Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Big Society - and on being salt...

I'm not sure when we last had a "5th Sunday before Lent" - never in my record of Year A lectionary cycles... and that's a shame because it means that we're only rarely going to have last Sunday's lections as set reading.

Any one of the readings for the day (Isaiah 58.1-9a; 1 Corinthians 2.1-12; Matthew 5.13-20) offered a wealth of opportunity for reflection. Not least the call to be "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world." And before that to hear Isaiah's words:

Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

In my reflections at the 8a.m. Eucharist I couldn't help but make the connection to present-day calls to work for a Big Society, but also to wonder just how many of us are willing to look beyond our own selfish pre-occupations. Getting home I found Alain de Botton giving his Point of View on Radio 4 - and from his secular standpoint admitting that individualism and libertarianism have brought society to a point where there is little to underpin any sense of cohesion; something which can be learned from a religious tradition lost to most. And then our Reader, Rosie Junemann, preached on the Gospel and the Big Society at our Sung Eucharist - find her sermon here.

How do people grasp such a concept as a Big Society if they haven't a common vocabulary / understanding / faith / moral imperative? And how does the Government think it is going to work? Obviously the hope is that it will make good for those gaps where previously there was provision  by government spending. But might not the cuts simply make people more desperate and self-focussed, even selfish? And when charities find their funding cut, and churches and community groups find grants for their work dried up, who will organise people into action for the greater good?

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