Archdeacon Jonathan gave the following sermon during the Church at Home online service on Sunday 10 May.

75 years ago this weekend the western world was celebrating Victory in Europe. This was news that signified relief, release and recovery: relief at no more casualty notifications from the front-line; a release of exuberant emotion at the cessation of hostilities, and the hope of freedoms recovered. Bonfires, dancing and parties erupted spontaneously across the country. The war was won; we could dream again! Yet just below the exhilaration lay something more bitter-sweet, with many exhausted by the strain of six long years of war memories of loved ones lost in the conflict and rejoicing put on hold for those still caught up with the war in the Far-East. Celebration quickly turned to reflection, for we knew deep down that life was changed – so many questions: how would society be rebuilt and what would it look like for me and my family?

Such a jumble of emotions and questions are common in times of heightened awareness, at pivotal moments in our lives. I’ve observed this myself working alongside servicemen and women on operational duties, and in their loved ones back at home, when what is secure and familiar is no longer certain. You may sense this yourselves in the complex new world created by Covid-19. Jesus’ disciples are no different to us in this respect. In our Gospel story, the level of tension is high. The disciples are trying to get their heads and hearts around all that Jesus is saying and doing. Talk of Jesus being killed yet glorified, of betrayals and denials, and then experiencing this great servant leader stooping to wash their feet and calling them to love others as he has loved them. It all seems a bit overwhelming – to put it mildly.

So what a beautiful gift it is to know that Jesus understands us – completely – and is able to calm our hearts and inspire our minds: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house…I go and prepare a place for you.” Perhaps some of us are like the disciples, needing to hear that comfort and reassurance of Jesus in our own circumstances? Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man, one with the Father, is uniquely able to bridge Heaven and Earth, Eternity and the Present Day: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”, he says, “No-one comes to the Father except through me.” So, whatever our uncertainties about the way ahead, whatever the lies that we may have received or perhaps given, whatever the destructive patterns within or around us, Jesus offers a radical and lasting alternative in himself!

And with that relationship come two gifts come from this relationship: firstly, the promise of eternity that cannot be shaken by any unforeseen circumstances – this brings a whole new dimension to ‘We’ll Meet Again’ – and secondly, an invitation to work with Jesus in uniting heaven with earth today. “Anyone who has faith in me,” he says, “will do what I have been doing…so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”

It follows that we believe both in life after death – but also in life before death, as the strapline of Christian Aid puts it. Christian Aid was born into the social and economic vacuum that followed the Second World War, with western finances in disarray and a wave of refugees sweeping across Europe. In response to Jesus’ great commands, both to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves, over 75 years its work has expanded to bring humanitarian relief and development across the globe. It has educated succeeding generations on the causes of poverty and advocated for countless victims of injustice, those without a voice. So the need to support this ministry has arguably never been greater, for those poorest are always most vulnerable to dwindling financial resources and changing climate.

It takes courage, of course, to represent Jesus in speaking and acting for truth. In our first reading it led to martyrdom for Stephen, as he encountered fiercely defended interests, even religious ones. But in standing up for those on the margins we fulfil the call of Jesus, a Kingdom call, living with the promise of life after death and sharing his invitation to life before death. It is humbling to see this lived out across the Diocese of Oxford, as online Alpha courses and school assemblies, for instance, go hand in hand with compassionate Christian service in neighbourhood food banks and key working environments.

75 years from the Second World War we again live in pretty strange times. Contemplating the gradual lifting of lockdown, whole societies, even the Church, are facing uncertainties about the future, concerning health and housing, employment and family life, patterns of church life. As disciples of Jesus, sharing his saving love and establishing his Kingdom on earth, let us take heart that he remains ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’.


The Venerable Jonathan Chaffey CB
10 May 2020

You can watch the full service here and donate to Christian Aid Week online here.

It was very good to meet with Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister this morning, who is also my own Member of Parliament.  I met with Mr. Clegg at the request of Christian Aid and as part of the IF campaign.  I was joined by to other local Christian Aid representatives: Jackie Butcher, who is also my advisor on overseas development and Mary Grover from Ranmoor, and by my daughter, Sarah, who works in Christian Aid’s campaign team.

If you don’t know the IF campaign then please look at their website and sign up.  The full title is Enough Food for Everyone: IF.  It’s a campaign against world hunger and is a major coalition of charities, aid agencies and churches, including the Church of England and, of course, Christian Aid.  IF is focussing on the four priorities of aid, land, tax and transparency.  IF is a focussed campaign and geared to the UK’s pivotal role as chair of the G8 summit this year.  More details at

Our conversation this morning covered the two key areas of aid and tax.  It was an extremely positive conversation and I was left very impressed by Mr. Clegg’s personal and political commitment to the causes of aid and tax reform.

Many years ago, when I was almost exactly the age that Sarah my daughter is now (23), I took part in a mass lobby of MP’s in support of something called the Brandt Report: a major report on development and global finance.  The Brandt Report was, I think, the first time a call was made for governments to devote 0.7% of their GDP to international aid.  It is an historic moment therefore to reach that benchmark this year thanks to the commitment of all three political parties: the previous Labour government, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.  It’s a commitment made and maintained in a very challenging economic environment.  Many other developing countries are moving backwards not forwards on this agenda.  Britain genuinely is giving a lead.

But, as we know, aid alone is not enough.  Reform of the international tax system is key.  According to the excellent IF policy briefing: “The OECD estimates that developing countries lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year”.  Low income countries currently collect an average of only 13% of GDP in tax revenues compared to 35% in developed countries.

And here’s the thing:  “The UN estimates that if the world’s Least Developed Countries raised at least 20 percent of their GDP from taxes, they could achieve the Millennium Development Goals”.

Tax reform is key.  Multinational companies avoiding tax in developing countries are not contributing to the education, the healthcare, the security and the government of the people they employ there.  In the last few years, according to Nick Clegg in this morning’s conversation, tax reform has become a massive issue for developing countries as well.  As we have seen with the major campaigns over the last year, tax avoidance affects UK income as well as income in the developing world.  It’s a political winner at home as well as abroad.

It’s a remarkable thing that the UK is helping to place international tax reform at the heart of the G8’s agenda.  The summit in June represents a really significant opportunity to press further forward.  Transparency of assets and international disclosure are key.  Christian Aid and IF are lobbying for an amendment of the Finance Bill to extend the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes to give an international reporting dimension and also for the public declaration of beneficial ownership to prevent companies disguising their assets through shadow companies registered in tax havens.

I hope that the IF campaign will continue to gather massive public support as the G8 Summit draws near.  Lobbyists are in an unusual situation as we found this morning.  The UK government is onside, committed to the agenda and taking a lead internationally (though there may be differences on the realistic pace of change and precise policies).  The IF campaign needs to continue to communicate to the public just how key these issues are and how much our own government can accomplish as well as to apply pressure internationally so that some of the other G8 countries follow the UK’s lead.