GLORIOUS THINGS OF THEE ARE SPOKEN, O Lord our God; not least this week in St Peter’s Square in Rome, and in the Cathedral Church of Christ in Canterbury. Pour out most abundant blessing, we pray, upon your bishops Francis and Justin. Grant hope to each, that they may walk humbly with all your children, women and men, of every nation and faith tradition, in faith and in love.
Interviewed by the BBC on Tuesday, after the glorious Inauguration service in sunlit Rome, Professor Eamon Duffy said, “I’m not optimistic. But I am hopeful”. Interviewed today after the glorious Inauguration service in Canterbury, Canon Giles Fraser said, “I’m not optimistic. But I do have hope. And hope’s a good theological word”. Prophetic men, I think.
Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin alike have called the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, our Christ, to care for one another and to care, sacrificially and unafraid, for all our sisters and brothers in all creation.
Both bishops have called upon humankind to place its trust in God. And it’s the heart of God, the Anointed and anointing Fount and Source, and Mother and Father of all life, where any of us may best place our hope, for in the heart of God all the redeemed creation will dwell in love and mercy and peace. The lion shall down with the lamb. God redeems. God shows creation redemption, “the way home to ourselves”.
And that hope and faith and love in human hearts all around the world begins in this moment. This moment.
This morning I was delighted to preach on the “I AM” sayings of Jesus in our local Bramhall Methodist Church. The I AM we see in Jesus is the same I AM who brought hope and vision to the great leader Moses. I am Simon, an extension of I AM – in company with every other living thing – a member of the Anointed I AM who was, and is, and is to come. Therein lies my grounds for hope. Therein is my Eternal Christ – the Anointed, the Christ that can be accessed and adored by all humankind. The eternally Anointed and anointing God.
After the service this morning a dear member of the Methodist Church gave me a copy of a rather glorious poem, created by the hand and heart of a Jewish friend of hers, a poem about the prayer that God may grant “to us sinners eternal life”. I pray that neither Jean nor the poet will mind me sharing the gift more widely:
… et nobis peccatoribus vitam aeternam
‘Give us eternal life’, you prayed.
‘What is Eternity?’ I asked.
‘Eternity is where there is
No time – where all events, all ages
Co-exist,’ you said.
‘If that is so, why need you pray
For what’s already here?’ I asked;
‘If all events that ever were
And ever will be co-exist,
‘Eternal’ means ‘Today’. ‘
Thank you Professor Duffy, thank you Canon Fraser for your honesty. Thank you Pope Francis and thank you Archbishop Justin for your honesty and service. Better to place hope in the eternal God than to be merely optimistic - whether in Canterbury or Rome. None of us, if we’re honest, are very optimistic about ‘solutions’ being found quickly for some very major issues facing humanity at large, not just the Church. But hope, that’s quite another thing – indeed a properly theological word!
Let there be another Lenten ALLELUIA today for that glorious things have been spoken! And may every shade and hue of humanity pray to be eternally reconciled ‘Today’.