As I look out at the moon. I am reminded of the Cathedral in Gloucester and one Ash Wednesday, which by co – incidence fell on the same day as the Islamic New Year. As I walked home from Evensong and looked up at the fragile crescent moon above the pale floodlit tower, peace seemed so real, so tangible. So tantalisingly close. There above me were the crescent and the cross, symbols of two major faiths together in one icon of absolute beauty. A prayer so evocative, so eternal that for a moment everything seemed full of the freshness of new life.
But now as then, a moment listening to the news, more deaths, more violence, more hatred ...... brought me back to the reality of the divided world. Divided by faith, creed, culture, economics......
No wonder we find it hard to trust in the Prince of Peace, and a God of love supposedly able to embrace all people, all cultures, all creeds. Suffering and war do knock our faith in a loving God, vandalise it even. But thank God they needn't destroy it, because at the cornerstone of that faith is Jesus. Who on the one hand was himself at the mercy of the world and who on the other was and is the mercy of God FOR the world. For its healing, its redemption. War, hatred, suffering, indifference, cruelty, all these things break the heart of love. But they can't break the power of love.
God was and is passionately interested in all his people and creatures and weeps and grieves more deeply than we can imagine. But the love he embodies in Christ is stronger than the worst we can do to each other. Stronger than death itself and even the many waters of religious hatred cannot quench it.
That doesn't make our faith a passive acceptance of evil. It doesn't stop us raging at God at the pain of seeing beheadings, bombs, refugees drowning, children starving before they have even had a chance at life. If our prayers are to be real or in any way vital then they must at times be as angry as they are reverent, which is the ongoing power of the psalms- which above all else are real. Uncomfortable yes- but real. Real relationships are about real emotions and our relationship with God is as real as a relationship can get, although it has to live with the paradox of the closest presence and the deepest absence.
We are called to look suffering full in the face and to challenge the cries of 'Crucify, crucify' not just during Lent but whenever we see hatred or prejudice or fear. Whenever we see Christs form in the broken and oppressed people and creatures of this beautiful and brutal world. We are called to stand alongside peoples of all faith and none. Not in superiority, but in penitence and humility. We are all in this together, whatever our faith, whatever we call ourselves we are in this mishmash world of joy and tragedy, of wonder and of horror together. Tears and laughter. Pain and hope know no barriers of language. They are universal as God is universal and as our need to empty our hearts of all that divides us is universal.
Each day as I look at the moon and look at the cross I can only pray Father forgive. Not in despair but in hope. Trusting and believing that the crescent and the cross can meet, can embrace, can make peace and can make our world a place we would all want our children and grand children to grow up in and thrive in.
Hope is fragile. Hope is being bombarded. But hope is love refusing to give in Refusing to surrender to hatred.
In the time I have taken to write this, lives will have been taken in the name of religion, in places far removed from the safety of my little cabin. That's the reality. That's the tragedy. That's the choice. Give up or go on.
I commit to choosing to go on......