May the words that I speak, and the thoughts of my heart, be acceptable in your sight O Lord my strength and my redeemer.
In social media there is a trend for moaning about trivial matters. In the last few years, in recognition of our triviality in the west in comparison with the problems of the developing world, there has grown a new trend: when people post about a trivial irk of theirs they follow it up with the hashtag #firstworldproblems.
Here are a few of my favourite #firstworldproblems
Help! No milk for my brew!
Just put the washing out and now it starts to rain.
Discovering that we have no bacon, when everyone in the house wants bacon and eggs for breakfast.
Another thing I think we’re pretty good at in life is making ridiculous statements of over-exaggeration. Dave Gorman on his comedy programme Modern Life is Good(ish), recently picked up on some of the most stupidly wild claims that are used in advertising. For example: using the word “luxury” to describe ordinary everyday objects. Here are some “luxury” sponges!
And we are all guilty of exaggeration. Who hasn’t said, “My mum’s going to kill me!”?
I distinctly remember saying this in desperation when I was 10, on school residential, crawling through the undergrowth in a forest in the snow when my friends and I had got lost orienteering. I had lost my cream bobble hat in our frantic panic and insisted that we all crawl back where we had come from to retrieve my hat because otherwise “my mum would kill me”!
Here are some others:
When you are a bit hungry:
“I could literally eat a horse right now.” Really? Literally?
When someone does you a small favour:
“You’re a lifesaver!”
Or for a minor act of kindness:
“That’s so heroic of you!”
Triviality and exaggeration have pared our vibrant and expressive English language down so that some of the best ways we have of expressing ourselves have lost all power and meaning. Carrying a person’s shopping for them is kind, but it’s hardly heroic. Mending someone’s printer is helpful, but it is hardly a life or death situation.
What does it really mean to be a hero? Earnest Sidney Bailey, who we have heard the story of already this morning, has been described as a ‘true hero’.
According to the dictionary, a hero is “A man or woman distinguished by exceptional courage.”
The Bible says this “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Today we have the privilege of honouring the courage of soldiers past and present who have laid down their lives not only for their friends, but for strangers too, for the cause of freedom and justice and to preserve our nation. We give thanks for them.
Thankfully, for the majority of us, there is not much opportunity in life to be heroes. We are unlikely to be conscripted into the armed forces or to find ourselves at the front line in a conflict situation. Yet still, the Bible exhorts the same for us as it does for our armed forces. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Loving isn’t easy. It doesn’t always come naturally. If it did, we wouldn’t need to be commanded to do it! Loving can be really difficult. Choosing to love can take all our strength and all our will power.
Yet, as in the words of the Doctor, in last night’s episode of Doctor Who, “Love isn’t an emotion; love is a promise.” And that Christ loves us is a promise. When we know that we are loved, and that love will never end, will never fade, that we can do nothing that would cause that love to leave, how much easier is it then to give love. We can be secure in God’s love that never fails.
And because we know this love, we can act on this love.
Whilst for the majority of us we need not sacrifice our lives, we are still called to ‘lay down our lives for our friends’.
Be the hero. Be distinguished by exceptional courage:
Stand up for the oppressed, the marginalised, the forgotten.
Stand up for what is right and good in the face of evil.
Tell someone about that bully.
Campaign against slavery.
Speak out for those who have no voice.
Do what it takes to love as Christ has loved us.