On 20 June 2005, Sir Bib Geldof stood on the Live 8 stage with Birhan Woldu a young Ethopiam woman who would in all probability have not been alive had it not been for the the 1984 Band Aid charity single “Do they know it’s Christmas” and subsequent 1985 Live Aid concerts. As a famine-hit child, the image of Woldu became symbolic of the need for aid to Ethopia at that time. In 2006 she graduated from university. On stage Geldof held her arm high and declared “Don’t let them tell you this doesn’t work!” to much cheering. People in “the west” all too often write off aid and charitable works to two-thirds world countries, citing corrupt government and fears the aid will be misspent. In a time of recession, these excuses come all too easy for us and yet ironically that is exactly the time aid is more important.
In the last week or so I contracted Bell’s Palsy a condition in which the nerve on one side of your face is temporarily paralysed by a virus. Everything from blinking to smiling becomes tricky if nigh on impossible and, if not treated early enough, the symptoms can remain for a long time and in rarer cases permanently. Thankfully mine is a mild case and I am on the mend. On the day I went to the GP and then A&E my wife mentioned about my predicament on Twitter and Facebook and asked for prayers. Others soon retweeted and shared the post and so I found a host of messages waiting for me when I got out of hospital. In the hospital I was concerned it could have been a stroke (the symptoms are similar) and yet the doctor who took my pulse and blood pressure checked it three times because it was “much lower than expected.” – in brief my heart was fairly chilled despite my mental anxiety. I put this down to prayer. I cannot overstate the importance those prayers and the messages have made to me during this time.
In 1 Chronicles we see a lot of genealogical lists. As if God is making sure we know who was where and did what. We might think it odd because of the things some of those people did (see last month’s post for more on that) but he thinks it’s important for them to be included. Our church, like several I imagine focussed on a similar roll of honour in Matthew, this one of the genealogy of Christ with some equally interesting inclusions.
Who would your roll of honour be? Birhan Woldu might well include Geldof, Midge Ure and the other band Aid and Live Aid performers in hers but she might also include all those who bought and donated and worked to achieve so much in her life. Today I include all those who prayed and especially all those who sent me a message. At the risk of repeating myself, do not underestimate how much a simple message can make in someone’s life. Social Media is often slated and a denizen of publicity-seeking, fad-following cat-picture sharers. In the hands of God it becomes so much more, if we let it. The church is not the building, the denomination or the rituals, it’s the people. The people of God can make Social Media a place of holiness and love just by sharing and asking and praying.
Do not let them tell you this doesn’t work – it does.