Friday, 4 March 2011

..but first it's Friday!

Women's World Day of Prayer.
The readings chosen by the women of Chile are:
Deuteronomy 8: 7-10
1 Kings 17: 8-16
Mark 6: 30-44

This is what I'm saying:

I’m always happy to talk at a Women’s World Day of Prayer service – but I nearly always have to start by saying I don’t know every much about the country we’re thinking about. I’m sure I don’t know anymore about Chile than most of you – I have unfortunately never been there – but it is a country I find fascinating and amazing.
Those of you who have had time to read the information inside the order of the service may have been as shocked as I was to read that the country is 110 miles wide and 2,640 miles long – it also includes in its possession Easter Island, 2,200 miles form the mainland in the Pacific. Transport is notoriously difficult in such a long, thin country.
80% of the country is mountainous – including the Andes range, which separates it from Argentina – and there are over 600 volcanoes: 10% of whoch have erupted at least once in the past 100 years. We know, from the news, about the most recent large earthquake in February last year, when 521 people died and half a million homes were damaged.
For the vast majority of people, Chile is a hard place to live.

So I was quite surprised to see that the women of Chile had chosen as our first Bible reading the part of Deuteronomy where we hear how God will provide for his people. It might sound a bit unrealistic or patronising – God will give you a good land, plenty of food, you will lack nothing. But remember that this promise come to the people fo Israel after they have escaped slavery in Egypt, wandered for 40 years in the desert, and survived shortage of food and water, and times of great disheartening when they wished they were back in Egypt. This people knows life can be terrible hard, but through it all they have learnt that God will provide.

Our second reading also talks about God providing in hard times. Elijah is fleeing for his life and come to Zarephath where he asks a widow to feed him. She is gathering her last scraps to have a final meal before she gives in to starvation: but Elijah tells her to trust that god will provide – and the oil and flour continue for many days.

In our gospel reading – the story of the feeding of the 5000 which we know so well – Jesus tells the disciples ‘you give the people something to eat’: but all they have is 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus prays, the food is shared and God provides enough for all – with even basketfuls leftover.

Three Bible stories which tell us how God provides for people. But God’s provision is not just for the people and times of the Bible.

I’m sure we find it hard to hear the name ‘Chile’ without now thinking of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for more than 2 months and so wonderfully rescued in October last year. The families prayed at the top of the shaft, the men prayed underground, it felt like the whole world held its breath and prayed – and we saw that God still provides.
I saw very struck at the time that the first thing that had ot happen in the rescue, before any of the men could get out, was that a team of helpers had to go down into the mine. This was an act of incredible bravery: those rescuers had to trust that they wouldn’t simply get stuck with the 33. As stories of life underground have emerged, it seems they were even braver than we knew – as the men in the mine were reporting continual rock falls and instability underground. God provided people with the technical know-how, bravery and trust to get the 33 men out. God provides.

We might think of our own examples of lives where we know that people feel trapped and hopeless. I can’t mention Egypt, as I did at the start, and not think of the upheaval of the political situation on the Middle East. But no situation is ever too hopeless for God. We should listen to the women of Chile and join them in prayer. God will provide. Amen.

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