A Candle in the Window

31st March 2021            A Candle in the Window            Peter Millar

Words to encourage us all in tough times.            ionacottage@hotmail.com

An Easter Meditation:

(This is a meditation from a book I wrote with Neil Paynter some years ago – We Journey in Hope; Reflections on the Words from the Cross.)

Forgive them, Father. They don’t know what they are doing.  Luke 23:34

A few years ago with the late and wise Anne McPherson I wrote a book about a ministry we had shared, along with my late wife Dorothy, in Bidwill in western Sydney. Bidwill carries many of the markers of modern social deprivation and is home to a large range of different cultures and religious traditions. Dorothy and I had been given a place to live in a local church hall which was also a vibrant community centre. In Bidwill, random violence and acts of sacrifice and love companion one another each day. In the foreword to that book, Jo Inkpin, an Australian friend, wrote some words which are prophetic. In my understanding these words relate to these first words of Jesus from the Cross…..”The contemporary world provides a great paradox. The incredible diversity of the world’s population is linked ever more closely to the forces of globalisation and climate change. Yet we remain deeply fractured by massive disparities of wealth and by conflicts intimately related to our varied cultures, religions and identities. Rather than divisions being transformed, past painful memories are regularly enlarged and new walls are daily erected. In the Western world, fear of the ‘other’ has become a powerful driver of social and political policy. Meanwhile, many people are accustomed to knowing little or nothing of their neighbours – a fact which impoverishes us all”.

At this time when new and higher walls of division and fresh disconnections  are becoming an accepted part and parcel of the fabric of humankind, the idea of forgiveness seems totally counter-cultural. Why should we forgive one another? After all, we have been wronged. Why should nations forgive one another? How can we possibly forgive past memories and earlier narratives within our communities or within our own often complicated lives? And why should the millions of our sisters and brothers who today remain trapped in gut-wrenching poverty and oppressive social structures even dream about forgiving the rest of us, who, it can be argued are directly and indirectly responsible for their marginalisation?

Throughout the centuries, theologians and biblical scholars have reminded us that these strong words of Jesus are in a sense a nutshell of the whole Gospel. They bring us to the mind and heart of God. Here in this situation of agony, Jesus, hanging on a rough cross, looked around at all who mocked him, and in tenderness invited God to forgive both their cruelty and their ignorance. Many of those gathered around the cross that day did not know what they were doing – in fact they had not the slightest clue as to what they were doing. They were blinded. Just as we are also constantly without sight or understanding in our own lives, or in Brian Wren’s words, ‘half-free, half-bound’. Like many of those at the foot of the cross that day, we too are swept along my multiple forces which desensitise us. How else can we explain the continuing, moment by moment abuse by us all of our beautiful planet and our steadfast refusal to live more simply that others may simply live?        (End of the book quote.)

*** In the years since I wrote that book with Neil our world has changed at every level. The words of Jesus from his cross are more needed that ever – both in our own personal journeys and globally. It is not however a time for despair. Yes, there is lack of forgiveness, but there is also an awakening. Millions now believe that we must live differently if humanity is to survive. It is just not possible to increase our enmities and think we can be at peace. The massive popular movements now on every continent demand our listening ears. Within human history we all know well that so much has to be forgiven. Seeking to free ourselves of sub-conscious prejudice is a healthy step toward to us being a more forgiving person. Why not just accept that we have often been wrong, ignorant and blind vis a vis other cultures and identities? And our awareness can move forward in quiet prayer and stillness even if we are approaching a hundred!  One example. Christ must weep over the level of our racial prejudice. So let us, wherever we are, have that inner quiet and allow the words of Jesus to penetrate our often distorted hearts. To face our inner selves with greater integrity, and to seek forgiveness. We journey together.

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live, a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive; built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace; here the love of God shall end division, for all are welcome in this place. Words by Marty Haugen

* We Journey in Hope - Wild Goose Publications ISBN 978-1-84952-076-8

* Thank you again for all your prayers and loving messages. I am back home and recovering slowly from being so ill. Sending Easter hope and light.