Rector's Ramblings: August 29th 2021



Afghanistan. I look with horror at the images on our TV screens, and was offended by the introduction to the news ‘Viewers may find the images upsetting....’ This is more than upsetting; it is not a movie but real life happening to real mean, women and children. What do we do with these images of desperation, of the fear of the women in particular? Simply be preserved from being upset? It was that phrase on the TV news that means I have to say something in today’s Rector’s Ramblings.

 (An image of Afghanistan)

      The land of Afghanistan and its people have been on my heart for many years and I can’t say why them above all, when other peoples have suffered so dreadfully in my lifetime. I have watched as the Russians went in, and left again. I have watched as fear grew about the poppy harvests which fed the drug habits of the West. The West going in after 9/11. I have read novels about life in Afghanistan. I have learned that poetry is cherished by almost every group in Afghan society, and is considered a great way to express oneself. Poetry in Afghanistan dates back thousands of years. I have never met an Afghan or been to that land but they have been on my heart. They are real human beings like me and like you, with hopes and fears like you and me.

   We may well be upset by what is happening, but my guess is that we feel helpless to do anything either. We are unsure that we can make a difference. However we can pray as a first step. I don’t mean only praying for the people of Afghanistan on a list of concerns but staying with that prayer with and for them – feeling the sorrow and anguish. Think how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. There is much reference to praying with passion: St Paul “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.”  From the psalmist “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” Let us pray for and with all those suffering. Let us pray for those who have come to see bullet and bomb as the only way to go forward – pray for change in their hearts.  In such prayer, we may begin to touch the sorrow and anguish in Jesus’ heart as he sees his beloved humans so damaging each other. 

  John Bunyan wrote “You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed. Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan.” Prayer may open for us a way to action. There are many options so watch out for them, and act. St James wrote “Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” (James 1:27)

   Many might react by saying ‘How does God allow all this?’ or ‘There is no God’. I understand the reaction. It has not been mine. For me, if there is no god, then life is meaningless. With all the suffering, there would be no point if at the conclusion of it all, we end 6 foot under. For me, I have to turn to Jesus  - that figure on the cross. This is mystery. I do not understand why God chose this way for His world but trust that it is the best and only way. I see him there – not exempt from the world’s suffering. He is suffering at the hands of the human race, the result of our short-sightedness and blindness. I see his arms flung wide to welcome but also stretched out to hold together all the suffering with the love of God. The shedding of his blood does somehow redeem our wickedness and weakness. I do not know how but for me Jesus on that cross says ‘I am with you in it and my way of love will prevail.’ I can only offer how I have come to see God in it all. I know it offers no easy answer but I offer it to you today.

   How do you work it all through? How will we wrestle with what we may need to learn from the people of Afghanistan and what is happening to them? Or will we forget them as the media move on to something else as they will very shortly?