The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

On Friday I received, as a member of Theos – a Christian think tank based in London – the Theos Report ‘Valuing Women: Making Women Visible’ which considered the situation of vulnerable women often with multiple and severe disadvantages and increasing lack of government support for them coupled with increasing bureaucratic demands that come with funding and the place of faith based organisations in trying to support and help. It makes for both grim and good reading – grim because of what people go through – and that includes those who provide support – and good because support which includes long-term care, prayer, valuing people no matter their context – is vitally needed. People certainly can have it tough in life. The British Government, last year, presented a report ‘Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls’ in the light of numerous horrible incidents against women and outlined its priorities to increase women’s safety and wellbeing. Women certainly can experience horrible, evil things – and too many women and girls do.

On Saturday our granddaughter, Ottilie, was born.

I am not the first grandfather to wonder what his granddaughter’s life will be like and how safe she will be in society. I had similar thoughts when my three daughters were born. I am not discounting sons at all but the discrimination and violence towards girls are a sad ‘fact of life’ for far more girls than boys and like, all of you, I wonder why our world is this way.

It doesn’t take too many seconds to arrive at answers – sin, selfishness, power, ‘I am stronger than you’, privilege (and not wanting to lose it) and then there are all the cultural, social, religious, and historical factors that shape relationships between women and men – which are different around the world – and which have changed incredibly in the last hundred years – and are still changing.

Ottilie is blessed because her parents love her and will provide for her, and most importantly, love and accept her. That won’t mean that she will not have boundaries and discipline but she will grow blessed by love that gives rather than receives. And she will be blessed when the people she meets – boys and men in particular – view her as a unique person and not as something in relation to them or for them. Perhaps that is the problem here – that people, by nature, view others from the perspective of ‘what they can give me’. Indeed Ottilie will have to learn not to look at people for what they can give her!

Such ideas – not being selfish, getting on with others – are not new in the world. Everyone makes alliances in relationships – you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. However Jesus went much further – he came to serve and not be served – to serve us all the time – there is no alliance, only grace. And Jesus’ followers are called to follow him which means that the people Christians meet are people to be served, supported, and helped – for their sakes’ (not for ours!). I hope Ottilie always meets people who will seek what is best for her – and may she grow in seeking what is best for others.

And what a world would we all create then?!