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

April 2010

I don't know whether you've heard, but I understand that we will soon be having a General Election. People will be stuffi ng election literature through your door, trying to solicit your vote, but I wonder how you will choose, or whether you really care, who will represent you for the next five years. Perhaps some of you may be pleased that you live in the constituency of Mr Speaker Bercow, and that you will not be required to make a choice. Perhaps you simply think that the whole system needs to be changed and none of the parties deserve your vote.

But why should someone from St Mary's be discussing such things, after all, aren't we told that we shouldn't mix religion and politics? I suspect this is because we like to think of 'gentle Jesus, meek and mild' rather than the Jesus who was fi lled with passion about how much better life could and should be for ordinary people - about God, the kingdom of God, and God's passion for justice. Jesus spoke to peasants as a voice of peasant religious protest against the central economic and political institutions of his day, and he challenged the authorities with public acts and public debates.

We, too, live in a time where there is considerable disquiet about the central economic and political institutions of the day. We are told by all the main parties that life is going to get worse for ordinary people while the wealthy and powerful seem to manage to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, the circumstances are not so dissimilar from those in Jesus' day. So in thinking about where to cast your vote Christians may well ask themselves the question that was popular in the 1990s - "What Would Jesus Do?".

Well, Jesus had his own political manifesto (see Matthew Chapter 5 - The Sermon on the Mount) Just as he did in his own day, Jesus would be looking for the rich and powerful to stop taking advantage of ordinary men and women, to stop encouraging people to go deep into debt. He would be looking for leaders committed to ensuring that the poor don't have to struggle to fi nd their food each day, who will not leave hundreds of thousands in mourning as a result of their foreign policy, who will allow citizens to go about their ordinary lives without constant supervision without telling them they have something else to be fearful about, who will tackle the disease in society not by treating the symptoms but holistically, treating the needs of body, mind and spirit.

In return these leaders would require ordinary people to take the responsibility to play their part in society - to treat their neighbours as they would like to be treated themselves, to accept others, even those with different labels, as people not to be feared, to be honest and peaceful, to be thankful for all the gifts God has given them.

You will have to decide which party comes nearest to these ideals - perhaps the system does need to be changed. Jesus' passion was for a society based on justice for all people - it got him crucified. Maybe the best we can hope to do is to vote for the party that doesn't try to crucify Jesus again and again in order to stop his message of hope from being heard, so that genuine change can be bought about.

-- Gordon Gray, Reader, 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.