Friday, 11 January 2019

The Past is a Foreign Country

I love L.P.Hartley’s well known quote: The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.

This week we went, as a family, to watch the film about Freddie Mercury and Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody.  It both starts and ends with that July day thirty-three years ago in 1985 when Wembley hosted Live Aid.  The film had a terrific re-creation of Queen’s performance on stage in front of one hundred thousand people.  Afterwards our boys quizzed us about Live Aid and couldn’t really take it in that we watched it the first-time round – we are that old!!!  For us 13th July 1985 seems like yesterday, to them it’s up there with the Saxons and Romans!

Does the past, I wonder, teach us anything?  Or does each succeeding generation have to encounter every tricky situation for themselves and find their own way through? 

This week a Radio 4 reporter has returned to South Africa for the first time in twenty-five years.  His reports about continuing repression and corruption, but this time administered by black rather than white officials, was deeply depressing.

So much in the Judaeo-Christian tradition is about remembering and learning from yesterday.  The Jewish scriptures often proclaim: Israel, remember this…. And of course, feasts such as Passover and Communion have rememberance at their very heart.

It’s understandable when we lose patience with either ourselves or those around us who continue to make the same mistakes because they are deaf to the lessons from yesterday.

In his great poem about love and its ethical consequences St Paul wisely says: Love keeps no record of wrongs.

God treats us like this in his mercy and grace so surely we have to be open to such a generous and forgiving spirit too.

However many times the Prodigal comes round the corner, returning home seeking a new beginning…however many times, I believe The Father always runs to greet him with open, welcoming arms.

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