As delivered this morning at BBC Radio Bristol. I also got involved in a brief discussion about reasons to be cheerful (to beat the January blues) because they had my list of 200 I published a couple of years back. Linked here and here. But the thought:
Well. Was Barack Obama a good president or bad? The 44th president of the United States made his farewell speech last night.
Statistics suggest that over the last eight years the Obama administration has made amazing progress towards eradicating poverty. Good news. But the outgoing president has said that he is frustrated by his lack of ability to control guns. Bad news.
Jesus set out his own agenda by quoting the great prophet Isaiah:
Good news for the poor
Freedom for the prisoners
Sight for the blind
Release for the oppressed
As a manifesto it's a great check-list to use when assessing someone's ministry or leadership.
It's not good news for the poor if your dwelling is rat-infested.
It's not freedom for the prisoner if no-one understands the shackles of drug-dependency.
And even if great leadership eradicates 90% of poverty, the 10% still hurt and still need to be heard. If I am hungry I will find it hard to accept that a food programme is making a remarkable difference.
And this is the reality of politics, by which I simply mean 'organising people', today. It is an endless task. There will always be people who need help. And always those who cast doubt on the motives of the aid-bringer.
Which may be why Jesus responded to the impressed locals by saying, 'A prophet is never welcome in his own town.' And it made them so mad they wanted to throw him off a cliff. Really.
And that may be why Barack Obama is thought of much more highly around the world than he is in his own country. Nevertheless, in this far off corner of a far off land, we should thank him for his service.