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A Song for Lent – Day 6 – Must bad always happen before good?

A Song for Lent – 40 Days in the West End

Day 6 – Tuesday after 1st Sunday of Lent

To Read: Click on song title to watch a video 

Something Good

from Sound of Music

Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth

For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

For here you are standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

Nothing comes from nothing…

From the Scriptures:

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

Romans 8.28-31

To Reflect:

It’s odd how theology and doctrine changes when it is faced with the realities of life.

I first grew in the faith, and remain daily grateful, for the gentle hands of Agnes Weston’s Royal Sailor’s Rest. A docks Rescue Mission centred on English ports where the Royal Navy had a large presence – Devonport, Chatham and of course Pompey – it moulded my early faith with unquestioning belief in my need for redemption.

This was reinforced with a heady mix of altar calls in a Baptist church in Fareham (and Billy Graham talks on a reel-to-reel tape player), the excitement in the faith of the young women singers of the Salvation Army ‘Joybells’ (I’m sure I had my first boy ‘crush’ on one of them), and the certainty of Sword Drill at Sunday School on Rowner Estate – first person to find a scripture reference gets a free sweetie.

I knew I was saved, but I also knew I was a sinner and would spend my teenage years constantly trying to appease a God who at the same time loved me eternally but was also ‘out to get me’ if I dared stray from the straight and narrow.

The doctrine of Original Sin was my meat and drink. I knew I was rotten at heart and fortunate that God deigned to glance in my direction and occasionally smile.

I know not when the change occurred exactly. I know where it was it happened though, it was in Africa.

In Namibia where the first stirrings of a vocation to priesthood grew, in Cape Town where I met the unconditional love of the sisters of the Community of The Resurrection of Our Lord, in Johannesburg where I was blessed with the gift of the love of my beloved Lesley-Anne, and so, so much more. It remains my humble privilege to have deepened my faith at the hands of the African church which has never doubted the benevolence of Unkulunkulu, Molimo, uTixo, so many wonderful names for the One Who Loves us Best.

Latterly the writings of the Franciscan Richard Rohr have helped me see Sound of Musicbeyond the feedback loop of my sinfulness and helplessness, past the Original Sin of our first parents, to the Original Goodness of the God who looks at us and says of the final work, the completion, of creation that we are ‘indeed, very good’ (Genesis 1.31). We are made good, not bad, and the divine image within us calls us towards goodness not wretchedness.

My experience of the love of others has deepened my picture of the great love of God and I can no longer believe that God’s love for me depends on my good behaviour. We do not worship a ‘tit for tat’ God who will only love us if…

This raises questions about what we believe happens in the Atonement and the doctrine of what is called ‘Penal Substitution’ – God the Father ‘punishing’ Christ the Son so that we may be saved[1].

For me there is no sense, as both Maria and Captain Von Trapp wonder, that something must have gone wrong in the past for things to be so, so wonderful now. As Hildegard of Bingen said:

God hugs you, God hugs you,

You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.

You shine so finely it surpasses understanding.

In the end, when we are all finally encircled in the arms of the One Who Loves Us Best I suppose it will not matter whether we lived our faith believing in Original Sin, Original Goodness, Predestination or any other doctrine which may have helped us homeward. All that matters is that whether we had a ‘wicked childhood’ or not we are forever the subject of God’s love and this is the ‘something good’ on to which I want to spend the rest of my existence holding.

To Pray:

Soft the Master’s love song,
and beautiful to hear:
‘Come to me, you poor,
all who stumble in distress;
relief from toil I offer,
come to me for rest.’

‘If you’re burdened down,
let me bear the strain for you.
You must not despair:
through my Easter death has died;
so journey on with courage,
I am by your side.’

Jesus you are strong,
I am weak, a foolish child;
I will turn to you,
boast in you alone, my friend.
Your words give life to live by,
love that has no end.

Rudolf Pantou, Indonesia

To Do:

  • If Original Sin is an important part of your faith, try to spend some time enjoying the goodness of God’s earth and see the hope and joy in new life. If you can, sing!
  • if being created in the Image of God (Original Goodness) is an important part of your faith, weep for the darkness in the world and our part in it. If you can, make amends

Encore: Click on song title to watch a video

Later in these reflections I will write of the challenges of a strident nationalism. When the Captain and his family sing Edelweiss we see its best and most beautiful side.

 

Acknowledgements:

Prayers are from ‘Prayers Encircling the World’ and are copyright © SPCK: 1998.
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘A Song for Lent – 40 Days in the West End’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2018
[1] My apologies for an extremely simplistic description of a complex belief held by many people who are my sisters and brothers in Christ.

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