Thought for the Day - Rt Rev James Jones

Good Morning.

Over the great West Door of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral written in neon script are the words, “I felt you and I knew you loved me”. The artist? Tracey Emin. This installation of purple graffiti stands out against the earth-red stone.

Not so long ago a conference of psychiatrists booked the Cathedral for one of their sessions. When the organiser saw the artist’s writing-on-the-wall he declared that this was what they as therapists were all about.

Earlier this year the Hayward Gallery mounted a major retrospective of Tracey Emin’s work under the title ‘Love is what you want’. At the entrance I saw a series of hanging blankets similar to the banners you see mounted in churches. One of them read:

“Come unto me
Everytime I feel love
I think Christ
I’m going to be crucified
So I close my eyes and I become
The Cross
So beautiful”

The text captures both the thrill and the risk of loving; in the words of Emily Bronte, “love is like the wild rose briar”. 


Tracey might expect me to say here that ‘God is love’. But Jesus never said those words. You’ll not find them anywhere in the Gospels. The saying occurs only a few times in the Bible, a book that tells a story about how God loves us, sometimes in the most surprising ways. In the Bible love is an act, not a concept, and a costly one.
If we have half an inkling that the life in us comes from a creative power then it’s worth pondering what this force might be capable of.

What we value most about being human is the ability to feel love. Presumably the power that made us can do all that we can do and feel love too. Otherwise the creator would be less than the creature.

That love is both emotional and spiritual appealing not just to our feelings but to the soul; a truth that Tracey captures in the text of another banner:

“I want an
International
Lover
That loves me
More than the
World”

A blanket like this would not have been out of place as a swaddling cloth for the baby cradled in Bethlehem who turned out to be such an international lover. Although, if Herod, whose slaughter of infant life we mark today, had had his way that blanket would have been pierced and stained with blood. This Holy Innocents Day tells us that in this life love doesn’t always conquer all. Love is truly like a ‘wild rose’, around whose glory grows a crown of thorns.

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