UNFINISHED

2013-02-03-Lincoln

click image to go to YouTube trailer

UNFINISHED AND UNPOLISHED thoughts hereunder about an unfinished and as yet unpolished work – having seen Steven Spielberg’s huge LINCOLN this evening. And huge is really the word – for both the film and the work, the work of renewal, both essential and costly.

Renewal is costly because it leads to the reformation of society. ‘Magellan discovered the world was round by sailing closer to the edge than anyone else before him! That is precisely where and how the Church needs to sail today – closer to the edges, where it can prove the power and truth of its gospel, challenging the prejudices and blindnesses of society, a society that is weary and largely spent’ …

So reads the back page blurb on Bishop Michael Marshall’s 1992 book The Gospel Conspiracy, subtitled Unlocking the Church for Renewal and Evangelism. That book, that inspirational bishop and that vision all came to mind as I sat spellbound before Daniel Day Lewis’s Lincoln. The Church in my lifetime has played a valuable part in challenging prejudices, the great, great work of unlocking. But how glad I am that the work of challenge is reciprocal – that society’s arts do a pretty good job at challenging the prejudices and blindnesses of the Church, too, a Church that is weary …

Freedom first …

Freedom first: the great leitmotif of our human story. Freedom first. And – warming in my cinema seat tonight – I was glad to be a gospel conspirator in 2013. Glad to be in service as priest and pastor. Glad to be, in my small part, a voice in the orchestra, a voice in the wilderness sometimes, a voice for change. Glad – by the grace of film – to be presented with a telling of the life and hard-won achievements of an oftentimes lonely and great storytelling Lincoln before the strains of Les Miserables have faded from my head and heart. Or the prophetic interfaith hope in the Life of Pi – who truly came alive whilst shipwrecked for 227 days at sea in company with a hungry Bengal tiger – loads of scope for a religious imagination here! – Or the gospel according to Oscar Wilde so beautifully enunciated by young Sonny in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – “Everything will be alright in the end, so if it’s not alright now it cannot be the end.”

Freedom first …

Yes, glad, today especially, having celebrated a “King of Glory” coming into the hearts and lives of a shattered people NOT as “a great King, mighty in battle” (Psalm 24.1-6) but, surprise, surprise, as the baby son of an unmarried teenage mother. How subversive can you get? Who, now, will ever be denied the opportunity – at any point in history – for just such an experience? How free – this light to lighten the gentiles? How liberated – notwithstanding, even for a moment, the cost to be borne by both the mother and the child, by this and by every mother and child. But it is in his light, the light that reveals Anointed-ness, Christ-ness, in all people – in the dawn of the new age heralded by the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and thereafter in human hearts, that I can gladly enumerate one profoundly necessary change after another, many of them in my lifetime.

What are the forms of slavery and bondage that come to mind most readily today? To whom do we want to abrogate authority to have – in the matter of another’s being held in any form of slavery – a final say? And if the answer is “to no-one” – other than to God (howsoever conceived) and to plain good conscience – what might that mean for a new world, or for a renewed Church, in our time? “What will they do if they’re all emancipated at once?” – we’re too often tempted still to ask. “Let my people go” was the rallying call that bestirred Moses. “Today you will be with me in Paradise” is the Christ’s shocking answer to the thief dying beside him, each of them nailed to a gibbet. And from his albeit rather different cross the voice of Abraham Lincoln still resounds …

Freedom first …

Freedom. Sailing close to the edge. Circumventing bureaucracies and outdated laws and leaders both ancient and modern. Standing up for the gospel of a subversive Christ of God. Renewal, both unfinished and unpolished. But a work I’m glad to be a part of nonetheless.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3.28

4 thoughts on “UNFINISHED

  1. Really looking forward to this film Simon. And I am so grateful to hear your articulate voice in the wilderness. Aren’t there some great films?

  2. Thanks David. You’ve a treat in store. Another edge-of-seat experience for me, like Les Miserables. Yes, some fabulous films – modern stained glass windows. I saw a great little video on the Presentation of Christ in the Temple the other day – produced by the Mormon Church. It strikingly brought said Temple right before my eyes. So dreams of an expensive Anglican film studio in LA then? No. Just continued sensitive interpretation of and through our irreplaceable liturgy, (frustrating as the Church may be, says Rachel Mann, it’s still a place of grace) – together with a widening of our theological imaginations, using resources already available to us, relatively inexpensively, through the good offices of the arts. One of the really exciting things for you and me is that we know people these days who are and will be very well equipped to develop best use of this vast “resource”. Sorry! – that was a long thanks 🙂

  3. I’ve just finished ‘Saving Jesus From the Church’ (Robin Meyers) and this echoes so much of what is said there.

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