There are some writers on Christian life and human existence who are invariably good, and reading them just as invariably does you good. For me Timothy Radcliffe is one such writer, and I came across these words of his, quoted in Stanley Hauerwas' slim volume of sermons, A Cross Shattered Church.
"If forgiveness were forgetting then God would have to suffer the most acute amnesia, but it is God's unimaginable creativity, which takes what we have done and makes it fruitful. The medieval image of God's forgiveness was the flpowering of the cross. The cross is the ugly sign of torture. It is the sign of humanity's ability to refect love and to do what is utterly sterile. But the artists of the middle ages showed this cross flowering on Easter Sunday. The dead wood put out tendrils and flowers. Forgiveness makes the dead live and the ugly beautiful."
Whatever else we can complain about in the news just now, death and ugliness seem to dominate the headlines.
So I want to hear the counter claims of people of faith, that grace is beautiful, that forgiveness beautifies, that mercy makes life possible once again.
I want to hear love defiant enough to claim that compassion is not weakness but strength, that hope is not irresponsible optimism but responsible and determined trust that God's power is redemptive, ultimately and remorselessly redemptive.
I want to hear a faith so confident in the reconciling heart of God that every act of compassion, forgiveness, mercy and self-giving is performed as an intentional and persistent gesture of redemption, an aligning of our hearts with God, in love, purpose and determination that Creation will not die.
Why? Because we believe in resurrection, in life defying death, in love eclipsing hate, in peace persuading violence to desist, in forgiveness denying to enmity its raison d'etre, and in life. Yeds, as resurrection people we believe in life.
This I want to hear - and unless the preaching of the church takes up these vast truths of redemption and reconciliation,we trivialise the Gospel we are called to proclaim, we abandon our privileged role as ambassadors of Christ the Reconciler, and in a world so fragmented and jagged-edged from its own brokenness we will lose the right to be heard as those who bring something entirely different, hope-filled and redolent of new possibility. ASnd what we bring is Good News, crucified love blossming as resurrected hope.