Reflection for the twelfth Sunday after Trinity and the energy crisis.
“What king, going out to wage war….will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one….with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then…. he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.” Jesus, in Luke 14:25-33, NRSV.
‘Energy crisis is price to avoid world war says Zelensky’ – Sunday Times.
As the warfare between Russian and Ukraine continues, the weaponising of gas and energy supplies is adding to the turmoil already being faced with Russia accused of psychological warfare having turned off the Nord Stream supply. The sale of oil and gas to Europe adds £700million a day to Russia’s income and, with diminished gas supplies from Russia after EU countries imposed a price cap, fears have been sparked that this is just the start of what is to come as the battle lines are extended.
In this context, what Jesus says in today’s Gospel is significant. As crowds continue to follow him, he suggests that his followers should hate their families and take up their cross if they want to be disciples of his. Given his command to love God, neighbour and self, this may seem shocking but Jesus is not denying the importance of family. He exaggerates to make the point that, for the sake of the Kingdom, there are times when all else needs to be sacrificed for it. Given the urgency of the need for gas and oil supplies as winter draws near, much will need to be sacrificed today in order to pay massively increased bills or find other ways of keeping warm or cooking food. For many, this will be sacrificial and risky as they consider what is really important to them and what they can afford.
Jesus uses the story of a tower being built with the need to estimate the cost of it beforehand in case it cannot be completed. He also speaks of a king going to war and first sitting down to consider the numbers of troops he has and whether or not they are sufficient to defeat the enemy before calling for a peace treaty. Inevitably, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky come to mind, not least because these two powerful leaders share the same first name – which means ruler of great power. If only they were both willing to use their great power to initiate plans for peace!
Jesus also tells his followers that they must be willing to give up their possessions and, willing or not, many people are having to consider changes of lifestyle and belongings as the worldwide challenges continue. It’s a costly business but Jesus does not ask anything of his disciples that he did not ask of himself during his ministry and in dying in so awful a way but also bringing about ‘the means of grace and the hope of glory’ (General Thanksgiving, Book of Common Prayer). In these dark times, with the police warning of increased crime and social unrest, grace giving light from within and light illuminating from above is needed more than ever. As Jesus urges his followers to make difficult choices, take up their cross and follow him it may be that, because of the challenges being faced today, the means of grace and the hope that accompanies it will be discovered afresh. As the old Puritan Hymn Polished Piety puts it:
‘My soul is like a rusty lock:
Lord, oil it with Thy grace
And rub it, rub it, rub it Lord
Until I see Thy face.’
With my prayers; pob bendith,