Afghanistan is a long, long way away: despite news coverage, newspaper reports, radio interviews, the country itself is on another continent. The news coverage makes many of us feel powerless, makes us ask ourselves the question “What can I do? Or, indeed, “What has the situation there to do with me?”. When I find myself asking those questions then I become full of fear: fear not of military force, but fear of losing real hope in God who is love. Real hope, not simplistic optimism, that in the end the situation will sort itself out, but real hope in God because, as the liturgy states, there is no room for fear in love.
What Afghanistan teaches us is that to have ideas about God is right; it is only when we believe that our ideas about God are the only right ideas to have and to hold, then we lose real faith for a fraudulent certainty. Whatever faith is, it is not ideological certainty but faith in God who is love, removes fear and gives each one of us power. The power to empathise with the refugee and the exile, as they seek asylum in our midst. The power to recognise, and face, the refugee and the exile we recognise within ourselves. The child at school who is not interested in sport in a school famous for its prowess on the athletics track or football field, that child can feel isolated, excluded, exiled within and without, a refugee from the common experience.
Remember the gospel stories of Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. Making friends with women, never mind women taken in adultery. Certainty stoned them, but with love, understanding, acceptance, Jesus showed empathy and real love. That is the power of love, the sign of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our world: real hope searches to understand, to accept, to open ourselves to new experience, to new ideas in which we encounter God in new ways through new people. There is no room for fear in love because life with God is so exciting, love is exciting, life giving, and brings us to power.
We have power in the tiny donations of money we are able to make to aid agencies. We have power in keeping ourselves informed of what is going on in our communities and in the worldwide family of humanity. We have power in prayer for those whose lives are torn apart by violence, war, being somehow different, a refugee, in exile.
Remember the Biblical stories of God’s people who were exiled, refugees, wanderers in strange lands. This is our history, our heritage as people of faith. It is the story of God’s people, searching for God in the wilderness of their experience and of their hearts.
Recently, I have visited several projects helping those with addictions recognise what actually drives them to substance abuse of whatever sort, drugs, alcohol. Walking in certain areas of our city many of our people, especially young people, feel powerless and hopeless. The dedication, the love of those working in those areas, walking those streets: that is the dedication and the love which seeks to give power to those who feel powerless so often.
When we pray for Afghanistan, we pray for the peace of love which comes from understanding and acceptance. When we pray for those with addictions in our own communities we pray for the peace of love, which comes from understanding and acceptance. When we pray for ourselves, we pray that we may show the power of the Holy Spirit in understanding and acceptance. That is the blessing of God, which passes all understanding…