Friday, April 18, 2014

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Why is Good Friday good? I used to wonder as a child. After all, it was the day in which the world did its worst to Jesus. It saddened me, all that blood and brutality. I remember.

As an older child, I put younger-childish ways behind me. With new theological sophistication I grasped that, as the hymn puts it, ‘He died that we might be forgiv’n, He died to make us good’.

Today I’m thinking about Jesus the Good – and how He faced evil on that day long ago. He didn’t resist it violently. He didn’t angrily protest. He didn’t summon heavenly forces to put a stop to this disgrace. He took all that evil threw at Him. He soaked it up. He allowed it to spend itself on Him.

He met evil with forgiveness – “Father, forgive them” – and so it emptied itself into Him and did not return.

Evil died in Jesus the Good.

All of which is very profound. But it becomes sharper when I realise that the evil that poured upon Jesus was not just some abstract metaphysical construct. There was human evil in that mix. Connivance of priests. Bitterness of thieves. Fickleness of crowds. Cowardice of friends. Hostility of kings. Jealousy of foes...

And there was me. Conniving, bitter, fickle, cowardly, hostile, jealous me. Standing right there with conniving, bitter, fickle, cowardly, hostile, jealous you.

And Jesus the Good said “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they do.”

The ground at the foot of the cross, as someone has put it, is level. We all stand there evil. We all stand there forgiven. We all stand there with the opportunity that, beyond, there is life – life in which we can be made good.

These words from an ordinary little church in Essex summed up well, in my view, the welcome that Good Jesus extends to us all, though we are evil:

Here we try to practise the generous Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This means you may be mixing with
seekers, searchers,
and those who have been bruised,
those who limp and those who mourn,
orphans and widows,
and those wounded by war,
refugees, asylum seekers,
foreigners of all kinds,
citizens of different colour from yourself,
women bishops (yes, there are a few),
and other bishops too,
leaders who are worn out,
clapped out, burnt out,
lesbian and gay couples – even singles,
the wealthy who are trying to get through the eye of the needle,
and the poor who are struggling to maintain their dignity,
the emotionally deprived and harmed,
people of other faiths,
fundamentalists and liberals,
radicals and traditionalists,
those who have failed to love
and those who are afraid to receive love,
those rejected by ministers and their churches,
those who have broken their promises,
those bowed down with burdens,
those who teeter on the brink of breakdown,
those for whom the grip of alcohol or work,
drugs or sex, gambling or unnamed powers is getting stronger,
and those for whom the grip is loosening,
those struggling with faith and doubt,
and goodness knows how many others...
indeed, anyone who is like those Jesus mixed with.
This is not a private club
but a public space open to all people of goodwill.
And though we are not yet strong and vulnerable enough
to show the unconditional love of God at all times,
we hope we are moving in that direction.

We’re all welcome into God’s forgiveness. He alone can make us good.

Have a good Good Friday.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: The Dispossessed

The Dispossessed
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ and ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ (see reviews), ‘The Dispossessed’ is a read that reads you back.

Along with its engaging, intriguing, edgy story, there is Le Guin’s customary thought-provocation. The novel is set in two twin worlds: a verdant world of plenty whose inhabitants freely war with one another, and an arid world of scarcity whose inhabitants agree on a strict unity. The novel is a fascinating meditation on the polarities and paradoxes that spring from this binary setting. What is the difference between unity and uniformity? When freedom brings exploitation and conflict is it a blessing or a curse? Is idealism better than individualism?

I’m reminded (a little) of ‘Animal Farm’ – but in a galaxy far, far away, with an author who doesn't take sides (Le Guin gives us various ‘pig’ candidates, but no-one is unambiguously declared the winner of that dubious honorific).

The questions this novel raises (and refuses to answer entirely) are important to me. Community, sharing, unity, equality – these ideals have shaped my life and those of my closest friends. So what about when community quashes individuality, when nobody owning means nobody caring, when unity becomes uniformity, when equality gets confused with equivalency? Give up and sell out to the consumer dream (=nightmare)? Me genoito!

I will read this again, I am sure of it. And it will read me again.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Iona - a poem


I am a place of pilgrimage
I, a destination
Of flight, rail, road and sea
My undyed yarn unfolds
My white sand, turquoise bay
Green remote and rugged me.

I am an edge in existence
I, a peregrination
Of flight, fall, chance and prayer
My crossroad cross points - where?
High above my jewels and pearls
Castled clouds and sea-spray air.

I am a tear on heaven's veil
I, a transfiguration
Of boot, bog, dust and track
My winding path unwinds.
Shy thin place, end of my world.
Go further, fall, go back?