21 December 2016
The Battle belongs to the Lord: Part 3
Part Three: Gifts of Love and Guerrilla Gardening
Lives again our victorious King;
where, O death, is now thy sting?
Dying once, he all doth save;
where thy victory, O grave?
This hymn is much better known as “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”, which consists of ten verses, here we are looking in five parts at the five verses that make up a shorter hymn we call “Love's Redeeming Work is Done”. The first hymn had “Alleluia” tagged onto the end of every one of the forty lines of the hymn: to make it suitably Easter-like. The downside of the larger hymn is only tends to get sung once a year.
The shock, pain, horror, disbelief we face in the early stages of coming to terms with any death, including Diane's, is something that's evident. The 'sting' Charles Wesley is talking of, is the removal, in Christ, of a version of death that concludes with Sheol or Hades, a place of permanent ending. What God gifts us with, instead, is with gifts of love, for all, for always.
Loss and grief, for St Philip's in Diane's death will not look much like a gift at all, but Robin Gill, a contemporary theologian pointed out that there are many gifts that arise from the noticing that occurs in us when we lose those we love. That noticing can lead to a desire to dare to do things we wouldn't be so emboldened to be or become except because of our loss.
I have been thinking about the “guerrilla gardening” in the parable of the mustard seed. I love this parable, because it also resonates with Jesus' saying about only needing a mustard seed of faith for acts of love beyond our wildest imaginings. We're not asked to be much, just to use even the tiniest gift of God in us for a wild and liberated purpose. In the parable, planting seeds, was, likely, for the hearers, known as an illegal or at least an unclean act: mustard plants really take over like weeds.
The hearers of this parable were probably more familiar with the idea of birds of the air not nesting in large shrubs nearly as big as trees, but would have preferred the picture of a cedar of Lebanon or an oak of righteousness for the birds. Some funny things I find in the humour of this parable is debunking assumptions that we need to have outsized notions of how the kingdom of God arrives with us in grand ways in designs even bigger or better than a Babel Tower. No, the kingdom, it seems, for now, is not like that; maybe it's more like a weed that cannot be stopped: that will be sufficient. These weed-like gifts are the kinds of gifts of love you, with Diane, have already shared in Sheffield, via St Philip's and in many places including Parson Cross.