Challenging Death – Challenging Poverty
He prayed for strength that he might achieve;
He was made weak that he might obey.
He prayed for wealth that he might do great things;
He was given infirmity that he might do better things.
He prayed for riches that he might be happy;
He was given poverty that he might be wise.
He prayed for power that he might have the praise of men;
He was given infirmity that he might feel the need of God.
He prayed for all things that he might enjoy life;
He was given life that he might enjoy all things.
He received nothing that he asked for – all that he hoped for;
His prayer was answered – he was most blessed.
Some say that this was written by a confederate soldier during the American Civil War in the 1860s. It is a reminder that God turns human expectations, priorities and fears upside down. What we fear most, God embraces as a source of blessing. At Easter we celebrate the supreme example of this. On that first Easter day, death, the most feared of all of life’s experiences, is turned from an enemy into a friend. Easter is about challenging death. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, death is no longer a wall marking the end of a journey, but it becomes a gateway towards a new and richer journey. Through the resurrection, Jesus Christ changes death from a mill stone into a stepping stone. At Easter we celebrate unimagined possibilities opening up: human beings experience the freedom and hope of what it means to be children of God. Something new happens in our lives. Human expectations, priorities and understandings are turned upside down.
‘Challenging Poverty’ is the theme adopted by the diocese of Rochester this year. Throughout Lent many groups have grappled with the devastating effects of poverty on so many lives, both overseas and in our own country, and have asked what can we do to challenge and even eradicate the poverty which people are powerless to resist. At the same time, we have been reminded that some people deliberately choose a life of simplicity and poverty in order to identify with the poor and with Jesus Christ. For these people, the poor are not a problem to be solved but a people to be joined.
On Saturday 9th May (the beginning of Christian Aid Week), there will be a Conference called, ‘Challenging Poverty: Celebrating Humanity – Partnership for Change’ which will take place at Trinity School, Belvedere. The main speakers will be the Archbishop of Tanzania (Archbishop Jacob from our link diocese of Mpwapwa) and Dr. Susan Durber (Theology co-ordinator for Christian Aid). There will be a number of workshops including ‘celebrating with music,’ ‘poverty and spirituality’ with Sister Mary John from Malling Abbey, ‘foodbanks,’ ‘debt,’ ‘climate change’ and ‘poverty and young people’. Information has been sent to parishes, but if you wish to come please contact Gill Miller at the diocesan office either by phone (01634 560000) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
At Easter we celebrate the outcome of challenging death. Something new and unimagined happens. The same can happen with challenging poverty. Alleluia. Christ is risen.
Fuller version in Rochester Diocesan Link, April 2015.