Approximately thirty years ago I lived in the North West of England, in Lancashire, and whilst there I very much enjoyed playing club rugby for Preston Grasshoppers; yes I did play with Wade Dooley and his much more frightening brother! One of the teams we used to play against had a changing room which was entirely covered with road signs which were presumably ‘liberated’ on the journey home from some far flung destination.
I imagine that road users across whole swathes of the North were frustrated by the kleptomaniac tendencies of (………..) Rugby Club! Signs and signals are after all important in helping us get to our destination.One of my frustrations is when I am driving somewhere and my destination is clearly signposted until it suddenly, on the whim of the road side sign people, disappears. I can’t tell you last week how much time I spent in nearly, but not quite, getting to St. Minvera!
But, what of religious or faith based signposts? How do they make us feel? Well, I suspect that if most of us would die of embarrassment if we had to walk around town wearing a sandwich board on which was written ‘repent now, salvation is near.’
And yet, as a Christian community, we are called to be a visible sign that ‘salvation’ is the destination; indeed the epistle makes this perfectly clear: ‘salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.’ As a missionary and evangelistic church we are mandated to proclaim salvation’s song. We need, as individuals and as a community, to be effective signs of the gospel story. But how are we to do this? Fortunately our readings give the answer: honesty and integrity in our internal relationships, reconciliation, forgiveness and above all the art of ‘loving one another.’
I would want to suggest that learning to live this way means intentionally grasping one of Bishop Steven’s three Cs: courage. Intentionally living a life that is honest, forgiving and loving, allowing ourselves to be agents of reconciliation transcends vague and ambiguous notions of niceness. Honesty, forgiveness, reconciliation and love all take work and effort and all carry the risk of hurt, failure and rejection. The exercise of Godly living is always potentially sacrificial, but also, always, signposts the way to the Kingdom and salvation.
Let me finish by telling you the story of Bishop Leonard Wilson: Bishop Wilson was serving as the Bishop of Singapore in 1941 and was subsequently imprisoned in a prisoner of war camp. Wilson gave evidence to those investigating the nature of systematic torture in the Sime Road Internment Camp but, he also ministered to some of the worst perpetrators of violence. He led both some his fellow prisoners and his captors to faith and, after the war, returned to confirm the man who was his own torturer. In the worst of circumstances through his insistence on honesty, forgiveness, reconciliation and love Bishop Wilson was a signpost to the fact that ‘salvation is near.’
As Christians – believers- we too, through the way we live our lives, through our commitment to the Divine Virtues, must also be living signpost to the fact that ‘salvation is near,’ irrespective of the potential cost. Amen.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown