I am quite partial to a game of bingo and in a former parish of many years ago there was an Over Sixties Club that met every week in the hall next to the church – and all they did was play bingo.
I would pitch up for a session whenever I could and on occasions was elevated to the rank of “caller” whereby I would put my hand in the Bag and shout out the number that I had drawn.
One day the bingo session coincided with Christian Aid Week – and having established what I thought was, a friendly rapport with all the members of the club – I boldly suggested that on this week all the winnings should go to Christian Aid.
And I put an envelope on every table.
Well, there was a veritable outcry at the thought.
Whilst some nodded their head in quiet agreement – others started to call out
“That’s Maggie Thatcher’s Job!”
(so you can see how long ago it was)
“Yes it’s Thatcher’s job and a right pigs ear she’s making of everything”.
And most of the Christian Aid envelopes I had given out – were returned to me empty.
I find myself thinking about that long ago incident quite a bit these days as increasingly people say the same thing about today’s leaders.
Gas shortages and the fuel crisis. Asylum seekers and refugees. Universal Credit reductions and likely inflation – and the hugely urgent task of dealing with the threat of climate change.
Over the years, I have gained a great deal of comfort from our Gospel reading this morning and the need to live with today and let tomorrow take care of itself. I know full well that the only place to meet with God is in what I am doing now, and where I am now – and fretting about the next day and the next is not going to help.
But if I were in the crowd hearing those words of Jesus for the first time today – I think I would raise my hand with a question.
With respect Jesus, we do have to worry about tomorrow – for the future seems bleak on so many fronts and we can’t just leave things. We have to have a plan and a strategy – we have to put the pressure on our leaders – so that they don’t twiddle their thumbs – when they should be taking action – we have to work for a bright tomorrow rather than a doom laden one.
Now my day off is a Saturday, I like to read the papers in the morning and there are several contributors with whom I tend to wholeheartedly disagree – but I tend to turn to them first to see what they have to say.
Last week one of them said – wherever did we get the idea that our politicians have the answer to everything, or even anything! They are just as much at a loss as the rest of us, but they just can’t admit it.
I think that whenever I feel backed into a corner – or can’t find a solution to something – I tend to point the finger of blame at someone else – rather than see that the responsibility for making things better lies with me – or – and here’s a thought – might actually lie with God!
But instead it’s still Maggie Thatcher’s fault – or Boris’s fault and if the conference on climate change does not produce a way forward – it will be their fault – fair and square – nothing to do with me.
The church can do a great deal by keeping the pressure up of course. Praying – not just in passing but fervently. Raising awareness. Doing what we can to protect the environment here, signing a petition, going on a march – vital work, but what about God!
At the end of our Gospel reading comes the cry – Seek ye first the kingdom of God – and we tend to think of that in terms of a children’s song – and yet it’s a serious instruction – and it is precisely where the church can make a unique difference.
We need to be a bit like Hosea actually – I think he’s my favourite Old Testament prophet.
Today, in our first reading, we find him in fine form – he is saying that the people who once were God’s people have become “not his people” – they have turned their backs on their creator, and as well as heaping miserable consequences upon their lives personally, they have broken God’s heart in the same way that a lover breaks the heart of the beloved.
For me that resounds strongly in our day.
Somehow we need to find a way for all of us to be bound up afresh in his love and mercy and righteousness – but there is a danger we just go with the flow of finger pointing rather than see at some point we have to present ourselves with open hands and something specific to offer.
In one of the Gospels where the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is recorded – it says that the disciples went to Jesus and said “ The people have no food and its getting late” and I think they expected Jesus to take hold of the crisis and magic an outcome – but instead he says to them “You give them something to eat”
You take responsibility – and no doubt they were confounded by this.
And they make a paltry and derisory offering – one lad who has five loaves and two fish.
But they’ve made an important shift from the finger pointing anger of this is Jesus’s job – or Thatcher’s job or Boris’s job” they gently bring a tiny offering in their hands – hands outstretched.
And Jesus might have said – what use is this to anyone – but He took that gift and blessed it and broke it and shared it and the hunger of that crowd was relieved. and within a year or two – he would offer his body on the cross – just as paltry really – as a way through suffering for us all to give a way forward into love for all the human race.
And it was the penitential thief who hung next to him who understood the enormity of it “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom” he cried – this is the kingdom was all need to seek – if any long lasting difference to anything is to be made.
If you were here last Sunday you would have heard Julie Knight say – all things start with God and all things end with God – and if we start to put others up in place of that idea – it’s no wonder a pigs ear is being made of things.
And the offer to take a seedling tree home to plant – was our invited response as something we could do to take a step away from finger pointing to open handed offering.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness – where is the unique moment waiting in your life and mine – where we can proclaim the truth of that in this coming week – not only to ease the pressure of climate change in a small way – but to get the reality of this kingdom – raised just a little bit higher in hands that are no longer pointing at others – but raised towards Him.
MATTHEW 6: 25-34