The last few weeks seem to have been a mixture of loss and celebration. We’ve said goodbye to Victoria Wood, Ronnie Corbett and Prince, three entertainers who brought great joy to many with their writing and performances and were for me part of the backdrop of growing up. Incidentally, do you know where the word ‘goodbye’ comes from? I heard it explained at a funeral last week when we said goodbye to a family friend. Apparently it’s a contraction of the phrase ‘God be with you (ye)’. Did you know that every time you’ve said goodbye to someone that you’ve been praying for them? Perhaps it might take on new meaning next time you say it.
As a Liverpool fan, the news from the Hillsborough Inquest has of course been significant, with the verdict of the jury being that the fans were not at fault for the tragic events of that dreadful day when 96 of them went to watch a football match and did not come home. Perhaps at last those families who have sought justice and truth about those events can say goodbye and begin to look forward.
There have been more positive celebrations though. We’ve been celebrating the 400th birthday of Shakespeare, someone who maybe has played as great a part as anyone in shaping our culture and language with his plays and poems that have stood the test of time. I enjoyed his work as a schoolboy, although his work became our work! It’s only recently, however, that I’ve come to love it. Maybe the main reason for this is going to The Globe and watching his plays live (at £5 for standing tickets go and watch for yourself, at that price there’s nothing to lose!). The Globe’s a magical place and every time I’ve been I’ve found the plays have come alive and transported me to another world for those brief hours. I am a passionate believer in the Arts as well as other areas of human endeavour, I believe in them we reflect the image of our creative God. In a sense they are acts of worship.
Another celebration has been the Queen’s 90th birthday. As Jeremy Corbyn, a republican said, whatever you think of the monarchy as an institution, the vast majority of people have admired the way she has conducted herself. It’s not a job that I’d want – there might be luxury and privilege that comes with it, fame and international recognition, but to receive this you have to give up your personal freedom, the freedom to come and go as you wish, to express your opinions and to be yourself. Over so many years the Queen has done this and done it well, a real servant of the nation.
Of course, as a Christian, I see these things as reflecting God in his Son, one who to be ‘God with us’, one who came to stand up for the oppressed and downtrodden, the one who came telling stories and captivating the crowds with his messages, and who came as the Servant King. May he be with you this week!