Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: A Famine in the Land

Fourth Sunday of Easter
3 May 2020
10.30 Morning Service

Revd Nicholas Mercer

I was at Theological College at the time of the financial crisis in 2008

I recall it very vividly as there was a brief moment when the country held its breath believing that the banking system was on the verge of collapse

At the time, a fellow student asked me what possible lessons we could draw from the Bible about the financial crisis

He felt that the global banking system was so far removed from the Bible that it had little to offer in this particular time of crisis

I disagreed and replied that, in my view, the story of Joseph in the Old Testament was instructive

Thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber, we all know the story well

Having been warned in a dream of a looming disaster, Joseph stored a surfeit of grain, to make proper provision for the famine that ensued

As a result, his Father and his brothers were able to share in the surplus which he had prudently stored – and we heard this story this morning

Like the story of Joseph we too are beginning to experience our own famine

Although we are still at the beginning of this crisis, the economic indicators are very alarming

One-in-three private sector employees are either furloughed or have lost their jobs.

Three quarters of households have already suffered a fall in their incomes

The government will need to sell £180bn of gilts in the next three months to cover the cost

This is no ordinary crisis and we could be on the verge of the worst recession in our lives

However, thanks to the financial headroom built into our economy, we too have seen, at the same time, some extra-ordinary acts of generosity

At a national level we are seeing help being extended across society to those who are suffering

Although the system is not perfect, the intention to help as many of our fellow citizens as possible is admirable and a wholly commendable course of action by the State

At a civic level there have been extra-ordinary acts of generosity, from the donation of food to foodbanks Foodbanks, the making of scrubs to the heroic Captain Tom

And there is anecdotal evidence of families pulling together to help each other out in this famine

Luckily, for some at least, there is some grain in the barn

Like Joseph before us, we all need to think about helping out in this time of national crisis  

And I thank each and every one of you for doing so in so many different ways

But returning to the question posed by my fellow student over a decade ago and the relevance of the Bible

Approached in a prayerful manner, the Bible is never out of date and always contemporary

These are not just writings composed in the distant past but are relevant to us all – in the here and now

The Bible possesses sacramental power, transmitting grace to the reader

Grace from which the current generosity derives

The story of Joseph this morning is put alongside Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit which is to come after his Ascension

Just as Joseph has made provision for the time of famine, so God has made provision for us

In our time of famine from the Lord Jesus Christ, and in our nation, God has sent the Holy Ghost as our Comforter

Just as God shares his Holy Spirit from yesterday, we share our grain today

It is a gift given in grace, like ours to our fellow men and women