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Friday, March 24, 2017
Homily for Labour Party Conference
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¬†This homily was preached by Fr Denis Blackledge SJ, Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Church, Blackpool, on Sunday at an ecumenical service marking the start of the Labour Party Conference. "If anyone has ears to hear, let him or her listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches: to those who prove victorious I will give the hidden manna and a white stone ≠ a stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it." [Book of Revelation chapter 2, verse 17] My sisters and brothers, my mum's favourite prayer was "Peace in the family, and peace in the world". At this challenging moment in our global history, that prayer is mine for all of us here. We're living stones, called by our Loving Lord to turn stone into flesh, cold into warmth, hate into love, tit-for-tat into reconciliation, lies into truth. My mum knew her "new name" written on her own white stone ≠ white, the symbol of triumph and joy, a badge of belonging to the Kingdom of justice, love and peace. [Probably easier to get into the Lord's Kingdom than to get into the Winter Gardens this week!] Our massive challenge and responsibility is to know our own "new name", and rise to an ever fresher vision and newness in our being and belonging as citizens of one world. Whilst our service this morning is based on Jewish and Christian readings, our "Faith in Action" exhibition draws on the rich heritage of our Muslim and Hindu sisters and brothers, and the giving of a white stone applies equally to all. The scripture text I quoted comes from the third of the seven letters to the churches of Asia, and was written to the people of Pergamum ≠ the modern Bergama in Turkey ≠ which was the official centre of emperor worship. For citizens there to stand up and be counted was as tough then as it is for us all now in Britain: for Pergamum just now read Blackpool. It was easier to pick up stones and throw them at others than to pick them up and build a common home and hope. For them, as for us, it was and is a messy business ≠ we take time to pick up our own white stone and sit with it and read its power and potential, and to learn and know our own strengths and vulnerabilities. Like Tutu, Gutierrez and Groser, perspective takes time and struggle, and can only be achieved by entering into the fray and frayed edges of politics. [If "polis" means, as it does, "where people live", then church and faith communities have something radical and important to say: politics and religion stand or fall together. We're all guests on God's good earth, not owners. We either turn our stones into flesh, or create hell on earth. The Kingdom is to come "on earth, as in heaven".] So, dear friends, we have a choice here in Blackpool this morning. We can get positively stoned ≠ as many in Blackpool do at weekends! ≠ or we can go our separate ways, refusing to recognise our "new name". I invite you now, whatever your colour, class or creed, to choose a wee white stone. Only you will know what your "new name" means for you ≠ but others may notice the difference. Keep the stone with you as you face the torment and triumph, the massive choices that will determine our one world's future, and keep the stone with you as, yes, a touchstone and a sign of your heartfelt longing to belong together as one people, God's own people. Amen. source: Diocese of Lancaster
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