What a party piece Shelland Church is! Unremarkable from the outside, the nave stands on early foundations and was a local estate church, which only became fully part of the diocese in recent times. The eagle shown is on a verging wand and was reputedly carried as a sign of independence! The dedication to Charles King and Martyr (one of only three in the country) was added after the Restoration as another act of chutzpah. It has box pews and a full working 3-decker pulpit which I used, of course! It boasts the only church barrel organ in regular use, which actually sounded rather good, and a new roll had been added with more modern hymns like “Be still”. Look out too for the font cover with an easy-access hatch to save the bother of taking the whole thing off for a christening!
Well – follow that! I took my lead in preaching from the way in which Charles interlinked his faith and his politics – and divided opinion just as the reaction to King Abdullah’s death does. However uncomfortable, religion and faith are going to remain powerful motives for many people across the world, and we cannot pretend otherwise; or relegate them to the private arena – or not at least without even more repression than we are seeking to mitigate.
But at best faith and religion are part of the answer not part of the problem. Especially Christian faith that takes its inspiration from the Good Shepherd and is willing to go out like sheep among wolves (the Gospel of the day), absolutely committed to loving others, even our enemies, because that is how God has loved us. And in this sort of religion, the more fundamentalist – as it were – we are, the more we love others, because that is what we most fundamentally believe in ourselves.
And if that is demanding and emptying and dangerous calling, we rejoice that we are called to the table of Christ where the more we have given the more we receive, the emptier we are the more we can be filled, and the more we lose our lives the more we will find them.
It has though to begin in each of our individual hearts. So let it begin today.