a reflective response to the referendum result

make a dealI have been trying to work out in my mind how to respond to the EU Referendum result. I want to offer some disparate thoughts.

To those who voted ‘Remain’: You did not lose. We made a decision. Right now you may feel as if you have lost, I understand that. (I voted ‘Remain’ too). From the comments I have read and heard it sounds like many of us feel like the Israelite exiles in the Old Testament who had been taken against their will to a new land where they did not want to be. I think we have two choices in that context:

Psalm 137

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?

or

Jeremiah 29

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

We can either sit down, moaning, complaining, weeping and writing Boney M songs, or we can get on with it, be activists, make a positive difference, work for peace and prosperity and pray for the new place in which we find ourselves. If you want to do the latter, I heartily recommend Citizens UK as an organisation through which we can do this. But if not them then get involved somehow, make a difference.

To those who voted ‘Leave’: You did not win. We made a decision. I did not vote the same way that you did. A lot of positive possibilities were offered to us about a future outside the EU – possibilities that inspired a majority of those who voted to choose to leave. We all now need to work together for the benefit of all to try to make positive change a reality. You need those who voted ‘Remain’ to make this happen. So don’t alienate us.

These words from Philippians 4 were written in the context of Paul pleading for two people who were in violent disagreement to work out their differences:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Bringing the two themes together I am reminded that Jesus taught people to pray that God’s kingdom would come and his will be done on earth in the same way as it is in heaven. But praying is not merely words of hope or aspiration. It is also an attitude that motivates action, it is the fuel that powers God-inspired change. Let’s pray – yes, yes, yes, but let’s act in response to, and because of, those prayers. Let’s allow ourselves to be changed by those prayers so that we are acting in accordance with what God wants – the peace and prosperity of the world in which we now find ourselves.

The country had a choice on 23rd June 2016. We now have another one: we can either focus on our difference or make a difference.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

view from my pew 5

Dear Internet

Welcome to another of the musings of Mr Grenville-Stubbs. (I don’t think we know each other well enough to be on first-name terms).

I have not written anything for a while because I have been trying to work out which way I will be voting on Thursday in the EU Referendum. I consider it to be more than my democratic right, it is my duty to vote. That is why I have not missed a Church Meeting for the past 37 years. I have witnessed many changes in our church over the years (and have opposed most of them).

Our Minister, Revd Philip Inneck-Tucker keeps telling us that a Church Meeting is not a business meeting, nor is it a democracy, but it is an attempt to discern God’s will together by listening to each other and seeking to see what is right. He says that we are not voting to see who is in the majority but as a way of working out how well we have discerned what God wants.

I think I know what he is saying, but I prefer the cut and thrust of debate, the clinical nature of points of order, and the complexity of proposals and counter-proposals. I vote to express my firmly held opinions and convictions, and no amount of discussion is going to change my mind.

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That is one of the things I have enjoyed in the count down to the EU Referendum in the UK. There has been a lot of heat generated by both sides. But it has also left me feeling a bit confused: one side will make an exaggerated, headline-grabbing claim and then the other side will refute that (but the headline has done its job). Then the other side will do the same.

I had a leaflet arrive through my letterbox this week from the ‘Leave’ campaign that was full of promises about how much better the country will be if we leave the EU, but those promises are surely empty because they are not from any particular party but a coalition of people from across the political landscape. I was completely turned off by some of the racist rhetoric that I have seen, so I will not be voting ‘Leave’ on that basis.

However, I had another leaflet through my letterbox from the ‘Remain’ campaign that was full of warnings about the danger to our economy from a vote to leave, and about how much better off we are at the moment. How can they predict the future like that? And the rhetoric I have heard against those who want to leave has been rather unpleasant too, so I will not be voting ‘Remain’ on that basis.

I told Revd PI-T that I did not know which way to vote and he suggested that I read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and see if that helped me. He said that this was Jesus’ manifesto of what the world could be like if we lived in the way that God intends. That did seem a bit heavy but I did as he suggested and it helped. I decided that I will not be basing my decision on the negativity and lies that have characterised both campaigns. I am going to see if I can find any traces of what Jesus was talking about and vote for whichever one offers us the best opportunity to be more like that.

When I told Revd Phil this he was speechless for the first time since I have known him. The look on his face was priceless!

Yours faithfully

Q.R.Grenville Stubbs

Be blessed, be a blessing (as Nick likes to write)

being vigilant

Last Thursday evening there was a superb prayer vigil at Chelmsford Cathedral organised by a team led by Hannah Bucke, the Churches Together in Essex and East London Ecumenical Officer (when she wears name badges they have to be extra long). It was a well-thought out, brilliantly delivered opportunity to reflect prayerfully on some of the key issues around the EU Referendum (which is on Thursday, in case you hadn’t realised).

Prayer stations were arranged around the Cathedral where we considered issues relating to:

Peace and International Relations,

Sovereignty,

Trade and the Single Market,

Borders,

Environment, and

Agriculture and Food.

In addition, given the shocking news of the murder of Jo Cox, MP, there was also a space for prayers for her family and the opportunity to light a candle.

I was so grateful to the team that put it all together, and for the thoughtful, non-partisan way in which the issues were presented and the helpful references to Bible passages that were relevant to the issues as well.

To give you an idea of the excellence of the event, and perhaps to help you in your praying about how to vote, this is the prayer card we were given:

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I have already voted (postally) as I am away on Thursday this week, but my thinking, praying and deciding was based on the values I wrote about back in April The Hokey Cokey Referendum

Be blessed, be a blessing

the hokey cokey referendum

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There has been a lot of heat generated by the EU Referendum in the UK. The official campaigning period started last week but the rhetoric has been flying for many months beforehand and, in my humble opinion, has generated more heat than light. The news has been full of headlines that I summarise as ‘hokey cokey’ – “in, out, in, out, shake it all about”!

So this little bloggage is my attempt at offering some reflections that are not intentionally ‘yes’ or ‘no’ biased. It is intended to ask some Bible-based questions that may help me make up my mind: to consider what the issues are.

“What is truth?”

This question is not from Jesus, but was a retort from Pilate when he was questioning Jesus after his arrest (John 18:38). It’s a pertinent question, though. What is truth?

There has already been and will continue to be plenty of spin – so much so that our brains will be dizzy by the time we come to vote. One campaign will tell us that there are benefits to voting their way, or that there are negatives about voting the other way, and the other campaign will respond by telling us that this is not true.

In response to a lot of spin and conjecture about his identity Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) The ‘truth’ he’s talking about here is himself – the truth about God – but for those who seek to follow him we seek to hold to his teaching and then we will know the truth that liberates.

So much of the rhetoric and discussion is about an unknown future. We don’t know what life would be like if Britain voted to leave the EU any more than we know what it would be like if we voted to remain. The future is uncertain and unknowable. So I ask myself, “What is truth, what is conjecture and what is spin?” And I will try to make my decision based on truth. And what aspects of Jesus’ teaching can help me?

What is the most loving option?

This is not about romance! This is about agape – the Greek word used in the New Testament to describe God’s love for us, and the way that he wants people to love one another (especially, but not limited to, followers of Jesus). Jesus taught about this love being a radically different way that seeks the best even for those who oppose us (Matthew 5:43-48).

Agape is gracious not greedy; servant-hearted not power-hungry; and selfless not selfish. My question about the EU Referendum from this is two-fold: “Who are we to love, and which outcome will enable us to be most loving towards them?”

Who is our neighbour?

When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) he shocked his listeners by making the hero of his story someone whom they hated by virtue of his nationality. This was in response to a question, “Who is my neighbour?” and that in turn was in response to a summary of the Old Testament Law: ‘Love (agape) God wholeheartedly and love (agape) your neighbour as yourself’ (my paraphrase).

At the end of the story Jesus bounced the question back at the person who’d asked it – “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The (perhaps reluctant) answer was “The one who had mercy on him” and Jesus told his listeners to go and do likewise. So my question about the EU Referendum is, “Which approach enables us to show most mercy on those in need?”

“I have come that they might have life… to the full.”

Jesus made this statement (John 10:10) when he was teaching about himself and contrasting himself with people who were only looking for what they could get out of life and of others.

What does ‘life to the full’ look like? Many of the arguments I have heard so far are about economics, but there is much more to life than money. Accepting that part of what Jesus was talking about was a relationship with God (which neither ‘in’ nor ‘out’ can offer), but also that Jesus was talking about more than that too, my question is: “Which approach will enable people to have life to the fullest?”

“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Jesus said this in response to an attempt to trap him into a position that polarised opinion (Luke 20:20-26).  He refused to allow people to label him or push him into a corner. He refused to allow himself to be manipulated.

My question here is not about taxation. It’s based on a recognition that a ‘yes/no’ referendum is, by definition, polarising. However, deciding to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ does not mean that you have to agree with everything that is associated with that campaign. “Which outcome is least likely to mean that you feel manipulated into a position that you do not wish to be associated with?”

 

These few questions are not intended to be the exhaustive list of questions I am asking myself about this referendum. But they are intended to help me think beyond the rhetoric, beyond self-interest and beyond economics and think about how I can engage helpfully in the politics.

Be blessed, be a blessing