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17.06.2022

Ma’am, Would You Be My Neighbour?

The juxtaposition on BBC One was jarring.

Picture the Platinum Jubilee concert, lavishly partying before Buckingham’s brilliantly lit beacon. Then, observe the British Gas Energy Trust campaign, screened the next day, with its Dickensian picture of a single father struggling alone to keep the lights on…

This loving dad bundles his kids out the door, only to disconsolately return inside and switch off every power-sapping device – bulbs, microwave, and boiler alike. He dons a duffle coat in the dark, waiting on a call from a faceless operator to cover his energy debt.

It’s stellar that charities and even the crown have highlighted rising costs of living and redistributed gross profits from gas companies capitalising on war-time supply. This dad is right to say ‘Thank you, Ma’am’ for the systems that offer a hand out in hard times. But we need more than tax breaks, tea-cake, and concerts, if we are truly to be a ‘united’ kingdom.

Let’s imagine this impoverished father is a Christ-follower. Is there a better posture than asking strangers for more gruel to get by?

How about heading cap-in-hand next door for a hand up? For we need to stop the silence around our poverty of neighbourliness, and tendency to go it alone when we need proximal care from a real person.

Calling from the ditch asking good Samaritans to help has precedent. And this mendicant way is surprisingly missional.

The gospel is good news to the poor – and good news through the poor. Jesus’s own celebration and practice of Jubilee eschews bread and circuses (Luke 4), instead calling his disciples to go empty-handed like Elijah to the widow of Zarephath and her terminal son living in fuel poverty, asking for food and lodging in a way that surely makes polite Brits squirm (1 Kings 17).

Yet by receiving hospitality from people of peace in surrounding homes, the disciples model the humility through which every hungry person finds grace (Luke 10). Generosity unleashes miraculous provision, proving God’s reality to the whole neighbourhood. Together they witness this brilliant kingdom come near.

So, let’s drop the shame of asking for a hand up – as Paddington did the Queen – and instead share a marmalade sandwich with those who live and work nearby. Stop the silence, and instead celebrate the simplicity of knocking on their door and asking, ‘Please, Ma’am, would you be my neighbour?’

Better than pomp and ceremony, this may be the start of seeing a beacon of hope shine bright on your very street.

Dr Dave Benson  
Culture & Discipleship Director, LICC

 

Image Source: Buckingham

Comments

  1. Thanks Dave – this CWC has got me thinking! We as a church have started a ‘supermarket voucher’ scheme to help one another at the moment. The biggest challenge is encouraging people to ask for a bit of help! I think the deeper the relationship – the deeper the fellowship (deep relationship) the more chance we have to practice helping one another!

    I hope this season leads to churches building deeper community and family with each other!

    By Steve Rouse  -  17 Jun 2022
  2. Great blog topic – and a useful ‘balancing’ piece alongside Mark Greene’s on the queen, drawing out the justice & financial issues that many of us must feel when considering the place of royalty in UK society. Thanks.
    In this vein, as a producer of poems for BBC local radio, I wrote my own wry take on the Jubilee, imagining how much better things might be if the queen could swap places with Putin (power roles reversed). Linked below 🙂

    By Bruce Gulland  -  17 Jun 2022
  3. There is always a tension in a society where some have more and some have less or almost nothing and clearly Christians are called to find a way towards radical change. The justaposition of the celebrations and the British Gas advert is challenging but to live in a country that cannot celebrate something as special as a Platinum Jubilee without being made to feel bad would be sad indeed. So the challenge is to find a way of celebrating that encourages community to truly be community, to share what we have, be it time, money, talents, opportunities or needs and to emulate the one whose jubilee it is. She serves where God has placed her. She makes positive memories for thousands. She supports literally hundreds of charitable organisations. And increasingly, she asks for the help and support she needs to fulfil her royal duties. Jesus feasted and fasted. Plenty of food for thought and having thought, a jubilee year is a good year for action.

    By Janet Gabb  -  17 Jun 2022

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