Widows and orphans (26-01-23)
A Bible Reading: James 1. 22 - 27 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Since the middle of December, it has been all change in the Rectory, as we have welcomed my Mum to come and live with us. Following several falls and a spell in hospital, she was advised that she was no longer safe to continue living independently in her own home. She has been incredibly brave and gracious despite leaving her home of seventy-three years, where she has lived alone, a widow for the past eighteen years since my dad died. Now we are adjusting to family life together.
Like many elderly people, Mum loves to reminisce. The war between Russian and Ukraine reminded her of some of her wartime experiences. As a young primary school teacher in Nottingham, she was tasked with meeting evacuees off the trains from London and accompanying them to families who would care for them until it was safe for them to return to their own homes. Some were never able to return, because their families had been killed and their homes destroyed in the bombing.
Here in the Walgrave Benefice in the past year, several families have opened up their homes to Ukrainian refugees. The school children have welcomed and befriended the Ukrainian children in their classes. The pub has opened its doors and welcomed the Wednesday Coffee morning. It has been amazing to witness so many examples of selfless generosity expressed in different ways. I think all these actions put a big smile on God’s face.
As Christians, we are called to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. We are instructed to listen to the Word and then to do what it says. James goes on to say that ‘faith without deeds is dead’ (James 2. 17). Strong stuff indeed! All through the Bible there are reminders to care for the needy - widows, orphans, the poor, and the homeless. And Isaiah reminds us not to turn away from our own flesh and blood (Isaiah 58. 7). Our behaviour as Christians is a significant part of our Christian witness to others. It is quietly observed by those around us. What is more, it will result in blessing and our own lives will be enriched in unexpected ways.
Compassionate God, your everlasting arms reach out to widows and orphans, you surround them with your comfort and love. May we express your love and compassion here on earth day by day. Amen.
With a prayer you fed the hungry, Stuart Townend