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Age UK & Elisha

There is something odd going on in my house. You see we have an electric shower which has a little knob for controlling the temperature. It seems to me when I was studying elementary anatomy that we all had the same body temperature, naturally I have it in my mind in Fahrenheit, 98.6. but the more modern among you will think of 37 degrees Celsius. Cats by the way are hotter I think but we humans are more or less all the same. So why is it then that when I am the last one into the shower I turn it on in anticipation of warmth and comfort and I get scalded! You would think that once that little knob had been set for Frances or William or Patrick or indeed anyone that it would work for us all, but no the water emerges far too hot – at least one of the members of my family it seems to me must be made of asbestos!

Unfortunately whatever the peculiarities of my household we are not all warm. Age UK the largest UK charity helping the elderly whose motto is “Improving Later Life” tells us that one elderly person dies every seven minutes due to cold conditions! Which is why I was interested in their campaign called “Spread the warmth” which was run last week to draw attention of government, other major organisations and individuals to the need to make provision for better insulation of homes and to provide additional help for those in difficulty. As you know I was attracted by the idea of knitting a model house which I did and there is a picture of it in the cross aisle for those of you who are interested – the original has been given to the charity to give to someone as a doorstop – it is weighed down with beans. Speaking of which there is also on the cross aisle a little recipe book with ideas for hot stews and so on good stomach lining foods to keep the penetrating grey days outside. In another booklet called “Winter wrapped up” there is a thermometer – which shows in this case that the churchwardens have the boiler under control but which more usefully can be given to people to check the temperature in their living rooms and bedrooms. Please take some with you to give to neighbours and friends – if we run short Judy has a large boxful that she will bring to the next ladies guild meeting.

So this is about helping our neighbours or as Bishop Alan would phrase it transforming communities – but to do that we first have to observe – we have to look out for one another. This morning’s story of Elisha who was Elijah’s attendant begins with his determination to accompany Elijah until the moment the Lord took him: "As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you” he says. This idea is emphasised by his following Elijah’s request to keep looking, watching and caring. His later ministry encompasses many miracles, one of which is the everlasting jar of oil to help the widow beset by creditors who are planning to take her sons , and another the feeding of a hundred men from twenty loaves of barley and a little grain. Elisha is described in the book of Kings as “The man of God” and he has a heart for the poor and the weak – he was a beloved leader of the prophetic guild and his human greatness, piety, and willingness to help were lovingly remembered and recorded. But see, he was observant: On another occasion when a Shumannite woman comes to tell him that her son is dying he sees her from far off and sends his servant running to her instructing him to ask her: “Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?”

We do need to observe those around us for signs that they may be in difficulty and we should not be too shy. It may be that in our present age of privacy and concern for the integrity of people’s personal lives that we are wary of asking questions. We may be timid about asking an elderly neighbour for example - “Tell me is it warm in your house?”

But this attention to our community is important. Tertullian writing in the early second century before his conversion to the faith remarked that the difference then in the Christian community was that “they looked after one another” and he cited this as the principal reason for the astonishing growth in their numbers. Let us remember always to care for the vulnerable around us –

“Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right? Is it warm in your house?”

Amen.


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