Rachel Lampard at Romsey Methodist Church

Vision of life together

God of justice, you give us a vision for life together.

You call us to work for a world and a society where what is broken is restored.

This prayer was given to us by Rachel Lampard, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, when she visited Romsey last month. The theme of her year in this office, shared with the President, Roger Walton is “Holiness and Justice”.

Rachel chose a reading from Micah, which included the following verse highlighting the three points  of her address. At that time the poor and marginalised  were paying the price meted to them by the rich and powerful.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy,

and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:6-8 (NIV)

Injustice needs people to make a difference
Needing to make a difference

To act justly

The need for acting justly is so evident in our own country.  One in four children live in poverty, and a third of a million experience destitution. That is the worst class of poverty. We thought we had abolished that! All recent surveys show that homelessness is rising.

Around the world we see refugee catastrophe. It is beyond crisis. One in every 113 people in the world is either a refugee or a displaced person. And four out of every ten experience water scarcity.

 

Sinking refugee boat
Refugee catastrophe

These needs require us to respond wholeheartedly and openheartedly. Rachel described the encouragement that she gained from seeing churches across the country responding to need.

She emphasised that we must listen to voices of those who are silent. Displaced people can be among the silent. Our country is in danger of separating them into two camps: “good refugees”, who are brought here under resettlement programmes, and “bad asylum seekers”, who claim asylum here. But both come to our land in desperate need.

We also need to speak truth to those in power. Justice requires responding to both needs and causes. This is daunting but God calls us to a new creation. We can be inspired us to be part of God’s solution.

To love mercy

Rachel showed how John Wesley’s fire for those in poverty pointed to a demand for our church communities now, as in the audio clip.

 

A striking message was “one reason why the rich in general have so little sympathy to the poor is because they so seldom visit them. His challenge was to be friends with people in poverty, not just doing charity to people or even being alongside them.” Being friends with them needs more personal commitment and love.

Pope Francis has challenged his priests to identify with the needs of the poor, saying: if you don’t smell of the sheep, you are not a shepherd. Rachel challenged us that if our refurbished church were still “smart” 5 years on we may not have had our doors fully open to the right people.

John Wesley and Pope Benedict are telling us that we can’t love from a distance. And we can’t passively allow injustices make people suffer.

Walking the path in prayer
Walking the path together

To walk humbly with your God

Whenever we travel with someone else, we see things on our journey with different eyes. Walking with God changes our vision too. We begin then to see things as God sees them, and in doing so we meet God.

Holiness and justice are not opposite ends of the spectrum running from the solitary to the activist. They are intertwined. Encountering God propels us to acts of justice, and we can come closer to God by acting justly. That can make this our prayer:

 

God of justice, you give us a vision for life together.

You call us to work for a world and a society where what is broken is restored,

where relationships are marked by faithfulness and fairness,

and where everyone is able to enjoy ‘shalom’.

Show us ways in which we can work for this vision until your kingdom comes in all its fullness.

Amen.

 

From the workshop and address at Romsey Methodist Church on 18 January, 2017, given by Rachel Lampard, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, with her agreement.

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