Possible world: Human suffering – how can I show care?
This evening saw the third ‘Possible world’ session in the church at 6pm. The theme was ‘Human suffering: how can I show care?’ The session was led by Fiona, Simeon and Jonathan.
The session began with a warm-up question. ‘With all the needs and suffering that we are exposed to directly, or through TV appeals and charity letters, what draws you to respond to some and not to others?’
There followed a refection:
‘We live in an age when global interconnectivity and technology gives us continuous access to almost the whole world – and the whole world’s problems. Images of violence and suffering come before our eyes so frequently that we can easily feel overwhelmed. We can sometimes doubt our ability to do anything that will really make a difference. That is why the prophetic hope that another world is possible is so important. We can’t address all the suffering in our world, but we believe that God is at work in the world and that he will ultimately transform all things for good. We see this hope at work in the life of Jesus. In his encounters with those who were sick, hungry, socially marginalised and grieving, Jesus was moved to compassion and action.
In both his suffering and his acts of compassion, Jesus presents an alternative value system to the one that surrounds us. He challenges our culture’s obsession with comfort and instant solutions and reminds us that another world is possible. To follow Jesus in prophetic mission is to wrestle with the tension that a new world – the kingdom of God – has come in the person of Jesus, yet we must wait until he returns to experience it fully. To live prophetically is to imagine, long and wait for a world that is healed and set right with God, and to do what we can to join with him in bringing that to life.
The groups read Mark 10:46-52
and then reflected on the following questions:
What can we learn from how Jesus responds to someone in need?
Jesus and the prophets before him remind us of the hope that another world is possible. To follow Jesus in prophetic mission is to wrestle with the tension that a new world – the kingdom of God – arrived in the person of Jesus, as we can see in this healing of the blind man, yet we must wait until he returns to experience it fully. In what way have you experienced this tension?
Making a difference in a suffering world
There followed a video, where two speakers, Ann-Marie Wilson and John Wheatley reflected on their encounters with people who are suffering, and then the following questions were given to stimulate further discussion:
Ann-Marie reflects on how easy it is to feel bombarded by media images of suffering in our world. Have you experienced this bombardment, and if so, how have you responded?
Ann-Marie claims that we are not called to a ‘cosy existence.’ What is your response to this?
Ann-Marie reflects that Jesus is someone who ‘suffered hugely, and who also got involved with the people who were suffering.’ In what ways does this speak to you?
Ann-Marie first became aware of female genital mutilation (FGM) when she visited a clinic in Darfur. It wasn’t until several years later that she felt called to do something about it. Ann-Marie reminds us that we are not called to everything. What person, issue or situation do you/your group/ your church feel called to respond to?
John Wheatley talks about the value of taking small steps, and that Jesus himself took small steps in coming alongside one person at a time. How might this encourage you?
Suggestions for action
Look with fresh eyes at the places where you spend time. As a group, identify all the places that you dwell in: where you live, work, study, hang out, socialise, got for recreation. As you visit these places in the next week, open your eyes to the people who share these spaces with you. Are there visible points of need? Who are the marginalised?
Join with what others are already doing Is it necessary to start a new programme if there are other local organisations responding to a particular need? As a group, identify what other agencies, charities and the local authority are doing in your area. Where could you volunteer? This could be an amazing opportunity to stand in solidarity alongside others, to build relationships and to find out more about others’ needs. How can your group or church build positive relationships with existing efforts that are not necessarily run by Christians?
Look locally Jesus’ compassion led to acts of transformation. Ann-Marie and John’s compassion for those they lived with, or travelled among, catalysed transforming action. Find out where there may be needs in your local community. In what ways might you and your group be led to begin a small act of transformation?
Start small Remember that the smallest thing can make a difference. Who is in difficulty that you could offer to pray for, to visit and keep in touch with?
Overwhelmed by news? Reflect on your interaction with newspapers, TV, internet and radio. Instead of letting them overwhelm you, ask what ways could these media sources be used to help you to take a small action?
Be globally aware Explore ways in which your group can show compassion and contribute to transforming action in another part of the world. Which areas of the world, or particular issues, are important to members of your group? Is there a charity or mission agency working in those particular areas that you could support? Are there people like Ann-Marie Wilson that you could commit to supporting through prayer, finance and in other practical ways?