Simplicity is a complicated business.
This month’s prayers follow the theme of this year’s World Federation Day, ’Living Simply’.
Read: Philippians 2:1-13
When I was at University there was a young man who became famous because he gave away pretty well all of his student grant to charity (yes, grants were a thing in those days!). He didn’t have a college room but, instead, slept on other people’s floors. It struck me that we all got to hear about him but we never heard about the people who made his simplicity of lifestyle possible – the people whom he inconvenienced, the people who used their money so that he didn’t have to. It cost others a lot to keep him in poverty. His oft-sung ‘virtue’ worked because other people made unsung compromises.
Living a simple life can be more complicated than it sounds! I hope that we are all trying to ‘do our bit’ (in fact more than our bit!) for the climate but it’s not always straightforward. I once read a long article about the relative merits of using paper towels or hand dryers in public washrooms – a lot of discussion but with no conclusion! Meat, veggie or vegan? Keep your old diesel going or get a new electric car? Rely on public transport when you have to be back to get the kids from Beavers? Give up flying and never see the family again? It can be difficult to get good information; one person’s ‘good’ can be another’s ‘very bad idea’; some things sound great but just don’t fit with the personal pressures of daily living or are just too expensive. Our search for simplicity can leave us confused, frustrated or with feelings of failure. We end up annoyed with others whose expectations we can’t fulfil or who are just a little bit too smug about what they are doing!
We see Jesus as having a simple lifestyle – ‘foxes have their lairs and the birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’ (Matthew 8:20). Yet, behind the scenes, his ministry was funded from the resources of a group of women who we might guess were managing all the pressures of life with which we are familiar (Luke 8:2). His disciples ‘left everything’ to follow him – except that they apparently also kept their fishing businesses ticking over to go back to after the resurrection. Several of Paul’s letters urge believers to donate to the poor in Jerusalem – why? it’s thought this relates to the situation in Acts 2 where, in the first flurry of enthusiasm, people in the Early Church gave away everything they had! It’s complicated.
Philippians 2 is a helpful passage in this context. It reminds us that, through the incarnation, God did not cut himself off from the messiness of human life but fully embraced it. He spoke of peace but had disciples who carried swords. Experiencing confusion, conflict and compromise is a fact of life in this world in which God has called us to live – in which God lives himself! The world
doesn’t come with easy answers but it is here that God calls us to a single-minded search for goodness. That’s where the simplicity lies.
And so we pray:
You have set us in a world of complexity.
We rejoice in the intricacy of the natural world, the richness of our relationships;
in ingenuity and creativity.
(pause to give thanks for all the complicated things from which our/your world benefits)
We rejoice in the simple things
A pretty flower, the touch of a hand, a conversation on the bus
Your grace in a cup of tea.
(pause to give thanks for all the simple things from which our/your world benefits)
As we navigate all the challenges of daily living, help us to see you present, incarnate in our world.
Move us with great love for your world – for each other,our planet and ourselves.
Give us your Spirit’s energy to keep choosing a life that is worthy of the one whose name we bear.
In his name we ask it
ask yourself a ‘green’ question and take time to try to get to the bottom of the answer. OR take time to do something that is unarguably good for the planet like plant a tree… (I am trying to use the search engine ‘ecosia’ instead of google – they plant a tree for every search… and you get a little tree counter in the top corner to show how many trees you’ve already planted!)