Sometimes you need to take a stand - together.
On Sunday Pete was talking about how we serve.
Japanese football supporters do it by clearing rubbish at the end of each match and see this as a way of honouring their hosts and being good guests.
My mum did it by being the trusted arbitrator in our street, bringing harmony to her neighbours and offering pots of tea as balm to hurt feelings.
My sisters and I do it by caring for my mum as she struggles with dementia, patiently reminding her who she is and taking the blows and harsh words with good grace.
My team mate at work does it at a local school, helping kids to improve their maths and reading skills, giving up her lunch hour to give something back.
It's part of our God-given human nature to reach out into our community and offer a helping hand, to give time to those who ache for an empathetic ear, to offer respite to those travelling through troubled times.
Jesus led by example and stated his position clearly - he said that he came to serve. And to hammer the point home he knelt down and washed each of his disciples' dirty feet despite their protests. Even the feet of Judas.
When Jesus taught he distinguished between those who follow him by how they serve, because by serving the weak and disadvantaged they are serving and loving him.
So, ask yourself: how do I serve?
WHEN YOU SERVE
"When you serve,
start with the feet.
And when you serve,
get down low
with a towel and a water bowl.
And when you serve,
find your honour not over,
So when you serve,
don't wait your turn,
but push your way
right to the back.
And there you'll find
nothing to prove,
nothing to hide
and nothing to loose
but your pride.
Yes, you heard,
when you serve
observe his example:
Undo a sandal
and start with the feet.
And there you will be blessed."
Life can appear to throw curve balls at times. Conflict can emerge from the most unlikely quarters. Life can be tough.
But here's what I've learned...
It's in your paths' twists and turns, in the unexpected, the unplanned, the inconvenient and in the downright pain in the backside, that you will find grace and direction. So embrace the God-shaped surprises that you stumble over; laugh with the angels as the next stepping stone seems to shift and stride out knowing that your Father has a plan.
It's at the edge of your comfort zone where God will meet you and where you'll see his hands at work. So don't hesitate to go there and meet him and marvel at his works.
And take his word as your guide: His written words will sometimes act as a sword to pierce, cutting through unnecessary distractions. Sometimes his written words will act as spears in the ground to set safe boundaries for you to find confidence as to how far you can go. But always his written word will provide light for your paths, giving you direction.
So walk on.
Everyone has a back story, an origin tale.
That new guy at the office, the single mum who moved in next door, the woman who just opened your newest local coffee shop: they each have a back story.
I went to see 'Solo' this weekend and we heard how Hans got his name, we saw Hans meet Chewy for the first time (mud and chains are involved) and we got to know Lando a little better (he has a lot of capes). Okay, it's not up there with The Force Awakens, but it's a very entertaining film and touches on key aspects of Hans' character, giving fans much to talk about. ( The question of 'did he draw first?' is revisited which got us talking to a complete stranger on the way out.)
I've got a back story too. I'm in my fifties and have a definite 3 act story line playing out. But I get to chose who I tell that story to, who I share my defining moments with.
One of the places I get to do this is at Redeemer, my local church in Ealing. Whilst it's still true that only my God knows the full story, I can say that I've found honest people with whom I get to reveal the cards held close to my chest, share my tears and disclose my scars.
It's my prayer that you too will find a community in which you can tell your story: the mud, the chains and those capes.
May God's grace be with you.
Sometimes you are well advised to stop, find a park bench and soak up God's creation in all its wonder.
I wrote this on a park bench in the Peak District.
Lord of life,
of colour and colour,
of breeze and light.
Lord of bluebell and butterfly,
of birdsong and birds' flight.
Lord of space to think,
of time to rest.
Lord of movement,
I sit here and I confess
my sunshine celebration
of this, your full spectrum,
this rainbow-wide gifted creation.
I sit and give thanks
for this sustained life,
of greens and blues in yellow light,
of this colour full to the brim life,
of fresh composed songscape,
this God given escape.
I thank you, Lord, for this gateway,
this fresh every morning,
gifted new day.
Ealing is a magnet for the world, with over 170 nationalities represented within its borders. From WWII Polish refugees to millennial Syrians. Each community has made a home here and has added its culture, its recipes, its colour, its recipes, languages, its recipes, its traditions and its recipes to the existing smorgasbord that is London.
The family of Redeemer London reflects some of this smorgasbord - it's one of the things I love most about getting together on Sunday mornings.
This Sunday (20 May) we'll be celebrating this multi-national nature of our church with many sporting their national dress. You'll be most welcome to add to the colour. Meanwhile, here's my personal manifesto for an international church.
"I believe in one international church. I believe in an inter-racial and unbiased church of many nations. I believe in one church of many traditions. I believe in one church not hemmed in by history or by man-made borders. I believe in a God for whom his pallet of skin colours reflects his love of diversity. I believe in God-given racial differences. I believe in one creator God who made all mankind equal. I believe in a church that reflects her maker's love of difference.
"I do not believe in uniformity.
"I believe in the common language of love for one another, for neighbours and for enemies that transcends local dialects. I believe in one sundry collection of priests who are called to serve one God together, saved by one sacrifice once and for all time. I believe in the promise of a resurrected church drawn from all generations to meet her bridegroom. I believe in one eternal wedding feast which features everything from the finest vegetable samosas to the richest steam puddings. I believe in one extravagant Father who has built one massive mansion with many rooms so all his people can come and dwell together.
"I believe in God's - Kingdom - come. "
I am moved by the words of Millicent Fawcett - not so much by the words themselves, but their context.
Millicent Fawcett was a suffragist. She campaigned for equal rights for women, but shunned violence as a way of achieving it. In particular she advocated higher education for girls and women as well as arguing for women's enfranchisement. She wanted to ensure women were equipped to wield the power of the vote and to represent themselves and their wants.
But it's her words in response to the death of the suffragette Emily Wilding Davidson, at the Epsom Derby in June 2013, that have been chosen to be incorporated into her statue in Parliament Square:
"Courage calls to courage everywhere, and its voice cannot be denied."
Emily Davidson was a teacher and a passionate Christian and socialist. And she believed that violence was justified to further the campaign for women's suffrage, which led to multiple arrests and detention. (One of her fellow suffragettes described her as reckless in her militancy.)
In contrast Millicent Fawcett, widow to a Liberal MP and herself a political campaigner for women's right to vote since before Emily was born, did not support violent protest: "I can never feel that setting fire to houses and churches and litter boxes and destroying valuable pictures really helps to convince people that women ought to be enfranchised," she said.
So, two women campaigning for the same end from two very different points of view and using very different methods. Emily the passionate militant. Millicent the political activist. One fighting from outside the political establishment and one working from within.
And it's their differences that make Millicent's response to Emily's death all the more striking. Millicent recognised a resonance with the courage shown by Emily and the power of her sacrifice.
Historians will debate the strength of the impact of their respective positions and activities. Millicent's view was simple - Emily's courage could not be denied. And I have no doubt that Millicent was emboldened to persevere for the first (albeit limited) suffrage of women in 1918, the same year in which (some) women were permitted to stand for parliament.
As a country we have much to thank the suffragettes and the suffragists for. They saw an injustice and sacrificed years of their lives campaigning to overturn it.
IT'S A CHALLENGE FOR US ISN'T IT.
What are you passionate about? What do you pour your time and energy into? What stirs your courage? Where will you speak out and not be denied a voice? Where will you make a difference?
I pray that you find your courage and that you hear the call of others with the same courage and passion and that you take strength from them.