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Remembrance: Good Guys, Bad Guys

James 1: 19-27.


My very first lesson in ministry came when I was at Castlemilk West. Things were going really bad.

I had gone there with the enthusiasm of youth and I was going to change the world. And as the days turned to weeks turned to months it was becoming clear that things weren't really changing for the better.

I had gone for a walk in Linn Park and was walking towards a fence round a pond when my foot accidentally kicked a rock into the pond. As my look followed the path of the rock it landed in the water and sank without trace.

And my first thought was that that was like my ministry.

I was putting all this effort into my work and it was disappearing without a trace.

But then I noticed something else. When the rock hit the water it created a splash and ripples of that splash went on and on and on.

And it dawned on me that that is often what we do.

We create wee splashes of influence and they ripple out.

This is my point. There is one thing that we have no choice in. God made us to have significance. Because of that we create ripples of influence in the lives we touch.

The trouble is that sometimes we are not the good guys and the ripples we create are destructive.

Like the on-going riots going on in Honk Kong just now.

We see them on the news and they are happening on the other side of the world and we could argue that they have nothing to do with us.

But you could also argue that those riots are ripples of bad decisions made by us, by Britain.

Way back, two centuries back in the 1800’s, the British Empire was worried because of trade with China. Everyone wanted Chinese goods and the Chinese didn’t want anything from Britain. So that meant that all the wealth of the British Empire was being used to buy things in China.

The Empire saw this as a threat so they flooded China with opium so that they would create a nation of addicts that would pay anything for their drug supply.

In 1839 Emperor Lin wrote to Queen Victoria asking her to do the morally right thing and stop the opium trade that was destroying the lives of so many of his people.

When he failed to get any response at all he captured over 20,000 chests of opium to destroy the drug supply.

Britain went to war over that against China and won.

In that victory, and other conflicts that followed, they forced China to give them land for 99 years, part of that land was Honk Kong.

They probably thought that 99 years was so far into the future that everyone would have forgotten about handing it back.

But the Chinese government didn’t.

And in the early 1990’s China reminded the British that they were going to get their land back.

And so in 1997 the British government handed back Hong Kong.

But they hardly prepared the people of Hong Kong for that event.

So we had the Chinese culture taking over the Honk Kong culture, and the people of Honk Kong have felt more and more threatened by that.

Until they have started to riot.

We create ripples of influence.

We may not always be the good guys.

But we may not always be that bad guys.

There was a country called Yugoslavia that was ruled by a dictator called Tito.

It was a country of many types of people; Serbs, Croatians, Albanians, many types of religions; Christians, Muslims.

And there had been tensions between these groups.

These tensions where held down by the dictator Tito.

But when Tito died these tensions erupted as each group tried to grab power.

In a place called Kosovo the Serbian army threatened to eliminate the Muslim population.

Over 13,000 people went missing presumed dead, over 1.2 million became refugees, within two years.

British soldiers, under the banner of peacekeepers, went in to stop the killing and create stability until peace treaties could be created.

We create ripples of influence.

We have no choice in that.

And when we think we have no choice we make decisions that are badly formed and still have consequences.

Our craving for cheap clothes; that we order on the internet, try once, and then send back...that has consequences. The need for firms to source cheaper and cheaper clothing ended up with a factory in Bangladesh going on fire in 2012 because the health and safety procedures were terrible, the factory equipment was badly made and the place was crammed with poor, cheap labourers...117 died, over 200 were injured.

Lessons weren’t learnt. Nobody checked any of the other factory buildings for weaknesses and a year later the Rana Plaza collapsed and over 1045 textile workers making clothes for western companies died.

Our craving for cheap food, especially cheap meat causes thousands of acres of Amazon rainforest to be destroyed every year.

Our want for new things creates a need for single plastics to cover all that stuff that ends up on our oceans and now we have plastic islands that are killing our marine ecosystem. In the Pacific Ocean there are two of these plastic dumps and between them they have over 100 million tons of plastic in them.

We create ripples of influence.

We have no choice in that.

If today is about anything it is about remembering that when bad choices are made then that has terrible consequences.

Politicians choose to go to war, and so many people died because of those choices.

But before those people choose to go to war there were decisions made about how we treated people, how we influenced others, how we behaved towards other countries, other peoples, other religions...that rippled and rippled until the ripple became a tsunami of destruction that seemed inevitable.

And now it is our turn.

Our lives, our actions, our words, will create ripples.

We need to remember that.

God created us to have significance.

We have no choice in whether or not we create ripples.

We do have a choice on whether we create ripples for good or for evil.

So what will it be?

What effects will our actions, or words have on our families?

Will we encourage and help, will we be indifferent or even hurt?

What effects will our actions, our words have on our neighbours?

Will we create a community of care or a community of indifference, or even a community of hostility?

What effects will our actions, our words have on our workmates, our colleagues, our friends?

Will we bring hope into their lives or despair?

Will we help them be the best they can be, or encourage them to be the worst they can be?

What effects will our actions our words have on those people we touch for a single moment in the day?

Will we be influences for bringing light into their life, or influencers for bringing shadow into their lives?

The men and women we remember today, their lives mattered, their deaths mattered, that is why we remember them.

But in remembering that their lives matter we need to remember that our lives are important too, our lives make a difference.

Let us have the wisdom to use our lives to make a difference for good.

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