Making ourselves vulnerable
Meg Raw gave this talk in her church in Chorlton, Manchester on Church Action on Poverty Sunday 2017. She kindly gave permission for us to share it here.
Being an ex teacher, I still think of using key words to extract the essence of what a passage, or in this case a video, is telling me. So here are my five key words that to me speak strongly from Church Action on Poverty’s video:
RECIPIENT OF CHARITY
POWER OF STORIES
I’ll now briefly tell you what these words mean to me.
The shame of a mother who can’t feed her children must be one of the worst feelings in the world, especially when the media is always pressing parents to buy food which appeals to children and is often expensive. To be a parent in poverty and see an advert on TV of a full family eating a meal from a table laden with food must be unimaginably painful, and how terrible of society to make a parent like this feel shame when he or she can’t afford the basics. This must be the complete opposite of Jesus’ message about the Kingdom of Heaven.
No one can live the life that Jesus wants for each of us when we are worrying about food
Our son Ben, who is a youth worker in one of the poorest areas in Glasgow, says that the young people he works with are constantly thinking and wondering where their next meal is coming from. They just don’t have the security we have about food. We know that we are not going to be hungry so don’t have to face this every day. No one can live the life that Jesus wants for each of us when we, or our parents, are worrying about food and are trying their best to prevent us from feeling hungry.
Leading on from this, I believe that no one really wants to be a recipient of charity. But we can see from the video that with imagination and trust no one need feel like this. Skills are used appropriately and benefit everyone, both workers and clients. Shame is replaced by self worth, humour and celebration, and the Kingdom is seen to function. I’m sure that the problems will often be seen to outweigh the benefits, because we’re all human. But how much better this is than shame, that grinds you down and makes you less than you were meant to be.
Jesus went out to tell his stories. He didn’t just twiddle his thumbs at home or in the synagogue
The power of stories is a strong and endurable way of learning. Jesus told so many stories, as we all know. As a teacher and a mother and a member of various groups I have told lots of stories, and the way I learn best is to listen to stories. Stories to me are the most powerful when they tell me a truth that prompts me to act. And Jesus went out to tell his stories. He didn’t just twiddle his thumbs at home or in the synagogue. By going out he made himself vulnerable, and he listened to other people’s stories, such as in our reading about the woman at the well. She also listened back.
Maybe, like Jesus, we need to make ourselves more vulnerable to the stories of others
I feel that in this church we do listen to each other’s stories, and to the stories of people who visit us here, and we do try to act. There are many examples of this. During my time here I can remember hearing of a young woman who claimed sanctuary being kept safe here by people who had listened to her story and had been inspired to act. On Christmas Day last year, some of our members laid on a Christmas dinner, having heard stories of people who had nowhere else to go. After hearing stories in the press of severe hardship amongst refugees in Syria and Greece, our church rents out the cellar cheaply to Refugee Action Chorlton, so that they have a place to sort and send off parcels of clothes and medicines. And I could go on. There are people here, I’m sure, who respond to stories in ways that I know nothing about.
And it’s from all this that I feel that a local gospel begins to emerge, and we start acting in ways that brings the Kingdom closer. Chorlton is an area of great wealth and of great poverty. Maybe, like Jesus, we need to make ourselves more vulnerable to the stories of others so that, like in the video, we are inspired to act so that shame decreases and love abounds.