Activism · Climate Change · Ecology · faith · God · Political

Daring, Imaginative, Faithful And Challenging

Continuing thoughts on the prophet Jeremiah.

In chapter 43, Jeremiah has arrived in Egypt – against his wishes.

He had, over a long period, distanced himself from the ruling elite in Jerusalem and preached a message of God’s judgment against Israel. He had urged the leaders to stay in Jerusalem; God would have a future for them if they listened and stayed.

They had not followed God’s word as proclaimed by Jeremiah, but had insisted on going their own way – to Egypt where they believed they would be safe.

Once in Egypt, Jeremiah engages in a symbolic act that continues the message that God’s future for Israel lies not in Egypt but with Babylon.

Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes: 9 Take some large stones in your hands, and bury them in the clay pavement that is at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes. Let the Judeans see you do it, 10 and say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to send and take my servant King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and he will set his throne above these stones that I have buried, and he will spread his royal canopy over them.

In this act, Jeremiah not only subverts Egyptian power, but affirms the superiority and God appointed influence of Babylon in Egypt. The large stones that he buries are the foundation for Nebuchadrezar’s throne.

This symbolic act is: daring – a public act; imaginative – seeing the power of the symbol; faithful – to what God has been saying; challenging – both to Egypt and to Israel.

What symbolic acts of resistance have we seen, or might we engage in, that would subvert, for example the power of oil and gas companies, or militarism, or the gun lobby in the USA ?

And behind all of the above there is something to do with that part of our human nature that is driven by fear of the other, and an overwhelming sense of entitlement and privilege.

Activism · Political · suffering · World Affairs

Today It Is Nakba Day

I just read a post from Huw Thomas.

It reminded me that today is Nakba Day. The day when Palestinians remember the forced removal in 1948 of their families from their ancestral homes.
This is not just a past event, but an ongoing horror story where Palestinians are routinely abused and refused;
victimized and minimized;
oppressed and dispossessed.

I wear a bracelet most days that says – Save Gaza / Free Palestine.
It’s a reminder to me not to forget the Palestinian people and their struggle to be treated a citizens with equal rights.

Huw Thomas in his blog points us towards a couple of organisations that have helped him in his thinking about this issue.

There are a couple of organisations that have shaped my thinking on this…

B’tselem

or Peace Now

and Occupied Thoughts is a brilliant Podcast

Amos Trust – worth all the support you can give…
(I echo that thought)

We try to live with hope and send all our prayers to those engaged in the struggle for peace with justice.

Activism · Bible · faith · Political · World Affairs

How To Avert The Crisis

There’s a passage I’ve been reading in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah:

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to make a proclamation of liberty to them— 9 that all should set free their Hebrew slaves, male and female, so that no one should hold another Judean in slavery. 10 And they obeyed, all the officials and all the people who had entered into the covenant that all would set free their slaves, male or female, so that they would not be enslaved again; they obeyed and set them free. 11 But afterwards they turned about and took back the male and female slaves they had set free, and brought them again into subjection as slaves.

This story relates to part of the
covenant that God had made with Israel. It concerned members of the community of Israel who for whatever reason had fallen on hard times. Maybe their crops had failed and they had been forced to sell their land to make ends meet. Or even worse, they had been forced to live as slaves to pay off a debt. Every 7th year, according to the law of Israel, their debt should be cancelled, they should no longer be slaves, and land that was forfeited should be returned to them.

The context for this passage from the book of the prophet Jeremiah is that Israel has strayed from God’s ways. They have gone after other gods to worship, and have neglected the laws concerning the care of the poor,
particularly widows, orphans and foreigners.

God’s judgment on Israel is that they will suffer the consequences – and be invaded by Babylon and many of the population be taken into exile.

For much of
the time, the leaders in Israel – the ruling elite of kings and priests, ignore these warnings.

But the
crisis deepens. Invasion looks likely. It seems that Jeremiah’s dire warnings are true.

What to do in a such a situation. For the leadership in Israel this means
trying a last ditch attempt to avert the crisis by obeying the law that God had given them and setting free the slaves that should have had their freedom in the 7th year of their slavery. It’s a cry to God to say -“OK, we’ll do as you commanded. Now please come to our help and stop this invasion.”

What happens next is that king Zedekiah reverses his decision and makes them all slaves again ! The reason is not given. It’s possible that the threat from Babylon went away, and Zedekiah thought he could get away with going back to business as usual –
oppressing the poor.

Or maybe the economic situation got worse – so bad in fact that landowners needed slave labour to survive and put pressure on the king to reverse the decision.

Whatever it was, Jeremiah’s verdict is that once again the King and the
ruling class have ignored God’s commands and will be judged.

That’s a long, but necessary preamble …

This incident makes me think of the Coronavirus crisis that we have lived through, and still are to some degree. In the early days, our government put in place measures to reduce the negative impact on the population by
introducing the furlough arrangements, whereby the government would pay businesses to keep people on the payroll while they were not able to carry on trading. (Eg – restaurants that had to close completely in the pandemic).

Now the direct threat from Covid has reduced because of the success of the
vaccination programme. It’s back to business as usual. In the immediate aftermath of Covid, the pressure was off … but the government needed to recoup as much of the financial outlay as possible. So …

We are seeing increases in National Insurance contributions, and other ways that the
government are seeking to increase revenue.

Then comes another crisis … Ukraine and the consequent increases in oil and gas prices as well as effects from the grain harvests in Ukraine being disrupted.

What do we see from the
government – a £150 rebate on council tax … with another sum – that will need to be paid back. For an average household, that £150 will go in two months in their increases in gas and electric bills.

Meanwhile we still read of massive bonus payments to some, while others are sitting with hot water bottles and blankets to keep warm, and relying on
food banks for essentials.

Can you see the parallels ?

What
happens to nations, businesses, organisations in general when those at the top are sitting pretty while the poorest struggle to survive. In the end those nations, businesses, etc will fall.

A
settled social order relies on justice for the poor. Without economic justice, society eventually collapses.

What do we need ? Justice for the poorest. When do we need it ? Now !

Activism · Bible · Church · community · faith · Political · Theology

Stories Of Pain And Possibility

This post is about two ways that the Christian Church typically responds to situations of pain, and how our default settings miss something vital.

Part 1: Mercy more than Justice.

In the fortnightly online discussion group that I’m a part of we’ve been thinking about ‘The Powers’ that are in play around us, and what a Christian response looks like.

In the New Testament, the powers that are at the forefront are:
1) The Jewish religious leaders and
2) Rome.
The way that Jesus responds to the power of religious leaders is something that you might be familiar with. The conflict is right there on the surface in the Gospels.
Iff we were to look a little deeper, we would see also how he challenges Roman imperialism.
(I’m just starting to read Ched Myers’ book – ‘Binding the Strong Man,‘ a political reading of Mark’s Gospel – more on that another time maybe.

It shouldn’t surprise us then that as Christians we are called to be aware of the powers around us – economic, social, political, organisational etc which are often working for the common good, but are just as, or more likely to be pursuing their own agendas.

Being aware of how the powers are at work is the first step, but if and when we judge that the powers are not aligned towards justice and peace there comes a point where some response is called for. This response could be expressed in protest, or resistance of some kind, but as I argue below, it’s more likely to be a response driven by compassion.

Just the other day, I came across this quote from Hannah Arendt, German thinker –
The antidote to evil is not goodness but reflection and responsibility. Evil grows when people “cease to think, reflect, and choose between good and evil, between taking part or resisting.”

The first part of that quote reminds us that when we see that the powers are not aligned with the Common Good, we have a choice how to respond – with goodness or responsibility.

For example, in line with the often repeated instruction in the Old Testament, we are called to look out for ‘The widow, the orphan and the stranger,’ but over the course of history I would guess that the most typical Christian response has been through acts of goodness, service and compassion – binding up the broken hearted, healing the sick and so on, rather than through a commitment to justice.

We see the compassion response in the foundation of hospitals, hospices and a host of other projects that are driven by a Christian impulse to serve – especially those who are suffering. I would argue that the mandate to justice as well as mercy has often been forgotten, because it’s easier to help people than to buck the system. It’s easier to patch things up than getting to the root of the problem.

Part 2: Individual more than Collective.

There’s a second emphasis in the usual Christian response that I want to point out, and that’s our fixation with the individual. Not only do we find it easier to be compassionate than to confront, we tend to focus on our individual responsibility to change and be a part of bringing about change rather than seek a collective way.

I refer here to an earlier post when I quoted Walter Brueggemann’s assertion that the foundational work of transformation is not to be found in individual action as much as in Liturgy and Organising.
That is the work that we do when we are bound together in action to resist the powers, together with the organising that makes that happen.

In the context of Christian worship, I’m trying to pay attention to the different ways that we use liturgy, and how we read the scriptures, and how that might speak into a discussion on ‘The Powers.’

So, for example, in the Anglican tradition, there is a prayer of confession, usually at the beginning of a service. Here’s an example that is used most often.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against youand against our neighbour
in thought and word and deed,
through negligence, through weakness,through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorryand repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,who died for us,
forgive us all that is past and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name. Amen.

We are often encouraged to reflect on the past week, to call to mind the things we have done, thought or said that we regret, and those good things that we didn’t do. The prayer is all about getting ourselves ‘right with God’ before we continue in worship.

It’s all very individualistic. It tends to lead to a spirituality that is focussed too much on ‘sin’ and ‘me’ and the things in my life that need putting right. In the Bible, sin is a problem, but it’s not the only problem.
Two of the central stories in the Old Testament for example are:
The story of liberation from slavery in Egypt – that speaks to our bondage to the powers around us.
The story of exile and return – that speaks to our longing for home.

A suggestion put by Marcus Borg, in his book ‘Speaking Christian,’ is that we give less airtime to the prayer of confession, by using it maybe once every five weeks, and for the other weeks, replacing the confession of sin with images of our predicament as slavery, exile, blindness, sickness etc. “Imagine the absolution replaced by the proclamation that God wills our liberation from slavery, our return from exile, our seeing again, our healing and wholeness. Sin matters, but when it and the need for forgiveness become the dominant issue of our life with God, it reduces and impoverishes the wisdom and passion of the Bible and the Christian tradition.”
Speaking Christain p.152

In addition, when thinking about how we read scripture, I would suggest that in many (most ?) Christian worship services, the sermon will read the Bible through a very personal and also individual lens. Even the teaching about how we serve God will be likely focussed on what we as individuals can/should do.
This is of course tied to the point about confession made just now. If our obsession is with sin, and putting our personal relationship with God right, then it follows that the teaching in our churches will be aimed at keeping us on the right track with God, and serving God by ‘loving our neighbour.’

(This was brought home to me as I was listening yesterday to the Archbishop of Canterbury interviewing writer Stephen King. Stephen King talked freely about his faith in God, portraying it as a personal matter, that seemed to have little to do with what goes on in the world. He quoted Jesus saying ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and the things that are God’s to God,’ as a way of justifying keeping religion separate from politics. Keep God out of politics).

In the time of the gospel writers, the power that was calling for total allegiance was Rome and the Emperor. When Jesus contrasts Caesar and God, he is setting before us two complete opposites. Are we to say ‘Caesar is Lord ?’ or ‘Jesus is Lord.’ To put God first will mean that Christians are called to engage the powers of the day.

Perhaps the way we go about ‘confession’ in our worship and the treatment of scripture can help redress imbalance, moving the focus from the individual to point us towards the more collective pains, ills and injustices in the world.

If you are a church goer, you might want to pay particular attention to the way that the prayer of confession and the use of scripture are experienced in your worship services.
To what extent, if any, do they address the questions of the powers, and issues beyond our individual response ?
How as communities can we resist and challenge those powers that call for our allegiance, rather than God’s ?




Activism · community

‘Narratives of Pain and Possibility.’

I got this from a podcast – Common Good.
An episode with Walter Brueggemann. A conversation based on an article that he wrote called ‘Not Numbed Inside’

I’ll just pick out a couple of things from the conversation.

The conversation started with thoughts on the power of compassion as seen most clearly in mother love, and how that compassion can make a difference – beyond the personal transformation of our lives to working with others to bring about change.
In Walter’s words: “How to go beyond energising our own individual innards, to activate the innards of a society based on individualism and greed ?”

Walter sees two components – one is Liturgy – “action that binds us into a common imagination.”
And the other component is Organise. “Organise, organise, organise.”

“The symbiotic relationship between liturgy and organising is the work that has to be done if we are to mobilise social power and not just well meaning individuals. The movements of Black Lives Matter and the Me Too movement are examples of exactly that kind of excercise, that are capable of getting people’s attention, helping people to rethink, and maybe eventually it leads to policy.”

The podcast host returns to the opening theme of compassion and the way that patriarchy sees feminine traits as being opposed to the work that we are supposed to be doing ….

Walter’s answer I found really interesting – I’m still trying to get my head round it!
He went on to talk about Ideology and Narrative, and offered an image of Ideology floating above narrative, patriarchy as an example of ideology, and the importance of knowing our story.

“What ideology does is to cause us to deny our own narrative in order to accommodate somebody else’s narrative. The work is to help people get below whatever ideology they are hooked in, including Liberalism, to hear specific ‘Narratives of Pain and Possibility.’ When we are held by an ideology, we become alienated from our own narrative of pain and possibility, and cannot make contact with anybody else’s narrative. The work is to expose the way that ideology, (including patriarchy), leads to despair and denial and the cover up of our own primary narrative.”

(In ‘my speak’ – when we are locked into a particular way of looking at the world, we are unable to own our own story, or to hear the story of others who have a different experience. My question here would be … what way of looking at the world am I locked into … and is that necessarily unhelpful )?

Walter Brueggemann: “People who support Donald Trump are signing on to an ideology, even though it contradicts their own personal story of what they want and what they need and what they hope for. Consequently they have very little contact with themselves because they have signed on to this ideology. The more we are trapped into an ideology, the less we understand the wonder and the problematic of our own narrative – because everybody’s story is wondrous and problematic – but we don’t have to commuicate about that if we have a cover-all ideology that displaces that.”

I’m still trying to process all of that, but what I take away from it is two things:

The change that is required to move from energising our own lives to being a part of work that can energise a community.

The importance of our story and being able to tell it and own it.

Grace and Peace.


Activism · Political · Prayer · Truth · World Affairs

In Search of The Truth Part 1

In our church yeserday, we had these prayers that I found compelling, and thought worth sharing. Simple, yet full. Offering space to enter into the prayer in our own way.

Prayers
God of love
hear the cry of those who yearn for love;
fractured families, broken homes
neglected, unwanted, alone.
God of love
Hear our prayer

God of justice
hear the cry of those who yearn for justice;
persecuted and oppressed,
exploited, ill-treated, broken.
God of justice
Hear our prayer

God of peace
hear the cry of those who yearn for peace;
in battle zones and broken states,
frightened, fearful, anxious
God of peace
Hear our prayer

God of healing
hear the cry of those who yearn for healing;
physical and spiritual
hurting, weakened, depressed
God of healing
Hear our prayer

God of mercy
Hear the cry of those who yearn for mercy;
convicted, in need of your Grace,
contrite, humble, bowed down,
God of mercy
Hear our prayer

God of Truth *
Hear the cry of those who yearn for truth;
the truth of our hearts, and the truth of what we see around us.
Confused, questioning, searching
God of truth
Hear our prayer

Dear God, help us to know
your peace , your love, your justice,
your healing, mercy and truth
this day and all days
Amen

I added this last section to the prayers we had in church. The prayers had reminded me of a verse in Psalm 85 verse 11:
Grace and truth have met together; justice and peace have kissed each other.
(Complete Jewish Bible translation).

The reasons for adding the section about truth, was confirmed for me by a quote from Hannah Arendt,
“Under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think.”

When we see something happening like the invasion of Ukraine, we want to do something. And It is fantastic to see the humanitarian aid that is coming to Ukraine, and the way that other nations have stepped up.

But in the end …
The antidote to evil is not goodness but reflection and responsibility. Evil grows when people “cease to think, reflect, and choose between good and evil, between taking part or resisting.” Hannah Arendt.

Part of that thinking and reflecting is a search for truth, as best we can, however elusive that might be.

A Prayer For This Day · Activism · Bible · Political · Prayer · suffering · Truth · World Affairs

Praying For The Ukrainian People

Today I read these words from the Prophet Jeremiah chapter 11:

God told me what was going on. That’s how I knew. You, God, opened my eyes to their evil scheming.
I had no idea what was going on—naive as a lamb being led to slaughter!
I didn’t know they had it in for me, didn’t know of their behind-the-scenes plots:
“Let’s get rid of the preacher. That will stop the sermons!
Let’s get rid of him for good. He won’t be remembered for long.”

Then I said, “God-of-the-Angel-Armies, you’re a fair judge.
You examine and cross-examine human actions and motives.
I want to see these people shown up and put down!  I’m an open book before you. Clear my name.”

The people of Anathoth, the home town of the prophet Jeremiah, want to silence him.
Jeremiah is unaware of this until God shows him the truth.
Then he realises their plan to get rid of him.
He appeals to God and God’s justice.

We were not unaware of Putin’s plan, but we did not want to think it would happen. Now it has.
This is my prayer, as we also appeal to God for justice.

The name Putin is derived from put – путь, the Russian word for ‘way.’
Pravda
Правда is Russian for truth
ZhiznЖизнь is Russian for life

We pray to the LORD of hosts
The LORD-of-the angel-armies
Not to come against might with more might
But to raise up the people of Russia in resistance.
To reveal the bare pravda
To see false, fake rulers standing naked
Hands tied behind their backs
Their power and glory stripped.

We pray to the LORD of hosts
The LORD-of-the angel-armies
To raise up the people of the earth in solidarity
To reveal the Pravda and the true Put
To see the people of Ukraine delivered from evil
Once more able to live Zhizn openly and spontaneously
Not cautiously and warily.

Pray for the peace of Ukraine
Prosperity to all you Ukraine lovers
Friendly insiders, get along!
Hostile outsiders, keep your distance!
For the sake of my family and friends,
I say it again: live in peace!

(The last section is From The Message translation of Psalm 122 in the Jewish Scriptures)


Activism · Bible · Climate Change · community · Ecology · Political · World Affairs

Ben Sira and the Psalms

For the past few days, my reading has taken me to the book of Ecclesiasticus, in the Apocrypha. This book, also known as the Wisdom of Sirach , was written by the Jewish Scribe, Ben Sira, in the period between the Old and New Testaments.

I must admit to not being familiar with the book, which is full of great advice to live a godly life.

Today’s reading in chapter 31 had these words:

Are you seated at the table of the great?
Do not be greedy at it,
and do not say, ‘How much food there is here!’


Do not reach out your hand for everything you see,
and do not crowd your neighbour at the dish.
Judge your neighbour’s feelings by your own,
and in every matter be thoughtful.

Eat what is set before you like a well-bred person,
and do not chew greedily, or you will give offence.
Be the first to stop, as befits good manners,
and do not be insatiable, or you will give offence.

If you are seated among many others,
do not help yourself before they do.
How ample a little is for a well-disciplined person!

He does not breathe heavily when in bed.
Healthy sleep depends on moderate eating;
he rises early, and feels fit.

Eating with others is, or at least should be, a great leveller. When we sit around a table, especially perhaps with strangers, there’s an opportunity to learn more about the conditions under which they live.

On the face of it, Ben Sira’s words are good advice as we sit around the meal table – not to be greedy, but think of others. Essential ways to promote healthy living in community. As I thought about these words, it seemed to me that they can also help us think about greed on a larger scale.

In the context of the current COP 26 talks, imagine that the world is one great meal table. We were watching the BBC programme ‘Panorama’ last night and it brought home the crisis that we are living through – or dying through for many.

As we observe the inequalities in the world – the poor suffering most from the effects of the climate change that the rich nations have caused, we are looking at a level of ‘greed that serves the indiscipline of the entitled.’ (Walter Brueggemann).

Another of my readings today struck me forcibly. it’s from Psalm 50. In the psalm, God is the one speaking, but as I read it today, I imagined that this was the earth speaking: (The Bible quotes below are in italics, the other words are mine). Just change the word God and replace it with ‘The Earth’

The earth has been silent, but now it speaks.

The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons … our God comes and does not keep silence, (verse 1)

These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one just like yourself. But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you. (Verse 21)


In just this last year, we have seen unprecedented fires out of control, and floods devastating whole communities.

before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him. (Verse 3)

Unless the human race changes, the consequences – that are already evident – will only get worse

Mark this, then, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver. (Verse 22)

Am I stretching the words of scripture ? I don’t think so.

I am praying this prayer from CAFOD, the Catholic development agency.

Loving God,
We praise your name with all you have created.

You are present in the whole universe,
and in the smallest of creatures.

We acknowledge the responsibilities you have placed upon us
as stewards of your creation.

May the Holy Spirit inspire all political leaders at COP26 as they
seek to embrace the changes needed to foster a more sustainable society.

Instil in them the courage and gentleness to implement fairer solutions
for the poorest and most vulnerable,
and commit their nations to the care of Our Common Home.

We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son. Amen

Activism · Climate Change · community · Ecology

A Movement On The March

I’ve been trying to set aside time to write about this for a week now. Finally had to get on and do it.
Last Tuesday we walked with a group of about 15 others the 12 or so miles from Gloucester to Tewkesbury – as part of a pilgrimage from Bristol to Glasgow, timed to arrive in Glasgow for COP26.

We joined just for a day, whereas most of the group were walking for the whole two weeks. In fact there were a handful of people who were aiming to make it all the way to Glasgow!

The passion and commitment of all those making this pilgrimage is amazing to see, and we felt humbled and privileged to be a part of it.

A couple of conversations with other pilgrims have stayed with me. One conversation early on in the day was to do with wondering how effective this type of action is ? Can a relatively small group of activists really bring about change ? I imagine that those who are doing the whole walk will ask themselves this question at some point.

We had two periods of about an hour’s silence either side of our lunch stop, and I used the time to think about that conversation. One thought that came to me was to do with the teaching of Jesus about what the New Testament calls ‘The Kingdom of Heaven.’ Jesus uses images of tiny things – like a very small seed, or a small amount of yeast – and teaches that this is how God typically works. Through small things. That’s actually just as well, because most of us can only do the small things.

But it’s more than that. It’s more than knowing that God works through the small things that we offer. It’s also about how those small things can have an effect far greater than you might imagine. Those small things can be agents of change to bring about transformations that are way, way bigger than the small thing that we did.

There’s also something about the power of doing the small thing with others. The power of community to bring about change.

The other conversation that I had, later on in the day, was with H, who shared with me her passion for the good of the earth, that has resulted in her getting involved in addressing the Climate Emergency. I mostly listened. I think we have to talk now about the Climate Emergency, rather than Climate Change. While we try in small ways to make a difference in our own lives, we are in awe of those who are making big sacrifices to get this message out there.

In the week since we joined the pilgrimage, they have travelled from Tewkesbury to Malvern, Worcester, Stourport, Coventry and into Birmingham.

In the last week, I cam across this article in the Guardian, where an analysis has been done of the number of terms a variety of terms appeared on UK Television in 2020.

For example, Dog has 286,626 mentions, 22 times more than Climate Change at 12,715, and ‘Banana Bread’ is heard more times than Wind Power and Solar Power combined. See the article here.

There’s something wrong there, isn’t there.

Grace and Peace.

Activism · Bible · Ecology · Political · Prayer · World Affairs

Spirit-Led Movements Always Perplex

This is a part of chapter 5 of the book of Acts in the New Testament.

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”

This is the account of the beginnings of the church. However, at this stage, it’s a movement within Judaism, but claiming something new that is driving a wedge between the powers that be and this new phenomenon.
(The new thing being a proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus).

I’ve written before about categories that characterise the work of the Spirit …
Inclusion … (contrasted with exclusion)
Abundance v Scarcity
Economic Justice v Coercive Power
Connectedness v Individualism
Cooperation v Competition
Solidarity v Looking After #1

In the account in Acts, the tension is between:
Voices that are determined to speak, and the forces that want to silence them
New possibilities that are emerging and present arrangements
Emancipation and Intimidation

When I was thinking about how this might play out today, there are numerous examples, but one that comes to mind is Extinction Rebellion.
How might we all play a part in the fight to put the climate emergency at the top of the political agenda ?

My thoughts are also turning to Afghanistan today. Western powers have much to regret and reflect on over past mistakes, but it’s clear that an immediate concern is the way that ‘present arragements’ in the form of fundamentalism are at play:
Silencing the voices that have begun to speak, quashing the new possibilities that have been possible (education of girls for example), and using intimidation to restrict the freedoms that are a human right.

Grace and Peace, and prayers especially for the Afghan people.