A Reflection on the Death of Queen Elizabeth II

A reflection from Sunday morning at Uffington Parish Church on Sunday 11th September 2022, with readings from Luke 15 and 1 Timothy 1.

I wonder which person you see yourself as in the readings today. Are you a righteous person? Or are you a sinner? The good news that we read in our scriptures is that it doesn’t matter which one we think we are, God rejoices in finding the lost. The parable Jesus tells points us to the fact that, no matter what, God pursues us. Why? Because he loves us and longs for us. This was a truth Queen Elizabeth II knew very well, with her oft-declared faith in the person of Jesus Christ. As I was reflecting on these passages, the Queen’s Christmas broadcasts came to mind. I was particularly struck by something she said just a few years ago:

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.
Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.

It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the love of God through Christ our Lord.
(Queen Elizabeth II, Christmas Broadcast 2015)

The really good news for us today is that the love Queen Elizabeth II spoke of at Christmas in 2015 is the same love we are invited into in our readings today. It isn’t just for Christmas, but for all time. First, we hear of the shepherd, leaving the 99 sheep in the field to chase after and bring home the 1 lost sheep. Then, we hear of the woman who furiously cleans her house because she has lost 1 of her precious 10 coins. When they find their precious lost sheep and coin, both shepherd and woman rejoice.

This is the gospel. The good news. We are all sinners, as Paul says, each of us imperfect – even the Queen. This might not sound like good news, but it doesn’t stop there. Jesus’ parables don’t stop with us all remaining lost, rather we are pursued, found and rejoiced in. This is a love that knows no bounds.

This is the gospel, then. We are all sinners… but… Jesus.

We are all sinners, but… Jesus seeks us out.

We are all sinners, but… Jesus pursues us.

We are all sinners, but… Jesus loves us. He rejoices in us.

This is the love which Queen Elizabeth II so often spoke of. This week, though, it was with deep sorrow that Buckingham Palace announced the death of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday evening. Whether expected, or not, death – whenever it comes and however it comes – is always interruptive, indiscriminate and painful. It takes us by surprise, somehow, and unflinchingly unmasks the lie that we can and will live forever. 

Whatever you think of the place of the Royal Family in our national life, there is – at the centre of what has happened here – a human being like any other, and a family coming to terms with a deep loss, in the midst of their heartache and grief. A family who will find it incredibly difficult to reimagine the landscape of their shared life without their beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. 

As for the Queen herself: what a remarkable life, characterised by love, loyalty, and service to country, and to those she loved so deeply. She leaves an enormous legacy behind her.

Yet death cannot and does not have the final word. As Christians, we believe this to be trustworthy and true, for we are an Easter people. Jesus Christ has gone ahead of us in both life and death, and it is his resurrection from the dead that is the basis of our confidence that love bears all and that love conquers all. Love is the light we bear to a broken world and love is the very richest legacy that we leave behind us. 

One of my favourite television programmes is Call the Midwife, not just because of the brilliant social commentary through the 20th Century, but also for its beautiful reflections on the Christian faith. It’s the sort of programme I can just imagine Queen Elizabeth II probably loved. In one episode, one of the religious order reflects, “For just as the swan’s last song is the sweetest of its life, so loss is made endurable by love, and it is love that will echo through eternity.”

It is for her life of steadfast love and service, we give thanks to God for Queen Elizabeth II today. But we also think today of St Luke, and St Paul, and countless other faithful servants who have gone before us. All imperfect and fallible human beings, transformed and redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Queen’s prayer was that we might all find room in our hearts and lives for the love of God through Jesus Christ.

My prayer for each of us is that the gospel of LOVE that inspired Queen Elizabeth II and that she lived by might inspire each of us to commit ourselves to a life of faithful service… a life lived with the love of Jesus and love for other at the centre, both now and in the years to come.

Daddy, my Daddy!

“He looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him.”

“It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

These words are found in John’s gospel, our reading for today, and they paint a picture for us.

In one of the final scenes of The Railway Children, based on the book by Edith Nesbit, we see Bobbie stood on the train platform, filled with smoke. Dare she hope that her father has finally come home. As the smoke dissipates, her eyes catch the form of her father and she runs towards him shouting, “Daddy, my Daddy!”

I had similar experiences as a child and this is perhaps why The Railway Children is such a favourite of mine. My dad was an Army Chaplain and so I had many a moment where my daddy was missing from my side, and many a reunion moment.

In this moment, Bobbie’s dreams come to fruition, all her anxieties are cast aside. There he is, at last. Her daddy. Daddy would make their lives complete once more. He would ensure they never went hungry and fill the empty space his absence had created in their hearts and lives.

In the same way, in our reading this morning, the crowds come towards Jesus with great expectation and anticipation. They have been waiting for the one; the Messiah. They had been able to turn to John the Baptist for reassurance, but – as we heard in our reading a fortnight ago – John had been brutally beheaded. Who else could they turn to?

Jesus. News about him has spread. Here they think they see a new prophet, like one of old. A prophet who they could rely on to lead them back to Yahweh. The crowds come to see and hear from this man, Jesus. He offers reassurance of God’s love for them. He brings security for those deemed unfit to worship in the temple. He feeds them. He feeds their minds, with truth; their hearts, with compassion; their bodies, with miracles.

Jesus refers to God has his Father. He cries on multiple occasions, “Abba!” This is the equivalent of “Daddy!” Through Jesus, the people have their own “Daddy, my Daddy!” moment. God has not forgotten them in their plight and pain. They were not alone in their present circumstances of oppression and foreign invasion. They need not fear. God the Father, their Daddy, had remembered them and come to them himself.

What about us then?

Where do we find our comfort and reassurance?

We have the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.

And Jesus told us to call God “Abba!” He told us to call God, “Daddy.”

Each time we encounter God, we have our own Bobbie moment on the railway platform.

Each time we encounter God through the Eucharist. Each time we encounter God through singing. Each time we encounter God through the reading of scripture and prayer. But also, each time we encounter God in the ordinary. The washing up. The daily walk. The chat with an old friend. For me, it was in the night-time feeds with my daughter when she was a baby. Even in the darkest times, we don’t need to be afraid. Jesus comes through the storm and climbs into the boat with you.

The beauty is that we don’t get to call God “Daddy” because of anything we do or say. It doesn’t matter if we have read our Bible every day, or not at all. We can call God “Daddy” because of who God is. He is our heavenly daddy.

Find somewhere quiet, and take stock of how you’re feeling. When you feel hard pushed, what do you turn to? Be honest. Do I reach for the phone to speak to someone before I speak to God? Do I reach for that comforting food, before I reach for the comforting nourishment of scripture?

Read the verses from John 6: 1-21 again. And remember that, however you’re feeling, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have the beautiful right to encounter God as Daddy, to feel his comforting touch and hear his comforting words: “It is I: Don’t be afraid.”

“Daddy, my Daddy!”

(Sermon given at Winmarleigh Church on Sunday 25th July 2021.)

Encountering God: An Ordinand’s Sermon Pt2

I call this An Ordinand’s Sermon Part 2, because it follows on from a sermon I preached to my formation group at college in February last year. It’s funny, because whilst this sermon is not on the same passage of scripture, it seems (to me, anyway) to be the perfect part 2. God’s funny like that, isn’t he?

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

(John 21: 1-19)

“I’m going fishing,” says Peter, utterly fed up and craving normality. Life has not turned out the way he had thought, when he said ‘yes’ to following Jesus 3 years earlier. He had said ‘yes’ to becoming a fisher of men, ‘yes’ to being taught, ‘yes’ to an adventure with Jesus. And yet, here he was, despondent. “I’m going fishing.” Peter’s urge is to get back to normality, back to reality. So, he goes back to what he knows best. Fishing.

But God has other plans. As they are fishing on the boat, having caught nothing all night, someone calls out from the shore, “Put your nets out on the other side.” They do. And the fish fill the nets. And then it comes. The whisper. “It’s Jesus.” Overjoyed at the sight of his friend, his teacher, his saviour, Peter jumps out of the boat and rushes to meet Jesus on the beach. The others follow as quickly as they can. They drag their enormous catch ashore, but there’s no need… Jesus has already prepared some for them. He smiles and says, “Alright lads… fancy some breakfast?”

They sit and eat, and then we see the remarkable encounter between Peter and Jesus, with Peter’s reinstatement mirroring his denial of his friend. It is beautiful to see Jesus once again stretch out a hand and ask Peter to follow him. And nerving, no doubt, as Peter is told that one day he will go where he is led, and not where he wishes. Still, it’s clear. In the person of Jesus, Peter encounters God on that beach. And in that encounter he is transformed once more, before being sent out.

But this isn’t the first time. If we look back at John 20: 21-22, Peter encounters the risen Jesus and he transforms him with God’s peace and with the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Encountered. Transformed. Sent.

When I preached previously from Luke 5: 1-11, we saw how Peter had an encounter with Jesus, that led to his transformation and a sending out. There is no doubt, that Peter has already been called out of his old life, into a new one. It’s like an old pair of boots that have been worn out and are no longer wearable. We get a new pair of boots. But we can’t put the new boots on over the top of our old boots, nor can we put the old boots on instead of the new boots. They might feel comfortable at first, because we’ve worn them in, but our old boots are no longer fit for the purpose for which they were made. They’re broken. Our new boots, as strange as they might feel, these are the boots which are fit for purpose. Peter went back to the old, back to the comfortable, the fishing. But he is no longer a fisherman. His old life is no longer fit for the purpose for which he has been transformed.

Encountered. Transformed. Sent.

Of course, the same goes for us here today. We were all called to St Mellitus in September 2018. We could have gone to countless other colleges, or put training on hold a few more years. But we didn’t. God called us to train together at the same time as each other. And in that training he has been forming us. Of course, the forming and transforming continues, but this time together has been key to forming us for ordained ministry in the Church of England. The late night bar chats, the 2am McDonalds runs, the worship, the prayer, the tears and snot, the dodgy vegetarian options and the mind-melting bogglement of theological education have all formed us. And if just 1 of us hadn’t been here for the journey, it wouldn’t have quite been the same. We were called together for this time, we have been transformed, and now you are being sent.

So, as you leave college – some of us have another year, because we need that extra bit of formation – and step out into your new lives as ordained disciples of Jesus Christ, shake off your old boots and slip into the new ones. Your old lives are no longer fit for the purpose for which you have been called. And when the discomfort hits, as it usually does with a new pair of shoes, remember Jesus’ words to Peter: “Someone else will take you where you don’t want to go. Follow me.”

I would want a boat, if I wanted a
boat, that bounded hard on the waves,
that didn’t know starboard from port
and wouldn’t learn, that welcomed
dolphins and headed straight for the
whales, that, when rocks were close,
would slide in for a touch or two,
that wouldn’t keep land in sight and
went fast, that leaped into the spray.
What kind of life is it always to plan
and do, to promise and finish, to wish
for the near and the safe? Yes, by the

heavens, if I wanted a boat I would want
a boat I couldn’t steer.
(Mary Oliver, If I Wanted A Boat)

That is my prayer for us all. As we encounter God, he transforms us and sends us out. May we follow him, even to the rocks. May we get into that boat that is his alone to steer.

Amen.

Easter Reflections

“They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, “Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians”? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’ Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.’”
‭‭(Exodus‬ ‭14:11-14‬)

The Hebrew people are terrified. Their lives are in great danger, as the Egyptian armies close in on them. They’re supposed to be being brought out of captivity and into freedom, yet here they are, about to die in the desert. Or so they think. This reading from scripture is often read at Easter, as it marks the point when God’s goodness and faithfulness deliver his people out of captivity, through water and into freedom. What does Moses say to them? What do they need to do?

Stand firm. Be still.

Isn’t that what the women did the day after Jesus’ crucifixion? The day before Jesus’ resurrection? They stood firm in God’s faithfulness, in the story of the exodus. They were still. How could they not be? It was the Sabbath. And then? What came next? What came after standing firm and being still?

Resurrection.

Deliverance.

Freedom.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

(Matthew 28: 1-10)

In the same way that God stepped into the fear of the Hebrew people and delivered them from their captivity, so Jesus steps into the darkness of all people and delivers us from our own captivity; from our own sin. That’s what we are celebrating today.

Resurrection.

Deliverance.

Freedom.

So we have these similarities in the two pieces of scripture: an urge to stand fast in God’s faithfulness, and a need to be still. But there is a third. First Moses, then the angel, and finally Jesus say the words, “Do not be afraid.” This Easter there is so much that we could be afraid of and yet God’s faithfulness throughout scripture shows us we need not be afraid… of anything.

John Mark Comer writes, “People all over the world are looking for an escape, a way out from under the crushing weight to life this side of Eden. But there is no escaping it. The best the world can offer is a temporary distraction to delay the inevitable or deny the inescapable. That’s why Jesus doesn’t offer us an escape. He offers us something far better: a whole new way to bear the weight of our humanity, with ease. With Jesus doing the heavy lifting. At his pace. Slow, unhurried.” In his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, Comer goes on to say that the only way to have a spiritually healthy life is to “ruthlessly eliminate the hurry from your life”. This is because hurrying is at odds to a life spent with Jesus.

The angel tells the women to not be afraid, to tell the disciples. And they go. But they hurry. Matthew makes a point of telling us that it is in their hurry that Jesus stops them in their tracks and repeats what they’ve already been told: do not be afraid. Go and tell my disciples.

If we let him, Jesus stops us in our tracks. He pulls us out of the darkness, out of the hurry of the world, and into new life with him. We don’t need to be afraid. We need to stand fast in his faithfulness. We need to be still.

“Jesus, you’re worth it.”

“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matthew 26: 6-13 NIV)

There is so much going on in this passage. So much. I imagine you could preach on it every year, just before Easter, and find new things to say even after 25 years. Why am I writing about it today, then? Well, it is half term, which means my daughter is off from school; it’s also reading week at college, which means I’ve potentially got space for extra studying this week. Yet, as anyone who has raised small children or knows anyone who has raised small children will know, that isn’t quite how it works.

I am not begrudging my just turned 4-year-old time with mummy, especially as quality time with mummy is actually quite hard to come by at the moment. Plus she’s about to go through all sorts of changes with starting school, then moving house some time next year, so I figure mummy time is important. Sensibly, I’ve enjoyed time with her doing different things each day, while I’ve also allowed a bit of time each day to get some work done. However, it’s now Thursday evening and I’ve spent the whole afternoon trying to do work to no avail.

At one point I had to be quite firm with her, as I had reached the limits of how many times I can be interrupted while I try to read my book. Realising that I wasn’t getting into the flow with the book (The Joshua Delusion for anyone who cares), I thought I’d spend some time on my talk for this Sunday’s All Age service. No problem, I thought foolishly. Once again, in she trots to miaow at me. Literally. She just stand next to me making cat sounds. Cute, right? Except now I have to start again. Again. So I’m cross. And actually, it’s unnecessary for all sorts of reasons but mainly because she hasn’t actually done anything wrong.

I apologise. We cuddle. She’s ok again. Yet I’m still cross. Why? Because my husband (saint in our daughter’s eyes) is sat upstairs able to just get on with doing his work. And in that moment, my heart burns with jealous anger. “Well of course daddy is beloved in this house! He never has to tell her to go away because he’s doing work!” I mutter. I’m then torn; I know I have a choice to make. I can continue to be annoyed and embittered. Or I can calm down. But how? How can I let it go (ironic, as that’s the song that’s blasting in the living room right now), when I’m feeling hard done by?

I remember, and know, that turning to God ALWAYS helps. I decide to read the Bible, largely because it means I can sit down, put my feet up and drink a cup of tea at the same time. And I don’t have to utter a word or a thought. So I open the pages of my Bible to Matthew 26, and read of Jesus being anointed in Bethany, shortly before he is betrayed, trialled and crucified.

What do I find there? This beautiful image of a woman, unnamed, willing to undergo public humiliation by doing something ‘foolish’: pouring away invaluable, expensive perfume. For what? Some man. The reaction of those present? Absolute astonishment and anger. “This could have been sold and the money put to better use!” they cry. They have a point. Jesus had spent his ministry up until this point teaching people to look after the poor. And yet, his reaction is of astonishment and anger too, but not to the woman. Instead he is dismayed by his friends’ response.

You see, in their response they say to the room, “Jesus, you’re not worth it. Jesus, you’re not worth this lavishing of perfume. Jesus, you’re not worth this anointing before your death.”

Whereas, the woman’s act says loudly and clearly, “Jesus, this is how much I think you’re worth. Jesus, you’re worth this costly perfume. Jesus, you’re worth more than what the world values. Jesus, you’re worth this act of devotion. Jesus, you’re worth me pouring away what I own.”

As I sat reading the passage, I pondered how in that moment I hadn’t only been cross with my daughter and my husband. I’d also been annoyed by my present circumstances: that I have no choice but to work from home and actively ignore my daughter, when I’d much rather say to her, “Stuff my work! I want to spend time with you.” Yet, what does this say of how I value Jesus? How I value his death? How I value his sacrifice? For a moment – just 10 minutes or so – my heart cried out loudly, “Jesus, you’re not worth it. You’re not worth the late nights and the early mornings. You’re not worth the time away from my daughter. You’re not worth this feeling of resentment towards my husband. You’re not worth it.”

Yet the woman’s actions and Jesus’ response show us that following Christ is the only option that is worth it; pouring out our whole lives for him is all we can do. So, my cup of tea is empty, but my heart is filled afresh, as I am reminded that following Jesus’ call on my life sometimes means pouring something away which the world calls valuable. Because he is worth it. And that’s worth remembering.

Never Enough

There are just three words I want to say to you today. Three words I want you to hear today.

Love is everything.

Love. Is. Everything.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes of the indispensability of love and all of its character. It is patient, kind, slow to anger, not self-seeking, rejoices with the truth. It protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. It does not keep a record of wrongs, nor shame others. It is not proud or boastful. It is everything. 

Often read at weddings, this passage has a lot to say about love. But why did Paul choose to teach the Corinthians about it? Why was it so essential for him to impress upon them the greatness of love?

At the time of writing, the church in Corinth were falling out over which spiritual gifts were the greatest, experiencing disunity and jealousy, amongst many other things. The context of this particular chapter is that it comes immediately after Paul tells the Corinthians (in Chapter 12) that no one person amongst them is vital. Yes, there are those with prominent gifts, such as prophesy, teaching, healing and interpreting, but the whole church, the body of Christ, is one body with many parts. And Paul writes that all those parts suffer with one another, whilst equally rejoicing with one another. They are one body.

And so, Paul’s focus on love in 1 Corinthians 13 makes sense. You could be the greatest at prophesying but, if you do not have love, it is nothing. You could have a real gift for preaching but, without love, it is nothing. You could have everything that is outwardly good and seen as special but, without love, it is nothing. Whilst all that you’re fighting about will cease to exist, writes Paul, love will never fail. Love will always exist. In fact, we see in verse 10 that love is completeness. Paul builds his argument that the “most excellent way” is love: when we are fully grown, when we are complete, love will be everything. You won’t need to worry about who is preaching and who is not, who is prophesying, and who is not, because love will suffice in its entirety. 

Love is everything.

I wonder if you’ve seen the film The Greatest Showman. In the box office it had great success and has become one of the highest grossing musicals of all time. Friends of mine, who are quick to state their dislike of musicals, rave about it; but on the face of it, it seems shallow and is only very loosely based on the main character P.T. Barnum’s life. And yet, the music, oh how the music explodes onto the screen and tells us of deeper truths which lie within all of us. I am certain that stirring of emotions from within is the catalyst for the film’s success.

‘What does all of this have to do with God’s word? What does this have to do with love?’ I hear you ask. Well, when I am in the very early stages of preparing to preach, I like to run and mull things over in my head. Sometimes I might mutter along to myself, phrasing and rephrasing things which occur to me about the passage. And sometimes, I have a sudden moment of inspiration. These moments tend to come from nowhere; they feel almost like a sucker punch, and they’re usually at the point in the run when I am struggling along, and my thoughts are turning to survival. It’s almost as though, when I am physically empty, the Lord is there with me to fill me up spiritually. It was at this point the other afternoon when the song ‘Never Enough’ came onto my shuffle playlist; it was at this point I felt winded and yet had clarity; it was at this point that I burst into tears.

You see, the words woven through this melody have power. This wasn’t the first time this particular song made me cry: both my husband and I were moved to tears, when we watched the film for the first time. The lyrics reminded me of how I feel God working in my life. This idea that nothing in life could ever be enough, without Him. Nevertheless, here I was, several months later, crying because God had revealed something different.

‘All the shine of a thousand spotlights, all the stars we steal from the night sky, will never be enough, never be enough. Towers of gold are still too little, these hands could hold the world, but it’ll never be enough, never be enough for me.’

God does not need the shine of a thousand spotlights, He already holds the world in His hands. Indeed, He does not need to steal the stars from the night sky; they are His already. And yet, He chooses to say, ‘I am not done.’ He chooses to send His most beloved Son to live on earth, be crucified and then rise again. Why? Just so we can encounter Him. Just so creation can be restored. Just so we can take His hand and share in His story. (In fact, the songs says this… “take my hand, will you share this with me? Because darling without you… it will never be enough.” This is the most extravagant and overwhelming display of love in all of history.

The song, according to its writers, is supposed to feel exactly like that: Extravagant. Overwhelming. They wanted to conjure up the image of ‘someone in a castle trying to count all of their riches and it still doesn’t add up to enough. It’s kind of that moment where someone isn’t really satisfied.’ And that was what came to mind when I was mulling over 1 Corinthians 13 on a long 6-mile run. 

God’s love for us is so extravagant, so rich, so complete, that He could not leave us and creation after the fall. All that we read about love in 1 Corinthians 13 is part of God’s character because He is love. God is patient, and kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. God does not dishonour others, nor is He self-seeking, nor easily angered, and He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. God never fails. He is complete and whole.

Yet, He chose to say, “It is not enough.” His love is so complete that, despite our lack of whole-ness, He chose us. He chooses us. He chooses the impatient mother. The unkind classmate. The envious, boastful social media influencers. The proud and self-praising boss. The bully who humiliates. The angry teenager. The couple who bring up old grievances in new fights. The colleague who feels good when other people get their ‘comeuppance’. The teacher who fails to protect. The colleague you can’t trust. The friend who never sees the light at the end of the tunnel. The student dropout, who just can’t persevere. 

We all know these people. We are these people. And God loves us anyway. It’s written throughout scripture, from Genesis through to Revelation. In John 3: 16 it says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ As we think about how God loves us that much, that He would rather send His son to die in our place, than live eternally without us, it may be that you recognised one of those character traits in your life. How does your record of wrong doing affect your relationships? What does always being hopeful look like in your life? How is love hindered by your lack of generosity to those who wrong you?

For me, I struggle with patience. I have a 3-year-old and it often feels like Groundhog Day as we spend yet another 90 minutes eating cereal or toast or pasta. How can it take so long to eat a simple meal? Yet, the impact that has on my relationship with her is negative. It creates tension, rather than peace; friction, rather than happiness; sadness, rather than joy. It is something I am working on at the moment and it is hard work, as I sit with her and find endless new ways to keep smiling whilst I wait for her to swallow her food. Yet, if God can look at my poor track record in my journey with Him, and show love in His patience with me, I can surely try to do the same with my toddler.

What is it in your life which is stopping you from showing love? God looks at us and says, ‘It will never be enough.’ So why is it enough for us to say we love, yet to withhold it in myriad ways offered in 1 Corinthians 13. What would our relationships look like if we applied ourselves in these areas? How could our communities be restored if our love looked like God’s love?

Love is everything.

Let’s do it right.