In yesterday’s Times Online, Ruth Gledhill reports that according to a cross-party group of Christian MPs “The primary cause of unhappiness in Britain is not lack of material wealth but a loss of faith in God and religion”. In a new report on wellbeing, the MPs say that the Christian voice is not being respected properly because it comes across too often as “negative”. Not exactly a rocket scientist conclusion is it?
The report claims that despite the recent emphasis on “happiness” studies in some schools, and the debates on British identity and wellbeing, Britain is becoming increasingly miserable. It says: “One impetus behind this project was our sense that there is a strong feeling of disaffection among the inhabitants of these islands. It seemed to us that our national sense of wellbeing is at a low ebb; people are wanting something more out of life.”
The MPs say that all legislators, charities and companies should subject decisions to a fivefold test, such as whether the action will encourage people to develop positive relationships in their families and communities and whether the action is socially and globally responsible. The authors argue that if values related to relationships, responsibility, trust, self-esteem and potential – all with their roots in the Judeo-Christian beliefs that once underpinned Western legislative philosophy – were to have greater emphasis in society, everyone’s wellbeing would improve.
I supect many politicians (regardless of religious conviction) will be concerned with relationships, responsibility, trust, self-esteem and potential when they get a kicking in today’s Local and Euro elections. I wonder if the church is sending a special flying squad of chaplains to help them cope, or are they already getting expensive life coaching sessions paid for on expenses?
Flip your second home, vote in the house of commons, clean your moat, redecorate your house, tell a few lies, claim your expenses…surely there must be more to life than this?
For Ruth Gledhill’s full report see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3913720.ece
Tonight I am off to a murder mystery evening. I have never been to one before but I know that someone will be killed, yet at the end of the evening they will be back to take their bow- it is make believe, the death will not really happen and we will all be just acting out a story for a purpose. Today is Holy Saturday-Christ is dead in the tomb, the disciples are bereft, and the world is ignorant of hope. We sit here over 2,000 years later and we know how the story ends and, because we do, there is a real danger that we fail to forget the significance of the day in between – the time he was dead and all hope was dead, the mission was over. To the people and the disciples and to the religious leaders of the day Jesus had failed to bring in the new kingdom he talked about and was no different to any other holy man or prophet that had been before. As Nick Fawcett’s entry for Easter Eve in his book Daily Prayer says; ” Jesus was dead…He was laid limp and lifeless in a tomb, and a stone rolled against the entrance. Humanly speaking it was over, the end of a wonderful ministry and an unforgettable man. He had shared our life; he had shared our death. If the story was to continue, it was out of human hands- it was down to God.”
The mystery of what Christ achieved in death I will leave to the theologians, but Tarjei Park suggested in his reflection of the crucifixion; “He was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell. What was Jesus doing in hell? He was looking for his friend Judas Iscariot. Judas had done something so wrong he could not forgive himself, and feeling incapable of being forgiven, in bitter tears of regret, he hanged himself. Well, Jesus went looking for him, and in hell he found him. He walked over to him and kissed him, and took his hand. Miracles occur in hell.”
Inscribed on a cellar wall in Cologne where some Jews has hidden for the entire duration of the Second World War were these lines:
I believe in the sun, even when it doesn’t shine. I believe in love, even when I don’t feel it. I believe in God, even when He is silent.
On that first Easter eve ,God fell very silent and many wondered if they would ever here from him again. No word, no sign, no hope.
Station 10- Jesus is stripped-He has arrived. finally. Tortuously. they strip him. What is it about love that can be so intensely hated? “Play the prophet, which one struck you?” (Luke 22:64). That was it! In their simplistic ridicule they had unwittingly affirmed his role. he was indeed a prophet. he stands stripped. No heralding angles. no worshipping magi. No shining star.
Station 11- Jesus is crucified– They attack him with metallic savagery. the hammer. the nails. Condemned in his innocence, he is crucified in his love. they stretch him out. On the paten of the cross. “My hour has not yet come” (John2:4). his honour is not to be cheated. It is now. It is total sacrifice. An offering as intense as it is cosmic. The Word that spoke the universe is now the Word of consecration.
Station 12- Jesus dies- He hangs there on the cross. “Philip, he who sees me sees the Father” (John 14:9). The closeness. The intimacy. The oneness. “The Father knows me and I know the Father” (John 10:15). “All that the Father has belongs to me ” (John 16:15). “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30). “I can never be alone; the Father is with me ” (John 16:32). The union of purest mysticism. We are never alone. God is always God- with-us.
With thanks to the Rev T. Ronald Haney from his book The Stations of the Cross.
I hope you enjoy Frank McGregor’s adaption of Psalm 121 as much as I do.