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 2010

I can remember wondering, when I was younger, why it was that week after week in church services we would say 'Sorry' in our Confession 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, Matthew 25: 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 (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 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. It is too easy for us to turn a blind eye to the suffering inflicted on the poor peoples around the world so that we in the rich nations can live the comfortable lifestyles to which we have become accustomed. The church talks a lot 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 the world's poorest people, for the week from 9-15 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.

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

-- 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.