River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Anglican Church Letter

November 2005

Another moving letter from Keith Macleod

November 2005

I feel awfully ashamed. I am especially ashamed of the fact that I seem to be imprisoned, trapped in a net of ineffectuality, able to recognise that there is something for me to do, but unable to decide what to do or how to do it. I am reasonably sure that there are many others who share the same sense of guilty frustration. I am reminded of Albert Einstein's "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

I should go back to the beginning of all this - starting with another quotation - this time from John Andrew Holmes - "It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others."

I am feeling completely overwhelmed with the enormity of the suffering inflicted on the world's innocents. My inner weeping (and that old-fashioned word is the only one that says it correctly) at the sight of little babies dying of starvation and deprivation in front of the TV cameras is sometimes almost unbearable. I know my wife weeps silently also, but we have no way to communicate these feelings to each other, even for our mutual comfort. Every year, we see these pictures - twice in countries hundreds and hundreds of miles apart in the last two months. What makes it worse is the dignity of so many of the mothers, permitting well-fed journalists and cameramen to intrude into their grief as the unavoidable price for obtaining some relief - even if it arrives too late for them.

What sort of God allows this to happen? What sort of God allows whole provinces to be wiped out by the earthquakes in northern Pakistan, whole towns and villages to be swept away by Hurricane Stan? Well, to be honest I don't know the answer. That is not surprising. Not many of the religious would claim to be able to understand the deities they worship, at the best of times - in the worst of times it is even harder. Can there be any reason at all for it all? Well if you do not believe in any God or any future except what you leave in your genes and your Will, then there's not much sense of purpose anyway. If you believe in a God you do not understand, then it is conceivable that there is a purpose - a purpose that you can't fathom - a purpose that may be so long term that it is totally beyond you. Surely it is better to believe in a terrible merciless God than to have no hope or future at all.

Most Christians believe that our God may be terrible (not a terrorist, but massively powerful), but not that he is merciless. We also believe that our salvation is in our own hands. In one of the more heart-wrenching passages of the New Testament, Jesus tells us that we will be blessed " for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." He goes on to warn that "as you did it not for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me."

I feel personally convicted of not doing these things for "the least of these" - our fellow human beings in far off, and not so far off, places. I am not alone. However, we cannot all jump on planes and fly out to help in these well publicised and not so well publicised tragedies. We cannot all reach out personally to help any one of the human tragedies we see played out on our screens. So what can I do? Should I sell all that I have and give it all to the Relief Agencies? I would then, in my turn, become a burden. Perhaps I should sell most of what I have, keeping only enough (and how to measure it!) to survive without becoming a burden. We must all work these things out for ourselves.

The British have good reason to be proud of their responses to calls for assistance in recent years. But yet do we do enough? It is true that when there is an Appeal, we do dig deeply into our pockets - but for many of us, it is only to reach for the loose change. Does our giving, in time, effort, goods and money actually affect how many meals we have, or videos we watch or dinners and concerts we go out to? If our giving has little effect on our living, then it is not actually sacrificial - it really is the loose change, which we do not miss. I do know of people who have cancelled holiday plans and given the expected cost of their holidays to Relief Appeals - that is sacrificial. I know of a man (an African) who gave his Deposit Account - his savings - to an Englishman in need - that was sacrificial. There are many examples. My task is to ask myself if I have been truly sacrificial in my response to what it hurts me so much to see - to what I believe it hurts my God to see - who is (because he relates directly and personally to each of us) hungry, thirsty, unwelcome, naked, sick, imprisoned and waiting for me to respond.

What a sombre newsletter! It is no good lying awake at night (in the company of Charlie Brown) asking "Where have I gone wrong?" and hearing the reply "This is going to take more than one night!" All is not dark and we should not see life as being so. Trivial things are meant to please us - like England playing some good cricket and winning The Ashes - and they are not to be discounted. We are not all meant to be miseries and doomsayers. We are not, in fact, individually responsible for all the ills of the world and we need to remind ourselves of that. But we are responsible for making the right responses to those ills. If we can do that or do our best to do that, there is still plenty of room for us to find those pleasures that are all around us, especially living, as we do in this country, privileged lives in a healthy, usually unthreatening environment.

So I can say, with St Paul - "Rejoice, again I say Rejoice". But lets spare more than a thought for those who need our prayers and active, urgent and intelligent help.

And I do not apologise for continuing (and repeating) the theme and thoughts of my last offering - it weighs on my mind and my heart in the immediacy of the current tragedies.

Keith MacLeod

Licensed Lay Minister

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