Friday, 10 October 2008

Be Thankful: Response To Kindness

"Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine." (Luke 17:1-19)

One of the least pleasing features in human relations is the reluctance of people to be grateful for a kindness done them. They find it hard to say thanks even when they know the word should be said and at once. A feature writer has a question in a press interview "Are you a giver or a taker?" The answers are often inconclusive but always there is the sense that to be a giver is the preferable and proper response.

We know some who are generous in their treatment of others and those who take generosity for granted.

The incident we have here, the curing of the ten lepers and the and the ingratitude of nine is an apt illustration of an ingratitude ingrained in such behaviour. And the one who came back to speak his gratitude was a despised Samaritan. While the men of the story are described, ingratitude is not a characteristic more marked in race, sex, age, friendship or relationship. It is a trait of our humanity.

Jews cited Joseph and Absolam as good and bad examples of how children should treat their parents. The one respected Jacob his father; the other broke his father's David's heart. They would show them where Absolam dishonoured his father, spat their contempt at the spot, and then tell them of Joseph.

We have Jesus as our example, for He respected his parents and when his mother was widowed he took the care of mother and family. His brothers were among Jesus' most faithful followers and one of them, came to be called James the Just. He was chairman of the first even Christian Council as head of the Church at Jerusalem. Tradition has it that he was killed by the Scribes and Pharisees and that he was the author of the General Epistle of James.

His closeness to Jesus is evident in the epistle for its basic teaching is similar to that of the sermon on the Mount, and its emphasis on behaviour with the premise, the test of a real faith in God is that it shows in an appropriate way of life.

A kindness has no expectations of a response when it is often a spontaneous act to help someone. To be kind is to recognise the value of human relationships, that living is sharing. But to live is to know that there are always the opposites - good and bad, kindness and unkindness. In our media enlightened age we are well acquainted with both, though the imbalance, bad news is news, means that we are horrified by much of what we see and hear of the depravity of humanity. And then piercing the gloom of depression and despair is the evidence that the good are everywhere bringing succour to the suffering, food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, shelter to the homeless and hope to the hopeless.

The Christian ethic with its concentration on the virtues of decency, honesty, generosity and sympathy remains for many the basis for a good society. It is necessary then for all who respect such values to set an example in a society which for many has levels far below what is needed to ensure that its citizens treat each other with the respect which is essential if people are to live safely together in an environment, peaceful, prosperous and pleasurable for all its people.

A Utopian dream, may be a critics response to this scenario, but it is the philosophy for living which is a solid foundation on which to build and it involves everyone in contributing to the well being of their country from the beginning to the end of their stay in it.

We have reason to be thankful that, we live where, whatever our problems, they could be minimal to those in so many other places. Most of us have the capacity to be givers to those whose circumstances compel them to be takers. That is the way for us to change their lot to a happier one.

We have to learn to turn all good gifts to good purposes; to use goods and benefits to enable us to be givers; to do good and to distribute, for with such sacrifice God is well pleased.

Rev. Canon Dr. S.E. Long

We Will Weather The Storm

Orange Standard ~ Article 4 ~ October 2008

We may have more than a little sympathy with those who complain, as we did, about the awful summer of 2008. Our situations were not equal though, for some suffered the horrors of flooding. They elicit from the fortunate to have avoided that calamity, the ravages of nature, and too often the inadequacies of planners to foresee recurring problems, relief and pity.
But if the weather was fearsome for some, and frustrating for most of us, the political scene remains in a like state of complaint and uncertainty. The government, with Gordon Brown, the target for an economy so ineffective in the struggle against the rising costs of even the bare necessities of life, is under attack by workers in the staple industries, with strikes threatened by Trade Unions and their members.

The imbalances with wages, salaries and rewards, employees and employers, with their extravagantly rewarded chiefs make an administration look ridiculous for its parsimony where the people are concerned with their claimant needs, and its liberality in what to most of us is totally unjustified, so that angry protests are to be expected and in wrap available to protesters. The anomalies, so numerous, produce multiple questions, and a few like, how is it possible to produce ten billion for a useless computer system and not enough to provide the means to help to combat the criminality that frightens and victimises so many law-abiding citizens? And half a billion on preparations for the Olympics when such money could be well used in life improving objectives for needy and suffering people. The complaints are endless, and the effects of wrong thinking disastrous, with the most vulnerable receiving least attention. Priorities are wrong and until they are righted there can be no even limited satisfaction, with government and country in its present state. We must hope and expect better ways and days ahead of us.

The unrest of today makes us compare like restlessness of other days which brought about a change of leadership and government. The trade unions appear to have no desire for that result, for Cameron and the Tories are not wanted by them; Labour is a philosophy they share and support.

What we hope for expeditiously is a more satisfying and less worrying life, for we need the stability absent presently from the U.K. What pertains in the Union is ever applicable to us, for whole devolved government allows us to make decisions for ourselves. We are governed largely, sometimes totally, by what goes at Westminster.

That requires us to evaluate the present state of our Stormont administration. Whatever the work done, the impression is of an Assembly which is confrontational because the D.U.P. and S.F. find their dissimilar philosophies make coexistence in power very awkward. How to have the ruling parties work together is the question, and while there are instances of consent and approval of cross party decisions, though they are not unimportant to those affected by them, big issues remain unresolved.

In spite of the gloom of such a summer, weather wise we are happy that the public demonstrations and appearance of the Institution and the Loyal Orders were pleasurable occasions with very little adverse comment from any quarter. We wanted it that way, for we know the value of the earned approval of the people at large. Our usual citizens, of course, will not pay compliment in a society shot through with irrational stances, dogmatic and liberal attitudes vying for attention, and where reactions are always predictable.
It means that the Order must constantly be making positive claims that show how good is its actual and potential contribution to this society.

We believe our most worthwhile one is by our concentration on the Christian faith and the ethical and political values founded on it. They are essentials in a usually secularly orientated environment, where the faith is undervalued, and society is weakened by the loss of what sustained and strengthened it in other and better days. When the good influence of the faith is absent the loss is filled with bad influences that we must fight against if we are to think and act consonant with our beliefs.

Our hope for the future of the country must be in the recognition, and adoption, of Christian values for they only will serve us well.