I am writing this from the UK on a morning when some woke to the news of the latest terror attack in this country, this time in London, only a few days ago we were left reeling after the attack in Manchester, which came not long after London experienced a previous incident. Around the world if we are attentive to the news, we will be aware that terror tactics, oppression, violence and war are daily occurrences, we live in dangerous times….
But I have to pause there, and reflect that perhaps the propensity for humanity’s inhumanity to humanit is a recurring theme in our history, we seem to have an inbuilt need to be on the side of right, which by default demands that those we might describe as “other” must be wrong! In short we create enemies to defend ourselves, and we use causes; religion, race, gender, politics, etc. , to define the other!
This morning as we worshipped, in a slightly subdued way , the feast of Pentecost, we were reminded by one young man to see, celebrate and be the good that we long for. He spoke of the way that following terror attacks so many people stepped in to help, offering everything from lifts home to cups of tea, and even places to stay. Those offering this help, he reminded us, weren’t asking questions of race, gender or religion, but simply responding to hate with love!
As I reflect upon the wisdom that he shared, I begin to wonder if we know deeply and instinctively that love is who we are. When I read true accounts of those who go to help refugees, of a burly fireman reduced to tears and singing to comfort himself as he lifts the dead body of an infant from the sea, or a nurse willing to risk her own life for the lives of others, I am challenged to ask if this is who we really are.
We live in a complex world of many demands, and I suspect that often we are so swept up in them, so pressed by the pressure to “get it right”, or to “be a success”, or simply to survive , that we forget who we are. Perhaps this, this question if true identity, not political, global, religious or gender based conundrums and questions, is what we must grapple with.
I wonder, if we knew ourselves uniquely loved, celebrated and accepted, included because none are excluded, might we have the confidence to be love? I wonder if this was the root of the forgiven, restored and empowered Peter on that amazing day when tongues of fire and an unexpected wind blew through the room as they gathered and into their expectant, wondering prayers. Peter who took the lead, gad had to confront the depths of himself, his cowardice and betrayal of the one who returned to forgive and restore him.
I wonder if many of us spend too much time defending ourselves, often by hiding from our deep truths that we are asleep to the love that could set us free. Perhaps we fill our lives with so much stuff and busyness that we don’t know who we really are… perhaps if we did we would not create in our hearts and minds those we call other, a brief reading of Acts 2, one of today’s readings, will remind us that the day the Spirit came, the great Festival in Jerusalem, the Feast of Weeks drew many nationalities to Jerusalem, who heard the message of love in their own languages, a message they would take home, spreading the good news as they went.
This message of love, the story of the one who came to reveal God’s love to is remarkably still being told today, over 2000 years later, because love is powerful, more powerful than hate, strong enough even to overcome death with life!
Through this story, this truth, if we dare to encounter the depths of ourselves, allow ourselves to be broken open and restored as Peter, as Paul did, as many others through the centuries have, we will find ourselves loved, and being able to be love. Love does not stand on its rights, foes nit demand correct behaviour but is open to include, embrace, receive even when it us rejected and rebuffed.
Love calls us beyond ourselves, our wants and desires and offers us deeper, broader and wider dreams, calls us to a new way, where divisive options are swept away, and all may find themselves included….
Christ on the cross bridged the gap, the Spirit blew away our defences, our choice is to take the open road , the road where gender, race, politics, and religion are offered new possibilities, a new way, a way of love, the question is, will we take it. The eye of the needle is humility, for we have not earned it, or won it, nor do we deserve it. Our rights, our demand to be right must be laid aside, if we choose the way of love…
For London, for Manchester, for Egypt, for Syria, for Palestine, for Israel, for Paris…. the list goes on, there is no other way….