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10th May 2015 - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs

Sermon for Sunday 10th May 2015
Acts 10. 44-48
John 15. 9-17

I start this week thinking of a whole range of seemingly unconnected topics - Jesus' New Commandment to love one another; The General Election; Rogation Sunday, the 70th anniversary of VE Day and Christian Aid week. Not much in common you may think.... but I think that with a bit of thought we can see how in fact each is connected to each and a part of the whole.

"See how these Christians love one another!" - that should be the distinguishing feature of our faith, if we listened to Christ's commandment. That should be how other people perceive us....

But looking at our society - at our country - over the past week; over the past weeks as we have approached the General Election, I don't think an impartial observer would have drawn that sort of conclusion, - do you?

That is not to say that I think all Christians should think the same politically or have cast their vote the same way. Plainly there can be many shades of political affiliation within any congregation of believers - and that is as it should be. Our God is a god who delights in diversity - not one who hankers after uniformity. We have only to look around us in the natural world to realise that.

But human beings do not seem very good a dealing with diversity, do we?

So rather than accept that we would probably all be better off - in so many ways - if we encouraged our politicians to listen to each other and accept that people of all persuasions can have a good idea from time to time, we persist in colluding with our adversarial brand of politics. There has to be one winner - and a whole lot of losers - and such is our lack of love for each other, that party leaders then feel they must immediately resign. Oh I know that 'laying down one's career for another' can hardly be compared to those who - seventy years and more ago - did literally lay down their lives to protect our democratic freedoms, but it feels somehow wrong that so much appears to hang on someone's ability to eat a bacon sandwich in public! But as that noted political commentator, Jeremy Clarkson, ( Jeremy Clarkson?) apparently commented "Britain will never elect someone who looks weird!"

And, on the subject of food, although this world produces more than enough food to feed each of us to a reasonable level of nutrition - we have the ludicrous situation that two thirds of the world may go to sleep hungry tonight, while we - in the prosperous one third, continue to worry about the epidemic of obesity because we have ready access to such abundance .... unless you are one of those in our own country who have become reliant on food-banks of course....

'Give us each day our daily bread' .... that is the key prayer for this Rogation Sunday as we ask God to bless our endeavours and our labour. Asking him for a bountiful crop - for much fruit - for his blessing on us.

But not to worry, we can leave it to Christian Aid perhaps to salve our consciences and feed the hungry, rebuild the country torn apart by earthquake or political upheaval, violence or epidemic....

How can God allow such suffering in the world? God doesn't . God made provision long ago to alleviate the suffering in the world that is the inevitable result of the creative act that pours God's love into the world and sets it free to develop and respond to its creator. God made human beings - and he made them in all shapes and sizes. Gave them different colours and different abilities. Sent some to live in the inhospitable frozen wastes of the Arctic. Some to live in rain forests and desert places. Some to live in temperate zones where the earth was fertile. Some in the valleys and some in the mountains.

And he told us to love each other. That way no-one need go hungry and the medical and scientific expertise of one might be shared with the many!

So what happened? What is it that instead of caring for each other makes us resort to war and violence? What is it that results in conflicts so cataclysmic that we feel moved to remember them and honour those who made such sacrifices, years and years later? What is it that leads us to demonize others who may vote differently to us?

Organisations such as Christian Aid show us the best side of ourselves - what we can do when we work together with each other to try and improve the lives of other human beings - even though they may live half a world away. There is love in action if you like!

And Rogation - remembering our dependence on the natural world and our agricultural heritage helps us keep a sense of perspective - and reminds us of God's providence towards us.

Big national events - like those marking the anniversary of VE Day - can also show us both the best side of ourselves - the compassionate side that regrets the sacrifice others were called on to make - and the worst. Reminding us of what happens when our love fails.

General Elections do not - on the face of it - seem to have much to speak of us of love ... but maybe as we move forward as a country - wounded and divided as this united kingdom seems to be at present; maybe we need to hold our politicians accountable for indeed seeking to govern one nation - one people.

"you did not choose me - but I chose you." God is not a democracy. God is not elected by humanity - but God chooses us to demonstrate his love for the world. May his spirit of compassion guide and rule all our hearts - from the highest to the lowest - today and always. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." Amen.