Second Sunday of Lent - 9am and Choral Eucharist

  • Preacher

    The Precentor - Revd Canon Gilly Myers

  • Readings

    Genesis 17.1-7, 15,16; Romans 4.13-25; Mark 8.31-38

Those of you who were here on Ash Wednesday this Lent will have heard a passage from Isaiah 58, in which the prophet described the sort of fasting the penitence that the Lord God wants to see in the lives of his holy people.

Here, as a reminder, are some of those things that were included in Isaiah’s message: to…

  • loose the bonds of injustice,
  • let the oppressed go free,
  • relieve people of their burdens,
  • share your food with the hungry,
  • house the homeless,
  • clothe the naked.

Is not this the fast that God chooses? (Asks Isaiah.)

Is not this the fast that God chooses?

In this time of Lent it is appropriate, then, that we should ponder further on these things, as we enter into Fairtrade Fortnight tomorrow.

I wonder if you know the Southwark Cathedral is a Fairtrade Cathedral?

We are – and we have pledged to:

  1. Use Fairtrade tea and coffee after services and for all cathedral meetings in the cathedral or offices for which we have responsibility.
  2. Move forward on using other Fairtrade products (such as sugar, biscuits, fruit and flowers).
  3. Promote Fairtrade during Fairtrade Fortnight and during the year, whenever possible.

What is Fairtrade?

It's a shocking fact that millions of poor farmers who produce the food we buy still don’t earn enough to feed their own families.

·Fairtrade is a global movement working to bring this injustice to an end. It has a strong and active presence in the UK, represented by the Fairtrade Foundation.

·For consumers like most of us here it is about consciously choosing products that change people’s lives; it’s a simple, but powerful way to make a difference to the people who grow the products we buy.

How does it work?

You may already recognise the Fairtrade logo (there’s a black and white copy of it on page 13 of the weekly sheet) 

Farmers whose goods bear the Fairtrade logo

  • … receive a price for their product that covers their costs of production.
  • … in addition to this they receive the Fairtrade Premium, a little extra money to invest in their business, or in community projects of their choice.
  • … they have rights to decent wages, to join unions and work in safe conditions.
  • … they have the opportunity to have their voice heard, whether they are  farmers or workers (including women). 

Why be a Fairtrade Cathedral?

The staff and Chapter here decided to become a Fairtrade Cathedral because:

·First of all, it is a matter of justice;

·it is one in which we can make a difference - a way of supporting small scale farmers and workers who are marginalised from trade in a variety of ways. 

Indeed, it is just one simple thing that we can do, to respond to the call in Isaiah’s message to:

  • loose the bonds of injustice,
  • offer a way of freedom from oppression,
  • relieve people of their burdens of poverty and debt.

What have we done?

Here at Southwark Cathedral, around the time that we were considering this, you might remember having some different fairly-traded coffees to try after the Sunday services. All of our staff were also offered some samples to try, to demonstrate just how good they are not only for the sake of justice, but also to the taste. You were invited to comment and choose which coffee we buy.

We changed our tea and coffee provider to Kingdom Coffee and we have used their fairly-traded products ever since.

That is just one step, of course, and we still have work to do in keeping our pledge to move forward and keep Fairtrade on the agenda.

But it’s a choice that we can all make and

we really do have the power to make a difference.

Beyond the cathedral, what we can do as individual consumers?

There are some ideas in today’s Weekly Sheet.

  • Have a look at the Fairtrade Foundation website ( for information and ideas. There are lots of stories of people whose lives have been utterly turned around from despair to hope, and you will find much inspiration there.
  • Consider or recommit to buying Fairtrade whenever possible, or increasing the range of what Fairtrade you purchase. Remember to look for the Fairtrade Logo – if it isn’t there then you cannot be sure.

And if your store doesn’t stock the fairly traded coffee you want to buy, for example, then keep reminding them that you want to be able to find it on their shelves. 

I was surprised to learn that one in three of the bananas we buy in this country are fairly traded. One in three! Fairtrade is taken seriously by our supermarket suppliers, and there is Fairtrade choice in most supermarkets.

There are over 4,500 Fairtrade products from coffee, tea and chocolate to flowers, cotton clothing and even gold; so when you shop, do look for the FAIRTRADE Mark.

And stores really do take notice of their customers’ views. They know that we can so easily swap to another brand of supermarket if they don’t supply what we are looking for.

  • Another thing you could do is to buy your fairly traded Easter Eggs from the Cathedral Shop. They’re in there now…
  • And if you have a passion for justice, and would like to help Southwark Cathedral to take the steps forward that we want to take, you could join our small Eco Group, which looks at ways of making the Cathedral more Fairtrade- and environmentally- aware and proactive in all aspects of our life together.

It is a small group and would welcome new members.

A legacy and covenant

Our first two Bible readings this morning addressed the covenant made between God and Abraham. A covenant and legacy that declared Abraham the ancestor of a multitude of nations and peoples; an everlasting covenant that was to run throughout the generations, and which was renewed and expanded in the New Covenant, forged by Jesus in his death on the cross.

Those same people, who were the descendants of Abraham, were those who were called back to holiness by Isaiah, as he pointed to the oppression, poverty and injustice amongst people around them. We, too - Abraham’s descendants in faith, and children of the New Covenant - are no less called to holiness today, as we look at the world and the struggles of her peoples around us.

The holiness of setting wrongs right, of sharing our blessings and of bringing hope to the poor in our own time.

After all -

Is not this the fast that God chooses?