Nothing to do with me! May 2009

I don't know about you, but I find it frighteningly easy to adopt a kind of tunnel vision and dismiss whatever's outside my immediate sphere of interest. Every Saturday evening there will be cultural delights on offer in the city centre - but you'll guess what I'm focussing on: getting my sermon written! The spring weather has been lovely recently, but I've not really noticed it - because I've been too busy preparing for our Holy Week and Easter services. Of course, more organised people would start that sort of work much longer in advance than I do, but I suspect you may wrestle with similar tensions. Putting your head down will fulfil your immediate goal - but may also make you miss out on whatever's happening in the wider world.
The European elections are a case in point. They'll be happening in early June this year, as they do every five years, and more than half of us - if statistics from the last elections are anything to go by - are likely to give them a miss, assuming that matters in Europe are too remote to affect our daily lives. If we do make that assumption, however, and fail to vote on June 4th, we may well find ourselves represented by a member of the British National Party, who is very unlikely to represent my views, or yours.
More locally, it saddens me that most of us at St Andrew's seem to have little energy for engagement with our fellow Christians, whether in other URC churches in Sheffield and in the Yorkshire Synod or in other denominations close at hand. Not only did Jesus pray for all his followers to be united, pragmatic reasons alone should make the case for us to work in partnership with others who share our faith in Jesus, for it is when we are isolated that it is hardest to keep hope alive.
What is it, then, beyond my own bad planning, that keeps me cut off from the bigger picture? Maybe it's partly that these days there is just too much information to take in, too many options to choose between - so in the absence of an immediately pressing need to decide, it's easier not to choose at all. Maybe I harbour an unexpressed yearning for the good old days when life was simpler - though my guess is that my memories retain the positives rather than the negatives of time past - and have set my expectations to match how things used to be. Maybe my own life is so much more real to me than the second-hand information I get from other people that I can't quite take them seriously, even when I feel I should do so.
But whatever the blinkers that keep us all from seeing the world whole, we need to get rid of them. For the Gospel tells us that God so loved the world that Jesus came to rescue us from isolation and bring us into community. Not: God so loved me; or even, God so loved this congregation - God loved our whole world enough to become a part of it. Don't get me wrong: the world is very complex, and it wouldn't be possible or even desirable for each of us to try to engage with it all at once! We are all called to encourage one another in our individual vocations, whether it be to ecological action, housing justice or dispensing bacon, eggs and cups of tea with love. But if we catch ourselves saying, ‘That's nothing to do with me' of any part of God's creation, let's think again.

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