Alleluia, Christ is risen!
As we prepare to mark Christian Aid week 2021, the theologian Walter Brueggemann reminds those of us who preach that: ‘We preachers have an opportunity to declare that there is another narrative out of which we can live our lives. It is a narrative of generosity, and freedom, and forgiveness, and hospitality, and justice. It is the narrative of the future.’
Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with Brueggemann, I want to suggest that it is not only preachers who have an opportunity to declare another narrative. As Christian communities we all have a vocation, a calling, to be generous, forgiving, hospitable and just. What does such a worshipping community look like? Together we respond to the command of Jesus that we hear so clearly in today’s Gospel:
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ (John 15:12)
This passage in John’s Gospel is taken from what is known as The Farewell Discourse. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his departure. In doing so, he is encouraging them to abide in the love of God ‘that your joy may be complete’. Jesus is well aware that the future will be tough for the disciples. They can’t go it alone. They will need each other’s friendship and love. Indeed, it is their sacrificial love for each other that will see them through the challenges that lie ahead. It is love, friendship and joy that will enable them to remain faithful to God and ‘to bear fruit that will last.’
Love, friendship and joy is at the heart of Christian Aid Week. It is hoped that our love for our neighbour across the world will inspire generous and sacrificial giving, even in this time of challenge for us here at home. As I write I have just received my second Covid vaccine. I am so grateful for the vaccine programme here in this country. What better way to express my thanksgiving and joy but to donate to the work of Christian Aid? Christian Aid reminds us that ‘The joy that we participate in and experience in and through Christian Aid Week does not lead us away from suffering and struggle, but towards it. We choose to look towards the pain and see the possibilities for transformation. Jesus goes on to explain to the disciples that even pain will turn to a joy that no one can remove.’ (John 16:20-22).
This year, Christian Aid reminds us that with every gift, with every voice, with every prayer, with every action, we can work to confront the climate crisis. As Mary Gould reminds us in our pew sheet: ‘People living in poverty are on the frontline of the climate crisis. They are losing food, water, homes and family. They battle the worst of a climate crisis they did not create. It is deeply unjust. Now, on top of all this they face the pandemic.’
Christian Aid shares the story of Florence Muthiani from Kenya. Florence lives in Kyeng’e in a dry area of Kitui country. The women in her farming group look up to her. She’s courageous and kind. A few years ago, her husband died, leaving her a widow. At that time, she had no water to grow crops. Her children were hungry. She had to walk for hours on dangerous journeys to collect water. ‘Life was miserable,’ she said. But things have changed for Florence. Next to her farm, Florence is proud of something remarkable – a dam, full of fresh water. It’s thanks to supporters of Christian Aid that Florence and her community have built this water dam. They did so with the help of Christian Aid’s partner Anglican Development Services – Eastern (ADSE), just a short walk away from the village. With this dam, Florence can grow tomatoes, onions and chillies on her farm. With this dam, her children can eat healthy, nutritious vegetables. It’s her source of life and joy. Florence also uses the water from the dam to keep bees. She sells the rich, golden honey for cash at the market. Now, Florence is facing a better life for herself and her family. The dam gives the community strength to withstand even the most unpredictable weather. It’s a reliable water source, whether they face long drought or relentless rainstorms.
In the midst of the climate crisis, this is a hopeful story. Yet millions of people across the world are struggling to survive climate chaos. Our financial donations can help another community build a dam and so become more resilient to prolonged droughts and poor rains caused by the changing climate. In the context of the pandemic, the need for reliable, easily accessible and clean water is ever more acute. By giving what we can, we can help more people like Florence to thrive.
We can choose to share the struggle of the climate emergency with those who have few resources to do so. As we do, we can also celebrate transformed communities with Florence. This Christian Aid Week, may our response be one of love, friendship and joy.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Rev Canon Nikki Arthy, Rector