Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bishop of London's sermon at Margaret Thatchers funeral

Plenty of good things to chew on in Richard Chartres sermon at the funeral today, hearing the introduction on the radio:

After the storm of a life lived in the heat of political controversy, there is a great calm.

The storm of conflicting opinions centres on the Mrs Thatcher who became a symbolic figure - even an "ism". Today the remains of the real Margaret Hilda Thatcher are here at her funeral service. Lying here, she is one of us, subject to the common destiny of all human beings.
it struck the perfect note, and very clever use of 'one of us'
I also loved this story from Margaret Thatchers life:
One thing that everyone has noted is the courtesy and personal kindness which she showed to those who worked for her, as well as her capacity to reach out to the young, and often also to those who were not, in the world's eyes, "important".
The letter from a young boy early on in her time as Prime Minister is a typical example. Nine year old David wrote to say, "Last night when we were saying prayers, my daddy said everyone has done wrong things except Jesus. I said I don't think you have done bad things because you are the Prime Minister. Am I right or is my daddy?"
Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that the PM replied in her own hand in a very straightforward letter which took the question seriously.

Start Quote

Her upbringing was in the Methodism to which this country owes a huge debt”
Richard ChartresBishop of London
"However good we try to be, we can never be as kind, gentle and wise as Jesus. There will be times when we do or say something we wish we hadn't done and we shall be sorry and try not to do it again…If you and I were to paint a picture, it wouldn't be as good as the picture of great artists. So our lives can't be as good as the life of Jesus."

What a superb answer, both in what it says, and how it says it - in a way a 9 year old can understand. 
I imagine a lot of what he said will be lost as it refuses to come into proper focus when viewed through the standard political lenses. 
This bit also struck me:
She was very aware that there are prior dispositions which are needed to make market economics and democratic institutions function well: the habits of truth-telling, mutual sympathy, and the capacity to co-operate. These dispositions are incubated and given power by our relationships. In her words, "the basic ties of the family are at the heart of our society and are the very nursery of civic virtue". Such moral and spiritual capital is accumulated over generations but can be easily eroded.
Life is a struggle to make the right choices and to achieve liberation from dependence, whether material or psychological. This genuine independence is the essential pre-condition for living in an other-centred way, beyond ourselves. The word Margaret Thatcher used at St Lawrence Jewry was "interdependence".

Start Quote

...the dominant note of a Christian funeral service, after the sorrow and the memories, is hope”
Richard ChartresBishop of London
She referred to the Christian doctrine, "that we are all members one of another, expressed in the concept of the Church on earth as the Body of Christ. From this we learn our interdependence and the great truth that we do not achieve happiness or salvation in isolation from each other but as members of Society." 
That erosion is happening fast - it's hard to compare with life 20-30 years ago, but there seem's to be a greater sense of dependence, and less of a sense of leadership and social responsibility. From the unscientific basis of membership of local Facebook groups in Yeovil, there are quite a lot of people who will identify a problem and ask what the council/government/parents will do about it, but not very many who will say 'this is my community, so it's my responsibility, what can I do to improve it?' The main direction people seem to channel this in is into charity fundraising: which is good, but it still leaves  it up to organisations/agencies/charities to do the work. 
Sadly Thatcherism is identified less with 'sympathy and co-operation' and more with individualism and the free market, which naturally corrodes community. Big state New Labour hasn't done anything to rectify this. Cameron is attempting to kick-start the 'Big Society' by putting government provision into retreat, and loading charities with more need whilst their financial support declines. 
Margaret Thatcher's comments on happiness are right, but our politicians of all colours haven't really found a way to put them into practice. 

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