Election, politics, loyalty and love (previously posted as Loyalty)

Love and loyalty hang together…
I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love:
the love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
that lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
the love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
the love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

When people say that the Bible and politics don’t mix, I ask them which Bible they are reading (1859-1918) wrote of loyalty and we are witnessing loyalty in politics stretched to the limit, at times, completely broken. Who can sing of a love for country that asks no question? Can anyone anymore, in this country or any other?

Soon, however things pan out politically in this country, we will need to choose how to vote, and I feel confused. It would be wrong use of this platform to tell you who to vote for and, in any case, I don’t know the answer to that question for any of us individually or corporately, but I’ve been thinking. And it relates to that word loyalty. Where do we place our loyalty?

Let’s think back, dig into history a little. My Grandfather, born in 1886, fought in the war to end all wars. Served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, became a captain. People who fought in that war hoped there would never be another such war. The League of Nations was formed. TocH started by the Reverend Phillip Byard (Tubby) Clayton offered fellowship to members of the forces. Step through the door and rank disappeared. All in it together would be a reasonable summary. My Dad joined TocH. Born in 1912 he was in the Eighth Army. Drove a water carrier at El Alamein. Royal Army Service Corps. Died when he was 60 in 1973. He and so many others fought against what they saw as ultimate evil in Nazism. Let us remember that the growth of Nazism took place in a Christian country through a democratic process.

Shades and colours of loyalty, interpretations of faith. A league of Nations that grew into the United Nations. In my lifetime Europe grew closer and distances seemed to shrink. Society has become global. We shudder at natural destruction in other parts of the world, at fire by the Amazon, but also at gun crime in America and knife crime in our own cities.

And now, that imminent election asks of us, against this back-drop of history, our varied and disparate experiences, our personal stories, our joy and our pain, where we place our loyalty.

Our faith and our doubt inform what we have become and put us where we are. Yet we each, as people of faith, ought still to ask ourselves ‘where do we place our ultimate loyalty?’ And if this is too political then Jeremiah, Amos, the prophets were too political. I think it was Desmond Tutu who said, ‘When people say that the Bible and politics don’t mix, I ask them which Bible they are reading’.

Where do we place our loyalty? Is it to our country? To our family? Our church? To our neighbours? My Dad or your Grandmother? Are we driven by self-interest?
The Hebrew scriptures say honour your father and your mother. In Luke Jesus is reported as saying, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple’. We cannot just read scripture without engaging our brains, looking at what is being said and to whom. Sometimes the Cain and Abel situation is re-run; verbally if not physically.

But to go back to the Bible one thing shines through, from Amos and Hosea (read them, they’re short books), through the Magnificat to the story of the Good Samaritan, to the crucifixion and on beyond the resurrection, and that is LOVE. If we are not loyal to LOVE we are just like ‘resounding gongs or clanging cymbals’. We make a lot of noise but we are worth nothing at all.

It seems that in all things, not least our political choices and decisions, we must decide how to prioritise LOVE over and above anything else. And that may take us out of Europe or leave us in. It may join us with our families or separate us from them so distantly that sometimes it will be as though we hate them. But above all only ‘resounding gongs and clanging cymbals don’t care‘. They are not human, they do not think, they CARE for nothing AND COUNT FOR NOTHING.

In every choice, every decision, every vote if we see ourselves as Christians we will ask, does this choice, this decision, enhance or diminish the way those affected by it are LOVED. And those people may be our Jewish or Muslim sisters or brothers, or those of other faiths or none. They may well be vulnerable with less wealth or power than ourselves.

YOUR CHOICE…AND MINE…EVERY TIME…don’t point the finger, don’t blame the other person, the other party, the other side, the other nation… YOUR CHOICE…AND MINE…EVERY TIME…but lets us prioritise LOVE.

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This fragile, passing beauty…Remembrance hymn

On the 1st September 1939, 80 years ago, the Second World War began. Germany invaded Poland; with the United Kingdom and France declaring war on Germany two days later…

This fragile, passing beauty,
this autumn, red and gold,
a season’s recollection:
love never will grow cold.
The seasons change and fracture,
the leaves of green turn brown,
as life seems tinged with sadness,
as petals flutter down.

This time of our remembrance
that reaches back to pain,
the chill of recollection
can open wounds again;
But this we must remember
that human war and hate
are matters of our choosing
and not some random fate.

God let this time of grieving,
of mem’ry and regret,
enable reparation,
in case we just forget.
Fill human hearts with courage,
frame human words with grace,
that love might flow among us,
make Earth a sacred place.

Andrew Pratt 16/9/2019

Words © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Tunes: BRED DINA VIDA VINGAR (Reclaiming Praise, No.142 – https://stainer.co.uk/shop/b891/), another setting of this tune can be heard at https://youtu.be/V6dDt3OJf6Q ;
Another tune: AURELIA.

What sharp protestations might echo the prophets – hymn at the time of parliamentary disagreement

What sharp protestations might echo the prophets,
could mirror the actions of Christ and the cross?
We witness indifference, inaction and malice,
that break up communities, add to our loss.

But how can we counter political action
that builds upon selfishness slander and lies,
that blinds us to suffering, homelessness, hunger,
ignoring these needs as our barren earth dies?

While violence surrounds us, our dark contemplation
breeds hopelessness, helplessness, absence of light;
yet here in the darkness a spark might still smoulder,
that love might still fan to dispel hatred’s night.

Join hands now, God’s people, let love be our watchword,
let Christ be our model of life giving grace,
that those of each nation, the war torn, the migrant,
may find they are welcome right now in this place.

Andrew Pratt 31/8/2019
Words © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Tune: WAS LEBET, WAS SCHWEBET (or possibly THE ASH GROVE)

Written at a time when parliament was due to be prorogued.