Sacrificial Love: a reflection after Lent

Reverend Barbara Calvert is a Methodist minister and a member of FoR.  During Lent, Barbara’s church, Chislehurst Methodist Church, displayed the Drones Quilt and it got her thinking…

Sacrificial love                              

Throughout the Lenten season we at Chislehurst Methodist Church reflected on the theme of peace and reconciliation. We had the drones quilt hanging in our church throughout Lent to remind us of the indiscriminate violence of war – each square of the quilt representing an innocent life lost through weapons of blind destruction.

Each Sunday we explored the lectionary readings to see what God might be saying to us through the scriptures. The reading on the first Sunday of our series was from Mark 8. 31 – 38 where Jesus talks of his suffering to come. We explored the theme of power and suffering and what we mean by speaking of an all-powerful God when there is so much suffering in the world. We struggle to understand as we look at the expressions of power all around us. The power of Putin in Russia that is looking increasingly frightening;  the power of sections of the world  financial industry which feeds the wealthy with good things and robs the poor;  we see the power of international companies avoiding tax, exploiting the labour market and making millions for themselves. This sort of power, we concluded is the power of Caesar.

Our understanding of an all-powerful God is a God of love whose power can never be overcome. This is a very different understanding of power to the power of Caesar. God is love:  that is God’s power….and love can never be overcome. Human power comes and goes. It dies. Evil and corrupt leaders, who seem all powerful one day, will eventually fail, their power will fade, it and they will die. The power of the God of love never dies.

Quilt at Chislehurst methodist church

The quilt above the church’s prayer labyrinth (A. Faulkner)

 

Another Sunday we were led in reflection on Christians who suffer persecution and violence simply by seeking to live as Christians. Sadly there were contemporary events to support the theme of Church attacks in Pakistan and Nigeria.  A third Sunday was a Taizé service with the theme of reconciliation as its focus. The final Sunday in the Lent series was Palm Sunday and after the usual distribution of palm crosses we explored the theme of extravagant love inspired by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus who poured out her whole jar of spikenard perfume on the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair.

We sought throughout Lent to mirror the approach of Jesus as he faced the brutality of Roman occupation– that is,  not to offer clever arguments on just war theories, or arguments for nuclear disarmament, or arguments for the case of pacifism – although we might have done that but we sought to mirror  the action of Jesus. We simply endeavoured to lay alongside the symbol of war and suffering, the drones quilt, an alternative vision; a vision of nonviolent resistance, a vision of extravagant love, a vision of sacrificial love, a vision which led us into holy week where God is revealed not as some alien force above us, but as a human being, fully alive yet prepared to give of his life in the battle against inhumanity and darkness.

Over and against the events of holy week – the cries of the crowd which turn so quickly from ‘Hosanna, hosanna’ to ‘Barabbas, Barabbas,’  the denials of Jesus friends, the flogging, the mocking , the injustice of the court trial,  the crown of thorns piercing his head, the nails hammered into his hands and feet, the crucifixion…over and against all this violence and hatred and inhumanity is laid the power of love. Love is stronger than hate; Light is stronger than darkness.

 Reverend Barbara Calvert 

Interested in borrowing the Drones Quilt?  There’s more information here.