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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

29 January 2020: Sylvia Roberts, St Peter's Church, Petersfield

Keep it local

The year 2020 has not started well. Apocalyptic fires in Australia, overwhelming floods in Indonesia, an assassination in Iran and strangely unpredictable upsets in our royal family. 2020 never had the look of a date to me from the outset – more like a serial number or an optical diagnosis – but here we are, and here we must live. What would be the best way forward, we ask?

A friend has sent me a short reflection by the theologian Richard Rohr which has given me something to ponder. Most of the piece is concerned with outlining the life of Jesus and pointing out that his “social programme was a quiet refusal to participate in almost all external power structures or domination systems.” Rohr illustrates this with examples from the gospels, of Jesus not being involved in the money structures of his culture; of healing the poor; of treating women with dignity; of respect for trans-gender people (Matt 19:12) and eventually becoming a full victim of the systems that he refused to worship. The lesson Rohr draws from the life of Jesus as revealed in the gospels is about how we might address the systems of inequity and oppression in our own culture. He suggests that Jesus “starts local.” He doesn’t begin in Jerusalem or Rome but “in his own home town, among his own people, helping those who are hurting and naming those who are responsible without a hint of self-righteousness. He simply goes round doing what he knows to be right, which he surely discovered during his long periods of solitude and silence (a form of contemplation) on the outskirts of town, and others begin to join him.”

Can we do less? We have this lovely “home town” just as Jesus did and in our town we have daily opportunities to follow where he leads. Perhaps giving some thought to our use of our money and other resources. Do we think ethically before we spend on food or clothes or household items? Perhaps examining ourselves about how we treat others – vulnerable people, children, the mentally ill or mentally challenged or those supposedly “above” or “below” us in our British social scale? Are we so tied up with our own affairs that we excuse ourselves from seeing the dignified lonely person in our street, our church or our place of work?

We cannot solve the great world problems at a stroke but we can think local and act local as Jesus did.

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