Thought for the Day by Clare Heard, Evensong 19th June 20016 at St John the Baptist

Thought for the Day by Clare Heard, Evensong 19th June 20016 at St John the Baptist

When I first read the gospel reading in preparing for this service, it was fresh off the back of the numerous articles and reflections that have arisen following the events in Orlando and the brutal murder of MP Jo Cox earlier this week.

And of course, the first thing to spring to my mind was why? How can God allow this to happen? In the gospel we’ve just heard Jesus is healing people and bringing them back from the dead, but here and now in the 21st century we have lost people, and in the UK have lost a person who brought much to her community, friends and family, and we grieve with them for their loss. Why did God let this happen?

Clearly Christians have been reflecting on this question as long as there have been Christians in the world. How can a God of love allow such pain? But I’m not going to try and answer it now – that’s a whole different sermon, if not a lifetime of sermons.

What I’d like us to reflect on is how we can respond to this in a way which reflects the God we believe in, the God of love, who shares in our suffering and enters into our world of sin and pain.

As we approach the EU referendum this week, I think Jo Cox’s death demands that we take it seriously. She died for her beliefs – this referendum has moved beyond political mudslinging and is becoming something far more serious. The hype and language around both sides of the argument has become nasty, and this could have contributed to the action of this man (who by the way, is no more representative of a leave supporter, than Isis is representative of Islam).

We need to rise above this. We need to stop listening to accusations, scaremongering and scapegoating (on both sides of the debate) and we need to reshape the conversation.

I suggest that we should be focussing on is not just what is best for us as individuals, and not just what is best for our country, but what is best for our communities and our world.

I saw a quote on facebook, that great source of theological insight, which I want to share with you:

“If the leave campaign was about how Britain could contribute more to the world if it left the EU then I’d be interested. But it’s not. It’s about how Britain can give less and take more from the world – and how it can keep the rest of the world out. Come on Britain, we’re better than that.”

Now, the point is not whether you agree with this person’s views on the stay vs leave debate, but rather, what decision criteria are we using to assess our position?

I would suggest that we need to be reflecting Jesus, who does not think about himself, but thinks about the people and communities he finds himself in.  In the gospel reading today, he heals a woman and gives a child back her life. These are the second class citizens he is dealing with, and he cares for each one. And so should we….

So as we consider how we will vote on Thursday, let’s not focus on what we can gain from staying in or leaving the EU, let’s focus on what we can give, how we can love others better, how we can build up communities and relationships, and how we can create a world which reflects the Trinitarian nature of God – unity and diversity both affirmed within the Godhead.

If we can make our vote, using these aims as our guide, I’m sure we will make the right decision. If we let fear guide us, then I’m not sure we will. Jesus said “Perfect Love drives out Fear” – so let’s do what we can to love others as best we can, as we make our decision this week, and as we move forwards beyond that decision.

As the Archbishop of Canterbury and others said in a joint press release “The vision for our future cannot only be about ourselves. We are most human when we exist for others.”

Yes, we have difficult times ahead and yes things need to change, regardless of whether we stay or leave, but let’s focus our efforts on serving not being served, on giving not receiving, and on sharing God’s love wherever and whenever we can. If we can do that, we honour the memory of the MP that we so tragically lost this week, and we honour the God we serve, who laid down his life, so that we might live.


Let us pray to God the Father,
who has reconciled all things to himself in Christ:

For peace among the nations,
that God may rid the world of violence
and let peoples grow in justice and harmony …

Gracious God, we pray for our world, for all those who suffer from injustice, cruelty and ignorance.

We lift up to you those that are sick at this time and also those who mourn the loss of loved ones.

We pray that the presence of Christ may bring them
Health, wholeness and comfort …

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Grieving God,
in your Son you experienced the agony
of the pointless, savage, and premature end of life:
look with mercy on those who have lost loved ones in Orlando and for those who mourn Jo Cox.
Restore the confidence of any who fear they can never relax
or enjoy themselves again.
Calm the anxiety of all whose identity makes them
the ready target of hatred and violence;
and hasten a world where all are celebrated for who they are as your children,
where difference is a sign of your diverse abundance,
and where there is no use for guns or weapons of any kind;
through your wounded yet risen and ascended Son, Jesus Christ.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

For those who serve in public office,
that they may work for the common good …
and for us…
'As we look towards the EU referendum this week and recognise the significance of the decision before us, we pray not only for God's guidance in our own discernment of the issues but also that as many people as possible from across the nation will want to engage in the democratic process, so that the will of the nation is genuinely expressed.'

God of truth,
give us grace to debate the issues in this referendum
with honesty and openness.
Give generosity to those who seek to form opinion
and discernment to those who vote,
that our nation may prosper
and that with all the peoples of Europe
we may work for peace and the common good;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

For Christian people everywhere,
that we may joyfully proclaim and live our faith in Jesus Christ …

Let us commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God as we pray together:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.

Holland Park Benefice