This is a Russian story that I was told with a moral that I like. A peasant was walking along in the dead of winter and came across a half-frozen bird. He picked it up and came across a newly laid and steaming cowpat. He tucked the bird in the pat up to its neck and went on his way. The bird began to warm up and coming back to life began to sing. A hungry wolf on its way heard the sound and sprang to the bird and ate it up. The moral goes like this. It is not always your enemies that put you in it nor is it always your friends who get you out of it, and if you are in it up to your neck don’t sing about it.
I like it because it turns things on their heads and that could be a good thing.
Reflecting on 2018, three stories demonstrated for me things being stood on their heads.
An estimated 1.9 billion people globally watched the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. A mixed marriage of royalty/commoner, colour /race; the Bridegroom’s father gives the Bride away – a gospel choir sings ‘stand by me’. The American Bishop of the Episcopal Church is invited to officiate, delivering a gospel sermon on the Power of Love (which was then published as a book).
On return from India after working with mother Teresa’s Sisters of Mercy, my sister emailed me to say it had allowed her a glimpse into the face of love. Our worlds and ways turned upside down and we see newly. We see the poor loving us with such openness and trust. We feel more loved than those we are serving - than we are loving them; their love, acceptance, openness, lack of pretension, just a pure and raw encounter-person to person. Can we return home and love the way we have experience being loved?
A young ex-gang member, Stephen Addison, has trained over 4,000 youngsters through his Box Up programme. This month 20 London Boroughs will introduce the programme. Asked why do this for free? Stephen answered: ‘for the love of God’.
Richard Rohr recently wrote; ‘patience is the very shape of love, without it religion is merely about enforcing laws and requirements’. Also, reminding us, that love was the greatest commandment (John 13:34) Jesus’ prime directive. Love God, self, neighbour, stranger, alien, outsider, outcast and even enemy, as He Himself modeled – Jesus turning things on their heads through radical love.