Week 4: Simple living – power and powerlessness.
This month’s prayers follow the theme of this year’s World Federation Day, ’Living Simply’.
Read: two stories this week: 1 Kings 17:5f and 1 Samuel 21
These are two cracking stories from the Hebrew scriptures that draw our attention to two other aspects of simple living – and it’s interesting that both of them are stories of the lives of women.
The story of the widow who is down to her last tin of beans, so to speak, is a salutary reminder that simplicity of lifestyle is not a choice for millions of the world’s people, it is a fact of life. When I think about the week to come it is full of choices about what we shall eat, what I shall wear, what I might do and where I might go. For many, the word ‘choice’ in that sentence could be replaced with the word ‘worry’.
This is not just true for people living in ‘poor countries’ but is true for too many people living in our own country – one of the richest countries in the world. It was a factor when I was growing up – it may well have been for you too. We must not romanticise simplicity like Marie-Antoinette, living in a palace but playing at being a shepherdess in a cottage when it suited her. This makes a travesty of the lives of others. Or try ‘pretend poverty’ like those MPs who live on benefits for a week and tell the world it’s all marvellous if you budget properly. The Bible is quite clear that we should be caring towards the poor.
And yet…chosen simplicity can be powerful! – look at Rizpah who camps out on the hillside with little more than a sheepskin rug! She is powerfully moved by events around her and compelled to defend her own. To these is added a third dimension not fully evident from the story – her actions are very visible from inside the city of Jerusalem and a real challenge to King David who is acting against God’s Law in leaving the bodies of the dead exposed. Her story reminds me of women in my lifetime who have courageously stood out to challenge the powers that be. I think of the Mothers of the Disappeared in South America or the Women’s March for Peace in Northern Ireland – women who, like Rizpah, could see there was something very wrong in their world, were personally close to the tragedy and knew how to use their presence to change the world.
How can we make our inclination towards simplicity more than a private act? How can we be simple, yet simple world-changers?
And so we pray:
Son of God,
Man for others,
We bring to you our own needs.
(Pause and take time to sit with God and share your own worries and concerns)
We bring to you those in our world who have particular needs and concerns. Keep us ever alert to the lives of others. Help us to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the Law of Christ.
(Pause to sit with God and be mindful of the needs of God’s people, local and global)
Inspire our hearts and our lives with the power of your Holy Spirit that we may live more selflessly and act more courageously as change seekers and change makers.
Pause to sit with God and consider how God wants the world to be, and what you might contribute to that)
As your people we ask it.
This week, be more Rizpah! How can you overlay your personal commitment to a better world with action that challenges the world’s rulers to do better. At the very least this week, write to your MP so they know what some of their quieter voters are also passionate about.