I COULD BARELY BREATHE during BBC1’s Birdsong tonight. May the God of life help us never, ever, ever to forget again the realities therein represented. After last week’s episode I’d spent a lot of time thinking up excuses to avoid tonight’s, but in the event sat dumbstruck under a sense I can only describe as “responsible obligation”. The terrible, terrible and overwhelming waste of not one but two World Wars, early in the same century, swamp the soul. I thought my chest would burst in the scene when the two German soldiers told Wraysford that the War was finished. Over. Told, terrified and terrifying, with all the dear longing and hope in the world – the dead Jack Firebrace’s “Love is all there is Sir. To love and to be loved”, hanging in exploded dust.
Today I baptised a young woman, two young boys and three beautiful infants. They’re all treasured. This world’s peace and your life’s purpose are intimately bound, I told them, their parents and their godparents; those baptised into the faith of the Christ today must play their part well in ensuring that no religious, political or sociological dogma should ever again lead to such a monstrously great lie, a madness of such inconceivable proportions, that so set tender-hearted men against each other that hell was created upon the face of the earth. No religious certainty, no political ideology, no nationalism nor false pride should ever again be allowed to prevail over “Love is all there is Sir. To love and be loved.”
Six new Christians. May they herald a purer, higher form of Christianity for today and for the future. May they mingle with wider religious representation. May they be salt and yeast and light and love in the world. May they never be taught, or learn by any other means, how to hate another human person by reason of their colour or creed, gender, race or sexuality. And may they ever be profoundly grateful for the comradeship, the basic goodness, compassion and self-sacrifice of the millions who gave up their lives – God help humanity – without ever fully understanding why. May they follow the example – all this is to say – of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was always more concerned to serve than to be served, to offer worth to others than to be himself worshipped. May it be that when any of us feel burdened with a desire to persuade others of our own doctrine we might follow Archbishop Sentamu’s advice the other night: “ask yourself first how your doctrine measures up to your Jesus”. How does it, how do I, measure up to Love?