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'The Singing Bird Will Come'
Paula O'Shaughnessy, April 7th, 2013

Today's Gospel offers a vision of what it means to have a faith in and to follow Jesus.  And it is not just one way of serving him it all depends on what God asks us to do.  There's Thomas, who is invited by Jesus to have faith and to leave aside any doubts.  The other apostles each have their own role.

There's the Beloved Disciple who is often identified as John.  His role is to live long and to give witness in the writing of the Gospel. Having faith is not enough as we know that the disciples are hiding in fear from the Jews.  To build the church and spread the Gospel, they need to have courage to venture out into the world. In the passage which follows today's reading from scripture we learn about Peter.  Peter questions Jesus about John's role and what it is to be.  Jesus admonishes him and reminds Peter that he needs to concentrate on his own role.

Peter's task is to spread the Gospel, build the Church and to suffer and die for his faith in Christ.  Jesus tells Peter he is to be girded by another and be taken where he does not wish to go.

In the declaration Peter makes three times, of his love for Jesus, he is refuting the three times denial he made, prior to Jesus' resurrection.

If we understand anything by this, it is that we need to have courage and wisdom.  We all know that moment well when the right action becomes clear and inescapable.  That still, small voice of conscience that says what we need to do. This Lent, we have had the chance to reflect and renew our faith and better understand what our Christian witness and actions need to be.

I have been watching the 1970s drama series, 'Colditz', which, apart from being a fantastic piece of theatre, also offers the chance to hold the mirror up to human nature.  If you haven't watched it, I would urge you to.

The dynamics of the World War 2 Prisoners of War Allied Forces of officer class, held in the fortress in Germany are fascinating. The camp Kommandant is an honourable Officer of the Old school, non-political military force (the Wehrmacht).  He is distinct from the ideological and politically aligned Nazi forces the SS and the Gestapo. The Senior British Office, Colonel Preston, is a man who operates flexibly and pragmatically, under difficult circumstances.  He follows a code of honour, discipline and right action.  Often the spirit of the law prevails, rather than the letter of the law.  Colonel Preston secures fair treatment for his men, but realises the limits of his powers.

There are unlikely alliances; Colonel Preston and the Kommandant work together to prevent the death of a Polish officer, at the hands of his own people, following a court-martial.  The Pole had been passing information to the German guards, after being threatened by the Gestapo with the lives of his wife and children, during an earlier stay in hospital. This was a case of the Kommandant and the Senior British Officer joining forces, to save a man's life, who would otherwise have been a victim of the madness of war.

The prevailing theme is that one needs to adhere to self-discipline, the greater good, honour and right action.  It is not a matter of blindly following convention, giving int to pressure, or following orders, without applying reason or logic.

In the Anglican Church tradition, the prevailing influence of moderating forces, realiance on reason, not just faith is a great legacy for us.  We inherit a tradition of tolerance and moderation, from 16th century thinkers such as Richard Hooker.

It is our duty to be true to our faith, to have courage, but to make sure we also have compassion and understanding. In our everyday lives, in every encounter we have, within our church and outside of it, we are Christ's witnesses.  We need to make sure that we offer a warm welcome, one from the heart where we are in tune with the feelings of others, how we connect and the effect our actions have on others.

We, as Christians must welcome all people being all encompassing and non-exclusive. 

An image which may help us in this is the old Chinese proverb: 'If we keep a green bough in our heart, the singing bird will come'.




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