Called to serve God by increasing awareness of His presence and declaring His love

MOUSEY MOMENT … churchmouseLOVE, PRAY, VOTE

Every election presents an opportunity for citizens to participate critically and constructively in the democratic process.

There will be a UK general election on 4 July 2024.

“How you doin’?” This famous line from Joey, played by Matt LeBlanc in the late 90s and early 2000s American sitcom ‘Friends’, often brings a smile to those who recall the antics that would entail. When we are asked this simple question, our programmed responses are usually, “I’m fine, thanks. How about you?”

As the 4th of July General Election in the UK quickly approaches, Christians are encouraged to engage thoughtfully and prayerfully. This requires us to create or recommit to making space in our daily rhythm to pause, reflect, and pray. The political climate, both domestically and globally, is marked by uncertainty and division, making our role as Christians even more crucial.

In Matthew 6, Jesus, in His care for His followers, reminds them of God’s care for them in times of difficulty. Implicit in His encouragement is a gentle but firm challenge for them to recognise those moments where they may experience feelings of being overwhelmed: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life” (Matthew 6:25). This statement has profound implications for how we, as Christians, should live in times of uncertainty, for in times of uncertainty, one thing remains certain: the sovereign care of a loving Father. Once convinced of this certainty, we are able to collaborate with His activity in our everyday lives.

Praying During the Election Period

As we prayerfully engage with the upcoming election, it’s essential to ground our actions in the certainty of God’s care and loving action towards and through us. Here are some themes you might reflect on in your prayers:

  • Pray that political debates will be characterised by listening, kindness and truthfulness: Pray that voters will listen actively and demonstrate love-filled curiosity towards those they may disagree with or do not understand.
  • Pray for those standing in the elections and supporting the democratic process to act with integrity and honesty, prioritising the common good over personal or party political interests.
  • Pray for a peaceful and respectful campaigning period, free from violence and divisiveness.
  • Pray for policies that promote justice, equity, and care for the marginalised, reflecting Christ’s love and compassion.

After preaching one Sunday, an elderly, long-standing member came up to the Minister and, with her ordinary but glorious smile, asked, “How are you doing?” Without a thought, he responded, “I’m fine, thanks, and you?” She smiled and slowly responded, “I’m well if you are well.” The Minister was struck to the core. What a radical way of being – if our neighbours are not well, are we truly well?

The General Election presents an opportunity for Christians to engage by encouraging a trajectory that witnesses to the transformative power of Jesus in the world. By loving our neighbours, praying fervently, and voting responsibly, sowing seeds of hope, we can contribute to a society that better reflects the values we find in Jesus.

Read 1 Samuel 8 v4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11 v14-15)

The leaders of Israel come to Samuel to ask for a king. Samuel does not think this a good idea but, after praying to God, he comes back to them with God’s warning about what having a king would mean – conscripted armies, tithes and taxes. Sounds a bit like our modern-day Parliament with each Party Leader vying to be the next prime Minister & promising to introduce updated versions of old policies (eg Rishi Sunak’s military/voluntary national service for 18-year-olds), promising tax cuts while still having to tackle the Cost of Living crisis, promising this & promising that! What will the next Government mean for us? But the people of Israel insist.

Who was to be Israel’s king?

During the period of the judges, the answer was God. The judges emerged as charismatic leaders, often in times of crisis, but their authority depended on God’s validation. God had called Israel to be a unique nation directly under his care, a community bound by covenant, a ‘priestly kingdom and a holy nation’ (Exodus 19 v6). But now Israel was asking to move away from this model and be ruled by a king, ‘like other nations’ (v5). They were rejecting the special status offered by God and wanted to adopt the pattern followed by their neighbours. It’s possible to identify social and political reasons for this choice. They were under pressure from the military threat presented by the Philistines, who had kings. Samuel was ageing and his sons were not suitable to take up his role. The elders of Israel recognised the possibility of a power vacuum and took steps to avoid it.

Samuel was clearly opposed to this move. God’s words to him reassured him that they were not rejecting his prophetic authority but God, setting this in the long history of ambivalent relationships between the Israelites and God. Samuel shared God’s words of warning: a king would build a new kind of economy where the land and its produce was held centrally, and the people would be forced into forms of employment that created luxury and glory for the king and his courtiers but left the sons and daughters of Israel demeaned and unprotected in servile roles. Yet God opted to allow the Israelites to make the choice for kingship. However, God set up a way of king-making that ensured the king was God’s choice, not the peoples. It was Samuel who would have responsibility for identifying Israel’s king, and he would anoint him in line with God’s direction. Elsewhere too it’s clear that God kept control of the process – Deuteronomy 17 v14-19 restricts the wealth and wives of the king, who is to be chosen by God. 1 Samuel 12 v14 is explicit: the king must follow the Lord.
Though kingship is not God’s preferred option for governing Israel, this passage describes a compromise in which God responds to the people’s wishes in ways that ensure ultimate control remains where it belongs – with the Lord, with whom they are in a covenant relationship.

The choices made by those in this reading from 1 Samuel 8 impacted many generations that followed; and some of those consequences were big. What influences and contributes to choices that we make? Are we aware of what the consequences will or might be? Where is God in the decisions we make? And if we feel anxious about such things, remember that there is no choice that can’t be used by God to draw us closer to the kingdom. Understand that our choices will have consequences & let us let God help us in the choices we make.

Let us heed the call to Love, Pray, and Vote guided by the values we find in Jesus’s teachings. In doing so, we can contribute to positive change in our world, reflecting God’s love and justice in every action we take.