Tag Archives: Sermon on the Mount

BandAid30 … don’t call attention to yourself

Africa Stop EbolaIt is, of course, quite fashionable to be grumpy about the latest BandAid single. Until today I’ve sat fairly quietly and more or less kept my counsel.

There have been moments when it’s not been so easy: usually sparked by Bob Geldof waxing egotistical as though one act of music-making was going to deal with a medical crisis that others had willing given their lives to try to counteract.

The media nonsense around whether or not Adele has snubbed the project to remake a tired single was peurile. To be frank – or to be Bob – if he hadn’t managed to get One Direction involved the whole project would have bombed anyway.

Then, on Sunday night, when I was unfortunate enough to see some of the X-Factor results programme and Simon Cowell appeared to hint that people needed to appreciate how crucial their crew had been to the enterprise, I realised that the real reason for making the single was fading rapidly into the background … along with quite a few musical careers … but people’s egos were not disappearing with them.

For much of the day the words of an itinerant preacher from about 2,000 years ago have been rumbling around my head. Jesus was talking to a crowd in what we often call his Sermon on the Mount – a bit of the Gospel that activists and politicians reckon we should take seriously even if the faith bit is too much for them.

Fascinatingly, The Message version of The Bible headlines the section The World Is Not A Stage.

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater [sic], but the God who made you won’t be applauding.

2-4 “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.

How lovely today to pick up a link to a track from African musicians, who were all ignored in the making of Sir Bob’s mega-single. Africa Stop Ebola features Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Omou Sangare and others. I’ve never heard of any of them but so what. They produced a piece of music that’s richer, more authentic and, frankly, better than Feed the world.

Watch it here on YouTube (there is a subtitle option so you can get the translation). You can also buy the track on iTunes and all profits go to Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders (MSF).

If you want to make a difference in the battle against Ebola, then remember what Jesus said: “When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively.”


Light up, light up …

Big Pit winding gearTelling people that they make a difference just by breathing could be seen as a bit presumptuous but that was the long and short of it when the crowds followed Jesus up a mountain all those centuries ago.

The young Rabbi was brilliant at leaving memorable pictures in his audience’s mind and that day he chose something that has echoed throughout the rest of human history.

You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.

Re-reading his words in what is now called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew’s Gospel in the New Testament of The Bible) it’s easy to forget how shocking it would have been for his listeners. The Jews were under occupation by Rome. At every turn columns of soldiers trooped past; taxation was heavy and oppression was evident in all sorts of ways.

It was a very dark time but here Jesus tells a hillside stuffed with the poor, the young and powerless women: ‘You are the light of the world’ … go on and change things.

It reminded me of being back in my home, the Eastern Valley of South Wales, and going on what is now a tourist’s visit to the Big Pit mining museum at Blaenafon (left). You put on a miner’s helmet, step into the cage and drop 90 metres down the shaft into the depths. Then, when everyone is ready to begin walking towards the pit face, the lights are turned off leaving everyone in absolute darkness.

Today, when it is impossible to escape from some form of light, the experience of being totally without it is astonishing.

How many people live lives of slow, crumbling darkness? Broken and unable to see any prospect of light at the end of their tunnel?herodian oil lamp

In Jesus’ day most households relied on the feeble, fragile light from small oil lamps barely 8cm across (right) and just able to throw some light about three feet. But when darkness fell it was this that enabled people to work, read and write.

And Jesus said: ‘You are the light of the world.’

He didn’t say that we might be if we try hard enough … or that some of us may be chosen one day … or that the richest or prettiest or tallest might be allowed to …

He looked at a hillside full of people – anyone who had chosen to turn up that day – and said: ‘You are …’. No opt-out clauses and no qualifying exams. As Snow Patrol put it in their magnificent track Run: ‘Light up, light up, as if you have a choice.’