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Imagine.  Just imagine.

 

A world where the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and pretty well all the leaders of the world ….

 

  • Care about the poor
  • Bring justice to those who have no power to demand it for themselves
  • Deal effectively with the wicked who hurt and oppress and defraud others
  • Strive for peace

 

Imagine.  Just imagine.

 

A community where ….

 

  • People are welcoming and hospitable
  • people live in harmony,
  • where people encourage and support one another instead of constantly criticizing
  • people are kind to each other, and help each other

 

Imagine.  Just imagine.

 

People who …

 

  • know who they are, loved and cherished by God
  • whose personal qualities come out of their faith and walk with God
  • who live with integrity – what you see is what you get, and what you get is good
  • who want to do what is right and good

 

Imagine.  Just imagine.  God wants us to imagine.  Because when we imagine, we can start to make things happen.

 

Let me take you through some snapshots:

 

On Thursday afternoon, a woman called at my door because she needed a food voucher for her family.  They were being transferred on to Universal Credit.  Universal Credit is the new benefit that is bringing together various different benefits that people used to get.  It is paid once a month in arrears.  As I understand it, when you go on to Universal Credit, you have to wait several weeks before you get any money at all because you don’t get anything at all for the first week, and then you’re paid in arrears.  How are people going to manage in the meantime?  There were 3 children in that family.  It seems that the government is happy for them to go hungry.  They might get up to 3 Foodbank Vouchers, which would give them food for 3 days at a time.  And we’re coming up to Christmas.

 

That is not the kind of world I want to imagine, but it is the world we live in.

 

Have you seen the film “I, Daniel Blake”.  It won an award at the Cannes Film Festival.  It was made in Newcastle and is the story of a man, a joiner, who has a massive heart attack and can’t work and has to go on benefits.  The disability assessment says that he must look for a job, even though the consultant and the GP say Daniel can’t work.  So he is sanctioned.

 

Yes, it’s a film, but it’s based on reality.  It’s the kind of thing I see regularly when people knock at my door.

 

That is not the kind of world I want to imagine, but it is the world we live in.

 

This weekend, there has been a big collection at Tesco of food items for Gateshead Foodbank.  Volunteers have been encouraging shoppers to buy something extra for people who are going hungry.  Tesco also contributes massively to the Foodbank.  These collections are essential to bring in the food that is given out each week.  The Foodbank also relies on the gifts from churches and other organisations.  And money is needed as well to cover overheads such as the warehouse.  People are amazingly generous.

 

And alongside that, the Bensham Community Food Coop provides food to local people in need, including asylum seekers and refugees.  Again, it is founded on the generosity of people who share time and skills, and give food and money.

 

Imagine.  Just imagine we had a bit more of that.

 

I was listening to Saturday Live on Radio 4 yesterday morning.  One of the guests was Jaime Thurston who started 52 Lives, a website which aims to change the life of one person each week.  There was the teenage single mum who was given a laptop which enabled her to do well in her studies and go to university.  There was the seriously ill girl whose bedroom was decorated by strangers.  The boy whose mum had died and he had been badly bullied, who wanted so much to go to Alton Towers.  Jaime posts the stories on the websites, and people can volunteer to help.  There are over 100,000 people involved in helping.

 

What makes the difference in all these stories is, not so much the gifts and the money, but the love and kindness that is shown.  It can be life changing to those who receive the help. And, I would say, it’s good for the people who reach out and help.  But the idea of changing one life a week – that is such a powerful vision.

 

Imagine.  Just imagine we had a bit more of that.

 

Advent is a time for re-imagining our world.

 

Christ is coming.  We look forward to the birth of a baby in a humble stable in Bethlehem, a baby who changes everything, even our priorities.

 

Christ is coming.  We open our eyes to anticipate the coming of Christ again at the end of time, when we will be judged for what we have done and for what we have failed to do.

 

John the Baptist strides in to the picture and calls us to repent.  He’s quite harsh! “You brood of vipers”, he says, “don’t assume that being a regular churchgoer is going to save you from disaster.”  And though he’s saying it – in some form – to people 2,000 years ago, his message is for us too.  Reflect on your life so far.  We have all done things we regret.  Tell God in our heart.  We all have quirks of personality that have a negative impact on others.  Recognise them, and talk to God about it.  God will always forgive us and help us start again.  Think about your own life.  What is God doing in your life?  Is God leading you to the kind of life that makes a difference to our world? To the community? To your own flourishing?

 

Imagine.  Just imagine!

 

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