There are few of us who either enter or leave this world without its presence. In between, the NHS is there for broken bones, depression, ingrowing toenails, heart attacks, cancer and all the diverse pain, fear and suffering of our lives' journeys.
Shortly after Christmas 1914, an order was issued by John French, the general in charge of the British troops on the Western Front. He had heard of the informal truces that had broken out along the front on Christmas Day. He ordered that such events must never be repeated. A year later, ahead of the following Christmas, soldiers were reminded that they would be charged with disobeying orders if there was another truce.
In recent years, Britain has slowly begun to wake up to the reality of sexual abuse. The Jimmy Saville scandal triggered shocking revelations about abuse carried out by respected entertainers in the 1970s and 80s. Child abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church have been followed by increased reports of similar outrages in the Church of England. Only this week, it was revealed that the Scout Association had paid out thousands to settle legal cases brought by survivors of sexual abuse.
A US Senate report revealing widespread use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency has stirred up heated debate. International human rights activists have called for those responsible to be held to account, though CIA director John Brennan has defended the agency’s record.
I recently preached at Kensington Unitarian Church, where I was pleased to receive a warm welcome and to engage in some good discussions. Here is the text of my sermon. I explored issues of faith, power and loyalty, looking particularly at Jesus' comments when asked if Jews should pay taxes to the Roman Emperor. I suggested this passage should be read not as a surrender to power but as a challenge to it.