“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known……
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” St Matthew 10:26, 28, NIV.
“Can you take us through your summer solstice experience? How’s it been?” Interviewer.
“Very wet.” King Arthur Pendragon, Druid.
These words of Jesus from the Gospel set for today are very appropriate after the shocking stabbings in Reading. Just as all UK Governments are announcing details of the easing of restrictions with the risk of Covid-19 judged to be diminishing, those emerging from lockdown and celebrating this in the sunshine at Forbury Gardens found that risk is everywhere and not only caused by Coronavirus. On the longest day of the year, when it was least expected and being so enjoyed, life was cut away, terrible injuries inflicted and traumatic memories seared into the minds of all involved – and all in the context of Father’s Day. What an irony that, after surviving the pandemic, lives should now be lost in what seems to have been a terror-related incident and, with so many families also devastated by Covid-19, many will find this Father’s Day a difficult time.
So often, the present moment, the future we anticipate and the experiences we seek do not turn out as hoped, which is why King Arthur Pendragon’s words are also so relevant. Social distancing prevented this year’s gathering at Stonehenge itself and dawn clearly wasn’t the wonderful experience he had anticipated. Nevertheless, come rain or shine, the sunrise can’t be cancelled and the previous generations of those who built Stonehenge and first began to gather in that mystical place clearly had faith that it would happen. Given that they had little scientific information compared with today, this must have developed through their affinity with creation itself and, as King Arthur Pendragon said, “Pagans worship the divine but we see the divine through nature…… We believe the earth itself is sacred and we also believe that the ancestors who came before us throughout time should be honoured.”
His words have a wider resonance as the reassessment of historical public lives, companies and statues continues with regard to slavery and the current expectations of diverse communities. Even the Church of England owned sugar plantations worked by slaves in the West Indies and many organisations and individuals slave traders made fortunes out of human trafficking. What was part of how things were then is now being reinterpreted, as it should be. But, without justifying the means of making their money, so many used their wealth for good, too, such as Sir Thomas Guy. He was a wealthy bookseller who owned shares in a slaving company and his statue is now to be removed from the grounds of Guy’s hospital, which was founded with his money and is still so involved in the work of healing today. Edward Colston, Cecil Rhodes, Robert Baden-Powell – so many said or did awful and yet wonderful things too in the circumstances in which they lived.
This is often seen in an historical light but, with the recents deaths of so many young people being smuggled into the UK in a refrigerated lorry, it’s clear that human trafficking and forced labour still continue here today. Every generation has its shame as well as its glory – each individual, too – and much is being and will be disclosed, whether or not it is initially successfully hidden or brought out into the open. Once again, the words of Jesus are so pertinent and, as he later speaks of hell, they should be taken seriously. As the beloved Son who trusted his Father in the agony of Gethsemane and the terrible death on Calvary when his body was also stabbed, Jesus’ resurrection, example and love remind us that there is also hope as we consider the hellish and heavenly experiences we all face which can affect and deaden not only the body but the soul too. Every day offers the opportunity to be alive rather than deadened to the possibility of change and new beginnings as we still have time to make choices sometime denied to others. As the ongoing struggle between light and darkness, sorrow and hope continues in our lives, minds and communities, we in our turn will also find ourselves subject to reassessment by those who may judge us when our legacy is entrusted to their care. What will be thought about this era and the responses our generations made when we become ancestors?
Meanwhile, if we allow it to and despite the risks before us, each day will bring another dawn, fresh hope and new opportunities – whether or not it’s wet!
The Diocesan Prayer for the Second Sunday after Trinity
Even as the inequalities of race, health, wealth, and opportunity lie painfully exposed across our world, we become more aware of our mutual dependence across national and social divides. Give us the courage to make love the foundation of all our decisions, knowing that this will not be without cost, but that it is the only way to righteousness and reconciliation. Amen. (Canon Carol Wardman)
With my prayers,