Queen's counsel XXXIII

May 2004

The six residential weekends at Queens College that we attend during the year form a module entitled "Mission and Ministry". The second one last term focussed on the topic of Health and Healing and we wondered, amongst other things, why so much emphasis these days is placed on being able-bodied and financially self-sufficient. Both these conditions leave us unable to depend on others for certain aspects of life and give us choices about how much to relate to one another in community. How much we can achieve either is also subject to some doubt: how would we measure ourselves?

The highlight of our weekend was undoubtedly the lecture that we were given by John Hull, Emeritus Professor of Religious Education at Birmingham University. He was born with a congenital condition which was not well known then and that gave rise to cataracts. He says that had he been born today, it is likely that his sight could have been saved but, after much struggle and many attempts at corrective surgery, his eyes finally gave up about 20 years ago. It has enabled him to live in a different world from sighted people and it has given him the opportunity to sharpen his thinking about many aspects of life that he is keen to share.

From his position and life experience, John would be keen to encourage people to make far better use of words and images. For example, he has some difficulty with the well-loved notion in St.John's gospel that Jesus, the Word, came to be the light of the world. OK, it may be metaphorical but there is an implied link between darkness and separation from God and John Hull finds himself on the wrong side of the metaphor. How often do our hymns refer to blindness when they mean being remote from God or from holiness? Some editors have made great efforts to be inclusive recently but they have concentrated mainly on gender terms rather than, for example, sightedness relative to blindness.

We are reminded this month that, at the Ascension, Jesus "was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight" [Acts 1:6-11]. How would one who was blind have written that passage? How do we, after that momentous event, find ourselves seeing Jesus in our midst today? Do we make a practice of looking for Him in the other? Our collect for Ascension encourages us to think about that:

Grant, O Lord, that as we believe
Jesus to have ascended into the heavens;
so may we also in heart and mind
thither ascend
and with Him continually dwell,

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This page was last updated on 2004-03-30

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