The Aberdeen Press and Journal circulates all over Scotland but its highest uptake is in the North East, where there are two editions - Aberdeenshire, and Aberdeen City. It continues a long journalistic tradition of the paper by publishing a weekly Saturday Sermon from a rota of people from various Christian persepectives. I am an occasional contributor, have been now for 25 years. The total word count for each sermon is 275 give or take a very few; I enjoy the challenge of aiming for such a modest length and still hoping to say something worth the reading.
This was yesterday's offering, included here because I am on a Dag Hammarksköld roll just now. I am reading about and thinking through the unavoidable complexities of global politics, diplomatic leadership and a faith commitment demanding self-sacrifice, integrity and a weight of personal responsibility that cannot be shifted elsewhere. Here is yesterday's Saturday Sermon:
In the 1950’s the name Dag Hammarskjöld had global recognition. He was the first Secretary General of the United Nations, from 1953 till his death in a plane crash in 1961. He was on a peace-making mission to the Belgian Congo. After his death a small handwritten notebook with hundreds of short entries was found at his bedside. It was published as Markings. It revealed a man of deep faith and integrity struggling to hold together Christian values and political realities in a world divided by the Cold War and multiple conflicts in Africa and Asia.
“In our era”, he wrote, “the road to holiness necessarily runs through the world of action.” He realised over 50 years ago that in a complicated, dangerous and God-loved world Christians must be engaged in justice, peace-making, and hope building. In Markings he wrote brief prayers like this: “So shall the world be created each morning anew, forgiven –in Thee, by Thee.” There is a hopefulness and a lack of cynicism in Hammarskjöld’s words that are refreshing in our own age of Tweets and political self-promotion.
This man who prayed “to love life and men [and women] as God loves them”, this man committed to building peace and hope amongst nations, wrote this prayer nearer the end of his life, at the height of his influence and responsibilities: “For all that has been – Thank You. For all that is to come – YES”. The combination of gratitude and hope vibrating through that brief cry to God point to the core values that can energise and focus Christian living and action today. Gratitude and hope are essential drivers of a Church believing its own good news of grace, forgiveness and new life .