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Viewpoint from Rev Derrick Hill 12/11/10

Rev Derrick Hill
Pastor, Park Baptist Church


POPPY ON CROSSThis weekend people will be gathering - in the Royal Albert Hall, around war memorials and in churches - to remember and give thanks for those who have given their lives in the service of fellow citizens. Although all who fought in the First World War trenches have now died, their stories continue to form part of our nation’s history, renewed by films, television documentaries and research into family trees. Many also have direct personal memories of more recent warfare including the Second World War, the Falklands (in which friends of mine fought), Iraq and now Afghanistan
However the giving of life in the service of others is not restricted to the military. In recent days we have read of the sad death in Afghanistan of aid worker Linda Norgrove who had dedicated her life to the service of others. In giving her life, she was not alone
Indeed every Sunday when Christians gather to worship, they do so in memory and thanksgiving for Jesus Christ who was obedient to death, even death on a cross – thus offering the hope of reconciliation to all who acknowledge His rule. Christians see all people as created in the image of Almighty God – and if the Son of God Himself was prepared to go to such lengths for others, then it is not surprising that such a quality should be part of our human DNA, being demonstrated in both believers and non-believers
One of the ways in which our concern for others has been reflected in this country has been through the Welfare State which came into being soon after the Second World War and has grown extensively since. However, the current round of public spending cuts is emphasising that such a system, which allows us to rely on dove leftothers as a right in our times of need, is not affordable. And so the government is looking to put the Welfare State through a period of retrenchment, relying upon the goodwill of communities, through voluntary groups including churches, to address many areas
But there are major contrasts between state and voluntary provision. One key issue is that whereas state provision is seen as a contractual right, resourced though obligatory taxation, voluntary services are in large part resourced through the goodwill of the volunteers and are offered under a covenant relationship with the people being helped. Covenants, under which people are supported on issues they cannot handle alone on the understanding that they will still play their own part to address issues within their abilities, are at the heart of the Christian Faith
So, as the coalition’s Big Society unfolds, churches are well motivated to contribute. We will continue to devote our lives to the service of others. But this help will surely flow from our love of God and of our fellow humanity rather than from any contractual right of those whom they offer to help. Our prayer will be that those who benefit from our service will give glory to God