In Praise of ‘Songs of Praise.’

I for one am really pleased, no delighted, that Songs of Praise is off to Calais.

And, I fully support our Bishops (and Archbishops – sorry Justin!) who have spoken in favour of the BBC’s decision to televise an episode which might just upset those preferring a highly comfortable, and domesticated, form of institutional Christianity. Now, I fully accept that the situation in Calais is complex and, that there are no easy political solutions.

But, I also accept that the gospel has a few things to say about refugees and migrants. Jesus it seems had a heart for them!

In fact Jesus made a direct link between his claim to be the fulfilment of the law and the prophets and, the status of the poor, blind and oppressed (Luke 4, 16-21 for example).

Jesus was, of course, a refugee; both literally and metaphorically. Like those in Calais he too had no place of his own to rest his head (Luke 9, 58).

When tempted to doubt how seriously Jesus took his own ministry to the prisoner and the refugee we need look no further than the Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25, 31-46). It is interesting to reflect that this parable is also called ‘The Judgement of the Nations.’  Politicians take note!

If the job of the Church , as solemnised in a priest’s ordination vows, is to ‘proclaim the gospel afresh in every generation,’  we, the Church (as His body) also need to go and stand stand alongside the migrant and the refugee. It is a simple matter of obedience and not of choice.

Sometimes the Church needs other institutions to remind it of its obligations; thank you Auntie!

And, thank you to the countless men and women of faith who throughout the generations have understood that our neighbour, who we must serve through the pursuit of justice, and the exercise of charity, is found in the face of the other, the stranger in our midst and, that this theological truth trumps political expediency, comfortable yet heartless religion, and the demands of media hell bent on redefining, and sanitising, the ‘gospel,’ in their own, domestic, terms.

C.T. Studd the international cricketer turned missionary summed up his understanding of the gospel mandate when he said that ‘true mission takes place a yard from the gate of hell.’ 

More recently Pope Francis has written that that:

‘The Church is SENT (yes sent – my addition) to reawaken this hope everywhere, especially where it has been suffocated by difficult and often-times inhuman living conditions; where hope cannot breathe it suffocates. We need the fresh air of the gospel, the breath of the Risen Christ, to rekindle it in people’s hearts………the Holy Spirit urges us to GO (my stress) beyond our narrow confines and he guides us to the outskirts of humanity.’

And in this quote we discover the missionary paradox; the breathe of God – which is the breath of hope –  is at its sweetest where the stench of human misery is most potent.

I can’t quite believe I am saying this but I am really looking forward to Songs of Praise this Sunday! 

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