Home is mentioned often in the Bible. Jesus was invited into people’s homes – Zacchaeus, Simon Peter, Mary and Martha to mention a few. He ate meals, healed and taught people in homes. He was surprised by a paralysed man on a mat in one home and a woman with an alabaster jar, full of perfume, in another. He broke bread in a home in Emmaus, showing that he is with us even now in our own homes, when we invite him in.
I came across ‘Jesus’ in Hoddesdon town centre recently, one evening, sitting by the entrance to Tesco’s store, a few carrier bags at hand, his only belongings I guess. He looked a little unkempt, sad and alone. It was quite unexpected, an unusual sighting as it seemed that the welfare state had looked after people like him during the pandemic and would continue to do so. But no, the latest estimate of the numbers of people living on the streets in London is 11,000 individuals.
Rightly or wrongly I fished in my pocket for a little money, tossed it to him with a ‘God bless’, aware that you need to be careful if you are not wearing a face mask and Jesus isn’t either. I returned to my own home, knowing that I have far too much and he has far too little. I thanked God for diverting my thoughts from my own comforts – I had no intention of going into the town centre when popping out to find some tea bags. Obviously God had something to show me.
Broxbourne winter night shelter is not going to run this year. The council are planning to support anyone that is homeless. We are asked instead to help with starter kits for those who are being housed in the local area. Obviously in the big cities it is a different story. The work of charities, such as Shelter and Crisis is very much in need. So do support them as you are able.
Thank God for your own home. Make use of your home whenever you can, not only to welcome Jesus, and others, but to help grow God’s church and God’s kingdom, to reach out to those who have far less than you. Ask God to show you how. Be imaginative and be creative. Be open to possibilities.
As I write to you this month our Queen celebrates her 90th birthday. She has served as head of state since 6th February 1952: 64 years. A lady born on the day our Queen became Head of State would have started claiming her pension two years ago, but not our Queen. Whether you, dear Reader, are a Royalist or Republican, I think you have to admit she has done, and continues to do, a great job to front our country to the world. She undertakes several hundred functions per year at home and tens of functions abroad. She is a patron of over 600 charities.
She has had her ups and downs, good times and bad, has been both feted and criticised and coped with it all. Much of this she has had to do in the public eye. If we have a down time we can usually do it fairly privately! She has been wise in knowing when to speak and when not to speak and has kept out of controversy (she has left that to the rest of her family!).
For me, one of the things that makes her great is her constant faith. She is open about her faith and takes her responsibilities seriously. In the foreword to the book ‘The Servant Queen and the King she serves’, published by the Bible Society, London Institute of Contemporary Christianity and HOPE (an ecumenical organisation) she writes:
In my first Christmas broadcast in 1952, I asked the people of the Commonwealth and Empire to pray for me as I prepared to dedicate myself to their service at my Coronation. I have been – and remain – very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for His steadfast love. I have indeed seen His faithfulness.
I grew up with the Frost Report and a famous sketch is John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbet about class: I look up to him…but down to him (etc). You can find it on YouTube if you don’t know it.
Our Queen is head of state and we look up to her. Whether she looks down on us isn’t for me to say! But she looks up to God, she recognises she is in the middle. I am reminded of the story of Jesus encountering a Centurion at Capernaum. The soldier’s servant was ill and he asked Jesus to heal the servant. The soldier comments he is under orders, but he gives order too. Jesus remarks on just how profound that statement is. Read the story in Matthew 8.5-13. Our Queen takes her example from the Roman centurion.
Some heads of state see themselves as gods or are treated as gods; they recognise no power outside of themselves and live as though they were above the law. Historically some cultures have treated their head of state as a god. That is not a danger here: our Queen knows that despite all the grandeur in which she lives despite all the power she exerts at home and in the commonwealth, she is under the authority of God, that is where true majesty lies, and from whence she receives wisdom and other gifts to fulfil her role.
We are able as a nation to celebrate 64 years of unstinting service and take that service as our example. Strength and wisdom come from God and we can use that to drive our words and deeds in the ordinary world in which we live.