The Lay Reader's Letter (written by Gordon Gray) extends the tradition of the Vicar's Letter which has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002
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Lay Reader's Letter

May 2009

One of the things we do in our church services is to say we are sorry for the wrong things we have done. Saying 'Sorry', as we do when we say the Confession, is generally a positive thing - it helps us to recognise our shortcomings and spurs us on to try to do better. However, I can remember wondering, when I was younger, why it was that week after week I would have to say 'Sorry' when, whilst not necessarily leading a totally blameless life, I was doing what I felt was the best I could to 'love my neighbour'.

But as I've grown older I've come to realise that Jesus' understanding of what was meant by my 'neighbour' was rather more demanding than I had realised. He once told a parable, recorded in Matthew 25, vv 31-45, that well and truly shocked those who heard it and is just as telling today. Some people know the story as 'The parable of the sheep and the goats', others as 'The final judgement'.

In the parable Jesus identifies two sets of people. To one set of people he said "I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me." The other set of people, Jesus said, did none of those things.

The parable reports confusion in both groups - 'When did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, in prison?', they said. Obviously neither group could recall having seen Jesus in distress, but Jesus' startling retort was "I tell you, whenever you did this (or didn't do this) for the least important person, you did it for me". Jesus' turns upside down the idea of 'neighbour' - not just the person who lives next door but any person, anywhere, and especially those who are the most vulnerable and most in need.

On that sort of scale I now recognise that there definitely are times when I have, in the words of one of our Confessions, seen the ill-treatment of others and have not gone to their aid; when, through the actions of governments and big business, I have condoned evil and dishonesty and failed to strive for justice. And there is no excuse, because in today's world our TV sets can keep us informed of the ways people are suffering around the world so that we in the rich nations can live the comfortable lifestyles to which we have become accustomed. Last month I wrote about the hope of life after death, but many of the world's poorest peoples get little chance to experience life before death.

Well, this month there is no excuse for turning our back on such people, for the week from 10-16 May is Christian Aid Week This is our opportunity to help people around the world to keep hope alive, through helping with the house to house collections or simply by being generous in our giving.

Here's what as little as a fiver can achieve through projects run by Christian Aid

  • £5 can provide a loan to allow a street child to start a small income-generation project such as shoe shining.
  • £5 could buy six yards of material, from which a three-piece woman's outfit can be made
  • £10 can provide an orphan or destitute girl with enough material to complete a 12-month tailoring training course.
  • £40 can pay the monthly salary of a tailoring instructor or of an outreach worker who works with boys on the streets.

Please don't ignore the cries of the world's neediest people.

A prayer for Christian Aid Week

Father God, remind me again of your love for the poor, for the marginalised and the oppressed. I want to follow your example and make a difference with my time and my prayers, through collecting and donating, so that a glimpse of heaven is seen on earth, as hope replaces despair and peace overcomes violence. Amen

Gordon - Lay Reader at St Mary's Eaton Bray

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About the Vicar's Letter

The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.

The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the area for these.