On taxes, nose hair and love

Intergenerational strife is not new, and while social policy change is important, Jesus models a different way of being. Life as a follower of the One who is described as the Alpha and the Omega, beginning and end, is radically counter-cultural, as illustrated in John 13. Thought for the Day this morning followed the release of the New Generational Contract proposed this week by The Resolution Society.  As ever, you can listen again here by scrolling forward to 01:23:00 or simply read it below. Thanks are due to my good friend, Ali Laing, whose quote is used (and exaggerated somewhat!):

Good morning.

I was in a meeting yesterday with a friend who has just had a significant birthday.  “I’ve never been more interested about my hair cuts than I am now I’ve turned 40,” was his main complaint, “And don’t get me started on my nose hair.”

Each generation has its own troubles.

A report released this week by the Resolution Society proposes reforms to help young adults facing stagnant wage levels and the housing crisis. Meanwhile, older people in our society are dealing with care bills, NHS waiting lists and social isolation and the Gen X’ers in the middle are time-poor and emotionally and financially stretched by their responsibilities.

Each generation has its own troubles

Proposals for the ‘New Generational Contract’ include giving a one-off payment to help get under-25s on the housing ladder, introducing a new property tax to target more affluent homeowners and taxing earnings for those over state pension age. Of course, social policy should always be open to review, but there’s perhaps a deeper issue at work here.

Human beings exist as part of families and communities. And families and communities help one another out. Tax and tax reform is part of how society makes decisions, but there is also a deep societal need to reconnect old and young, to create community where there is none, to share our resources and learn to love our neighbour a bit better. Across the generations we need to work together.

During the meal known as The Last Supper Jesus reminded his disciples that following him meant living radically:

‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

Tax breaks are practical to redress any economic imbalance, but practical love for other people will also bring radical change to a world that can be a lonely and anxious place for people of any age.

Final Foolish Thought of 2015

IMG_8286This morning the Creative Fool was alive, awake, alert and relatively enthusiastic about the fact that she was on Thought for the Day at 7.22am on BBC Radio Scotland. Today was slightly different from usual as, having moved to Glasgow at the beginning of December, I was able to do my thinking in the studio with the presenters rather than patched in from a broom cupboard in Edinburgh. The text of what I said is printed below, and you can listen again by following the link and scrolling to 01:21:25.

Good morning.

I’ve just moved house and am in the middle of unpacking boxes and learning how things work in the new place. For the first time ever, I know exactly where my Christmas decorations are stored. The annual ritual of hanging favourite tree baubles, coupled with the practical business of settling in, has made me reflect on the importance of meaningful objects and the experience of being a stranger in town.

The British Museum, which houses around 8 million meaningful objects has recently been given the Lampedusa cross, a simple wooden artefact made from a ship that sank off the Italian island in 2013. Onboard were over 500 refugees, many of whom had fled persecution. Only 151 people survived and a local carpenter decided to give each one a cross as a symbol of hope. The cross now on display in the museum is not ornate. Made from peeling yellow and blue driftwood its origins as part of the ill-fated boat are evident and yet, with its rough wood and worn paintwork it carries a beauty by dint of its meaning.lampalusa

Explaining his final choice for the museum, the outgoing Director, Neil MacGregor, said, “We have acquired many wonderful objects, from the grand to the humble, but all have sought to shine a light on the needs and hopes that all human beings share.”

The Lampedusa cross is a meaningful symbol of our time, and, as we near the end of a year that has seen unprecedented levels of human migration across the globe, it is good to be reminded that hope is the fuel for human endeavour.

Christmas is the story of God coming to earth as a human being. The hope of grace born in the frail yet solid form of a refugee baby. And as I’ve tried to work out how to live in a new place, I’ve been struck forcibly by the enormity of Jesus’ incarnation. The riskiness of laying aside the glory of heaven to be born in a stable to a teenage mother and the sacrifice of becoming subject to poverty speak of the lavishness of God’s love for us. Like the Lampedusa cross, the incarnation is not ornate. The reality of God being born into suffering, and ultimately his death on another cross, means that Christmas is a meaningful symbol of hope for all. That’s good news in the midst of the baubles and the boxes wherever you live.

That’s me done thinking for 2015, but I look forward to doing more foolish thinking in 2016!