Archbishop George has written a meditation for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. The full text is available below.
Although we weren’t able to celebrate VE day nationally as planned, the socially distanced street parties and other local celebrations showed just how deep the memory of the end of the war is etched in the memory of this country.The newsreels of singing and dancing, the powerful speeches of Winston Churchill, and the images of the Queen seem to be part of the DNA of the United Kingdom. In the midst of the celebrations, Churchill warned of the dark days that lay ahead, and of the many bereaved who could not join in the parties because their loved ones did not return from the war.
The German people suffered too. Writing of the oppression they experienced, a dying German soldier wrote a letter addressed to God:
“You are old, Oh God. An old fashioned God. You cannot cope with the long list of our dead and our agonies. We no longer really know you. You are a fairy tale God. Your voice has grown too soft for the thunder of our times. Today we need a new one to help us in our misery and fear. We search for you in every room, in every shell hole, in every night. We mourn for you, wept for you, cursed at you. Where are you God? The theologians have let you grow old. Live with us at night when it is cold and the stomach is hungry. Have you completely locked yourself in your churches? Can you hear us through the stained glass windows? Where are you God”.
Every generation will have one version or another of those sentiments, depending on the war, or the famine, or the pandemic it is facing. “Where are you God”. “Why does God allow this to happen”. As always, it is our own poet R.S. Thomas who reflects on the seeming absence of God when he writes: “He is such a fast God, always before us, and leaving as we arrive”. But why doesn’t he speak? Why doesn’t he answer our prayers? Again R.S.Thomas pierces the cloud:
It’s not that he can’t speak;
Who created languages
But God? Not that he won’t;
To say that is to imply
Malice. It is just that
He doesn’t; Or does so at times
When we are not listening, in
Ways we have yet to recognise
As speech. (“Nuclear”)
The opening of John’s gospel is a record of God speaking. “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God……The Word was made Flesh and dwelt amongst”. (John 1:13). It is Thomas again who speaks for us all “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way”. How will the disciples manage in the future when he has gone and they are left behind? Jesus does not give them a list of instructions. He does not answer questions about God and God’s purpose. He points to himself. “To have seen Me is to have seen the Father”. Jesus is the face of God, the Word of God. The Heart of God. Jesus reveals God to us in his divinity, and reveals us to God in our humanity. The climax of that revelation is not in words but in action. His dying on the cross and his rising to new life, allowing us a share in God’s own life through our faith, through Baptism and Holy Communion.
“I am the Way”. Not that I have the way. ” I am the Truth”. I do not just speak the truth. I share the authentic love within God himself with you – even when it takes me to the cross. “ I am the Life”. “ In Him was life and the life was the light of men. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:2-3). No one in the gospel is regarded as a mistake, although they may do mistaken actions like we all do. “Life is precious. Handle with prayer”.
During this painful and worrying time when so much comfort and security has been taken away from us, when our churches are closed and our bereavements become even more traumatic because of funeral restrictions we might easily say “Can you hear our cries through the stained glass windows?”. But in this time of silence and enforced reflection we might also proclaim that God speaks….
When we are not listening,
In ways we have yet to recognise