Hypocrite?

The football World Cup is underway; as I write, I am preparing for England’s latest game, against the USA. Earlier today I exchanged emails with a friend in Iran; we collaborate as scientists but share a friendship that is, at least in part, based on football. At its best, sport can bring people together and that often happens with the World Cup.

Of course, this World Cup has particularly issues, around the human rights record of Quatar, the host. It has been criticised for the way it treated migrant workers who built the stadiums, its treatment of women, the gay community and minorities. In turn, the president of FIFA very recently accused western countries of hypocrisy, questioning  their right to criticise. This raises some interesting questions. It is not difficult to find examples of double standards in western countries including our own, where we find ways of side-tracking human rights when we want to deal with a country that has something we want. And of course, historically we may have only recently espoused the rights of groups we now seek to champion in other countries. But does that disqualify us from speaking out?

Jesus strongly condemned the hypocrisy of the religious rulers of his day but at the same time he sided with the marginalised in his society. He taught his followers to show a similar generous love. It seems to me that part of that love is to name injustice and wrong-doing when we see it. It is likely to be a costly love, because inevitably, we ourselves will fall short of the love that Jesus showed; we will be exposed as hypocrites.  But I would rather speak out and be a hypocrite than stay silent and ignore wrong and evil.

Rev David Poyner