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Monday, 19 February 2018
ONCE again Henley opens its arms to welcome thousands of visitors from home and abroad for another royal regatta.
Crowds are drawn to the river bank to watch the efforts of the crews as they row for victory.
Yet throughout the rest of the year many are still drawn to the river bank, be it on a crisp winter’s day, the first warm spring weekend or a hot summer’s afternoon.
There is something special about walking alongside water and any town or city with a river running through it is enhanced in a way no urban planner could emulate.
Two thousand years ago Jesus seemed to spend much of his time near the water during the days of his public ministry, particularly around the shores of Lake Galilee.
The first companions he called were fishermen. Many people from the villages, towns and cities made their way to the lake shore and it is not difficult to imagine that these people enjoyed being near the waterside just as we do today.
Yet it was not water sports, restaurants or bars that attracted them, but a man, who at times sat in a boat and spoke to them about the things of God.
Jesus’s great appeal seemed to be the fact that he welcomed and had time for everyone, particularly the poor and marginalised, those looked down upon or excluded by the privileged political and religious leaders.
Due to recent tragic happenings, a debate has rekindled as to how our country and the authorities deal with the poorest in our society.
It also challenges us as individuals as to how we respond to those around us who are less fortunate due to circumstances they find themselves in.
Do we reach out with a welcome or is it easier to close our eyes?
Quite often our heart tells us one thing but the challenge simply overwhelms us and can leave us feeling helpless.
As the regatta finishes and the visitors disperse, there will always be those among us that find life difficult. Is our response that of Jesus or the authorities of his time?
Fortunately, much good work goes on to help those in need.
Let us not get complacent but continue to welcome and support those who feel marginalised or excluded.
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