My reflection for each day in Advent will celebrate examples of action in the world inspired by hope and the desire to bring closer God’s kingdom of love, peace and justice. These examples are set within a reflection on a piece of Scripture the Church provides for reading daily.
In one of the Scriptures given to be read today the prophet Isaiah praises God for deliverance from oppression in these verses:
“For you have been a refuge to the poor,
a refuge to the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.”
Isaiah 25: 4
Poets and songsters protesting poverty and oppression continue to fasten on the image of torrential rain as a metaphor for the overwhelming and incapacitating impact of enforced poverty on people’s lives. There’s Bob Dylan’s 1960’s classic “It’s a Hard rain’s gonna fall” and there’s this year’s new album from Kate Tempest “Let Them Eat Chaos” which depicts the crisis overtaking the isolated lives of seven residents of a south London street, all of them awake and disoriented at 4.18am.
Poverty and a growing gap in life opportunities between the poorest and the wealthiest has become a shameful blight on some of the most economically advanced societies in the world. The United Kingdom ranks among the worst of the developed economies for income inequality. Welfare and social security systems have been disfigured and become a punitive shock therapy forcing the most vulnerable into an illusory and unsustainable self-sufficiency. Millions of working people, let alone those dependent on inadequate and capriciously-administered “welfare” benefits, are being forced to seek the help of charities to make ends meet.
Faced with neighbours and people down their street reduced to the crisis point of making the impossible choice between heating or eating; volunteers in thousands of communities across the UK have come together to set up food banks. These are staffed often by people who may never have done anything like this in their lives before; out of compassion and simple decency acting to feed people. Food banks in modern Britain are a sign of the failure of economic policy in the last 20 years. Yet they are a refuge to the needy in their distress; a shelter from the economic storm. They are also a sign that God’s kingdom of love and justice is always near.
The food bank in Wokingham, the town where I serve as an Anglican priest, is sustained by the voluntary work and the generous donations of many people of all faiths and none. Yet it was an initiated with skill and in hope by founders motivated by a compassion rooted in their Christian faith and supported by an alliance of the local Christian churches.
(Opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own)