Relationships are hard! You meet, you fight, you make up, you fight again, after several centuries of that you have a referendum and make a commitment to ever closer union. But forty years is a long time for any marriage. ‘You’re not the Europe I first committed to’, ‘you used to be much slimmer and more fun’, ‘I can put up with your mess but not on my side of the channel!’, ‘you don’t listen to me any more!’. To mis-quote Albert Einstein ‘Britain entered Europe hoping it wouldn’t change, Europe welcomed Britain hoping it would. Inevitably both were disappointed.’
The trouble is community (and love) is about self-giving, but people need to feel safe to give willingly. When we feel anxious we focus on self-protection not self-giving: ‘if I’m not sure you’ll be there for me tomorrow it’s hard for me to be there for you today’. We live in anxious times and both the ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups are using the language of self-protection – ‘take back control’ or ‘a better deal for Britain’. But decisions made from fear always diminish us. Love is that miraculous hopefulness which reaches out despite the fear, which recognises a shared humanity in our neighbours, and even our enemies, and which is constantly tinkering with the armour of self-protection to see how it might be loosened or even abandoned. As we wonder which way to vote in May, can we get past all the noise about getting the best deal and wonder what will help humanity flourish, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health?
Revd. Ian Bussell
Director of Ordinands and Curate Training
The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, just won best film at the BAFTAs. It is a brutal story of revenge and survival in early nineteenth century America. Having seen it, I can say it’s not for the faint-hearted, but it is a gripping drama. The word ‘revenant’, meaning one who comes back from the dead, is not one we use very often (if at all) in our modern usage, but it has interesting parallels with another, in fact the only one, who really did return from the dead. He too, was severely wronged and suffered cruelty at the hands of those around him, just as DiCaprio’s character (Hugh Glass) did in the film.
However, unlike DiCaprio’s character, this other one who returned from the grave (Glass was literally buried), did not take revenge, but showed us an alternative way to live. This is the challenge for us at this time in the church year as we journey towards Easter; not to pursue those things that perpetuate evil, but rather, with the Spirit’s help, choose a different way to the way of the world that seeks to exact vengeance on those who have harmed us. We all can, with divine help, break the cycle of violence and hatred and bring some hope.
The final image of the film is DiCaprio staring bleakly into the camera after the death of the one he sought to kill, with coldness in his eyes. By contrast, the eyes of the Nazarene look into all our eyes and souls with love and forgiveness.
By the Revd Bruce Goodwin, Chaplain, University of Gloucestershire.
That’s good advice whenever troubles and storms arise. I see far too much entitlement or dependency culture around. It can show up in the very privileged who sometimes seem to take the attitude that they can have things just as they want, regardless of the wants and needs of others, and also in the very disadvantaged who have no confidence in themselves or hope for the future and wait to be taken care of by others. Whatever happened to just “dealing with it”? Life never has been and never will be perfect. And a lot of the time it isn’t even particularly fair. To be honest, I’ve probably been lucky as often as I’ve been hard done by. That’s to be expected. I fully realise that life’s hands are not evenly dealt and that we should do all in our power to redress the imbalances created by historical and present-day oppression and prejudice. And working for justice and fairness on a societal level is central to the life of faith. What troubles me is the tendency to cry, “Justice!” when you think someone else should be punished and, “Mercy!” when you’re the one who has done wrong.
It is said that good religion should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I think the point is to be deeply honest with ourselves about what is best and what is worst in ourselves and to own the first in all humility and to work on the second with real intent and with the help of others and of God’s grace. As we begin Lent, I can think of no better way to observe it.
By the Revd Canon Robbin Clark, Dean of Women Clergy
It will come as no surprise that Republican candidate Donald Trump is a bad loser, asking for a re-run when he came second in the Iowa caucus. Failure is intolerable, especially when you are used to getting your own way. From the school playground to the football stands, you are damned by the taunt: “loser”. So you avoid admitting failure at all costs. Like Arsenal’s Manager, Arsène Wenger, criticised again this week for blaming the ref rather than admit his players failed to make the best of their chances.
It’s made me wonder that perhaps, as Christians, we are asked to be losers for God? Like the ninth-century monk Saint Anskar, remembered this week. He was sent to bring the Christian message to the Scandinavian countries. And he became known as an example of persevering in the face of discouragement. Apparently the Nordic people were very fixed in their pagan ways!
In the Church, we can often find ourselves doing things where success is not obvious. And some things that feel like a simple failure. But maybe that’s because God defines success, not us? I did a school assembly this week that didn’t go well. Although I’d planned carefully, in the end it just felt like chaos. Yet, as the children walked out, one little boy confided in me: “These God stories always make me feel happy.” So I thought I’d failed, but perhaps not. And perhaps that’s what it feels like to be a loser for God?
By the Revd Poppy Hughes, Rector of the Benefice of Tetbury, Beverston, Long Newnton and Shipton Moyne and the Benefice of Avening with Cherington.