Love is the lesson

The Rectory, April 1999

Leslie MorleyThese last couple of months have been somewhat hectic as we have been trying to find a place to live in North Yorkshire and tackling the mammoth task of emptying cupboards and attics in the Rectory after fourteen years of just putting things we don’t really need into another spare cupboard or room! I have also been trying to find time to hand over files and jobs to others and finishing off the things that I must do before I go. Then there is Lent, Holy Week and Easter rushing upon us all! So I have not had much time to reflect on the fourteen years of being part of St Peter’s nor indeed of the thirty years of ordained ministry which is marked in this year. Much of this will have to wait until we are in a new place.

However quite by chance I have just come across a booklet of addresses given by Sydney Evans who was Dean of King’s College, London, for thirty years and responsible for the training of generations of priests including my own. He was a profound influence on us all and when I read these addresses I realised how much I still owe to his inspiration. In the booklet I came across these words from one of his last sermons preached in 1987:

When I ask myself what in the end and stripped of all secondary considerations I really believe in, I find I must say that I believe in the presence and power of a Love which is indestructible because its character is such that the worst that evil can do to such Love is to provide such Love with ever fresh opportunities of loving. I believe… because this is what I receive from the story that has at its centre Jesus Christ crucified and risen. I have seen evidence of this kind of love in the lives of certain individuals and groups - past and present. I have discovered the truth of it in my own life - not by having achieved this kind of loving but by having failed to achieve it. Of all possible ways of setting about living as a human being in this world this is the only way that is self-evidently true because it authenticates itself.

I recognise here my own deepest belief and give thanks for the man who helped me to see it. It is the heart of our Easter faith. From the tragedy of the cross emerges a love that bears all things, endures all things, a love that never ends. In a world that sometimes seems to be full of hate we see in the resurrection of Christ, in the words of George MacDonald the Victorian story writer, that Love not hate is deepest in what Love has loved into being. In the end it is with Love that we will all have to deal and to which we will all answer, for all that is not love will pass away. The Church - the Easter People - is called to learn his lesson of love and to be a witness to it in the world. It is a strong love committed to action and to the overcoming of all that is not love by love. During Lent on Wednesdays lunchtimes there has been a series of reflections on the lives of martyrs of our own century inspired by the statues of ten twentieth-century martyrs commemorated on the West front of Westminster Abbey and currently the subject of a series on our own magazine. These are they who in the various circumstances of life in the twentieth century put love in where love was not. They were witnesses to the way of love in a world full of hate and fear, of injustice and oppression.

As I come to the point of leaving St Peter’s I am confident that this is also the continuing task of an Easter Church and one that St Peter’s at the heart of the city has so many opportunities to fulfil. We must all go on trying to learn the lesson of Love which is the truth of the resurrection and being adventurous and bold in loving others. It has been a privilege to share that task with you for a while. For eight hundred years God has sustained his church as a witness here in the heart of the city to the only way to be truly human. He has sustained it through evil times and amidst evil deeds as well as in times of peace and celebration. May this Eastertime give us confidence in his abiding presence and in the victory of his Love.

This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin,
and grant that we for whom thou diddest dye,
being with thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
may live for ever in felicity.

And that thy love we weighing worthily
may likewise love thee for the same againe:
and for thy sake that all lyke deare didst buy,
with love may one another entertayne.

So let us love, deare love, lyke as we ought,
love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

Leslie Morley
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 31st March 1999