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Minister's Letter for 21 January

Dear Friends,

"Forty days more, and Ninevah shall be overthrown! And the people of Ninevah believed God;" (Jonah 3:4b)

One of the shortest and most effective sermons in the Bible and it came from someone who up until very recently had done their very best to get away from what God had asked them to do.

The book of Jonah is unique because it is a narrative about the prophet rather than the words of the prophet; neither is he a particularly pleasant character, albeit a very human one. He runs away, risking others, and he complains bitterly when God forgives Ninevah. Jonah was looking forward to seeing a bit of righteous destruction and was greatly disappointed when this did not occur. (He even made sure he got a seat with a good view!)

For all he was a reluctant prophet, Jonah did share the message and God did still use Jonah; one of the big themes of this book is the concept of second chances.

Alongside the retreat that I have attended a session has been led by Rachel Lampard (a former Vice President of Conference, head of JPIT – the joint organisation between churches regarding justice and currently part of the Connexional team with a focus on helping to embed the elements of the justice-seeking Church report from the 2023 Conference). One of the questions is – what does justice look like or mean for you?

There is so much that we can do that it is overwhelming – it can feel like we are a lone voice amongst many, it may even feel that 'justice' and how we 'do' it as a church is interpreted in a very narrow fashion. Jonah certainly felt that he was being forced out of his comfort zone and into dangerous territory.But if we find it difficult and uncomfortable we should take heart, because Jonah had to be thrown overboard, be swallowed by a fish, spend three days inside a fish's stomach before being vomited out onto a beach where he had to walk across a city three days wide, declaring an uncompromising message to a people who would most likely view him as an enemy!

Seeking justice, I am very quickly learning, is not a comfortable position to be in – in some ways having the passion and the fire and identifying the wrong is the easy part. It is turning this passion into action that is the challenge. The danger is that we compare our efforts with others, we feel that we should be replicating the actions from elsewhere for it to be 'proper' justice. Increasingly, it is finding the cause or the priority that catches your attention – whether that is personally or as a church community. To consider what resource (in its broadest terms) we can bring to this. As the report says – what is ours to do. And then it is thinking about the first step and then the next and so on.

On this retreat we have been encouraged to be creative, whether through embroidery, drawing, origami, making something for and writing to our local MPs, to appeal to them to be of a mind to tackle poverty. There is a movement called Lets End Poverty ( letsendpoverty.co.uk ) which I do encourage you to look at for ideas and information regarding this. But also look through the report itself – it can be found on A Justice Seeking Church (at methodist.org.uk); hard copies can also be ordered.

It may feel that with so many other concerns crowding around us we do not have the time or the space to do justice – but we cannot run away from it, we are part of the world and justice runs through us all. Sometimes we have to walk into the midst of it – one step at a time – and be confident that the message we are sharing is God's message.

Every blessing,
Rev Karen

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