R-E-S-P-E-C-T

It’s just over 50 years since Aretha Franklin first sang the song that we have all been remembering her for since her death last week – ‘Respect’.  It was a great song and a great subject to sing about. Half a century on I wonder whether we are any better at showing respect to people than we were when she sang so powerfully out of her own experience as a woman of colour in a deeply racist and gendered society.

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Twenty years later Erasure were singing a similar song, ‘A little respect’. Their words also still resonate

We can make love not war
And live at peace with our hearts

We can sing so well about these things but actually living it out is another matter and it doesn’t help when the leaders, who we are meant to be looking up, to show little respect.  They set the tone and unfortunately can easily give permission for other people to be dis-respectful.  Twitter is not a tool for diplomacy, that is clear, and part of diplomacy is about showing respect even to those with whom we disagree.

What I see in Jesus, and the tone that he sets for me, is someone who respected those others failed to respect.  The challenge to Simon the Pharisee in St Luke’s Gospel on his lack of hospitality was contrasted by the way in which the woman who was disrespected by so many others, showed huge respect to Jesus.

‘Do you see this woman?’ [said Jesus to Simon] ‘I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet.You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. (Luke 7.44-46)

Simon was a respectable man, and respected in his community, but he had forgotten how to show respect until the unrespectable demonstrated it.

Aretha Franklin’s death has reminded me of this fundamental principle by which to live and to do as that later song suggested

make love not war
And live at peace with our hearts

And we do that when we live at peace with our neighbours, showing them the respect they deserve, whoever they are.

Loving God,
may I treat my sisters and brothers with respect
and challenge those places where respect is lacking.
Amen.

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