May the words of my mouth
and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord,
and our redeemer.
middag, welkom in Oxford. Het doet me veel genoegen om als Nederlander andere
Nederlanders te verwelkomen hier in Oxford. Ik hoop dat u het goed vindt dat ik
nu over ga in het Engels!
30 years ago I went to
London to do a course in English as I was training to be an English teacher
my native country, The Netherlands, and I thought it would be a good idea to
brush up my
fluency. So off I went to
realising that my whole life was about to change course,
because I ended up
marrying my English teacher and came over to the UK. I still have
my Dutch passport.
Through what happened last week here in the UK when the vote
was cast for Britain to leave the
European Union, I will now apply for British Citizenship.
Today we have two Bible
readings that express God's vision for this world. And in today's world,
Europe we need to continually rediscover and reconnect with
God's vision. As you know our
country here is going through a time of turmoil
after last week's vote to leave the European Union. Today,
we remember here in Britain the 100th
anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, where
and thousands lost their young lives. In today's world thousands are
on the move, fleeing desperate situations.
We need God's vision in today's
First of all psalm 139.
One of the most beautiful psalms to really take to heart. It expresses that God
us better and more intimately than we know ourselves. The psalmist says,
'Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord'.
us because God has journeyed with us all through life. It says, '
You knitted me together my mother's
womb.' An image of creativity, intimacy and care for everyone.
It also expresses that
God is everywhere.
'Where can I go from your spirit or where can I flee from
your presence. If I go to the mountains, or the depth of the grave, you are
there, you are everywhere.'
So this reading as a real
leveller for humanity. We are all made in God's image, we are all
we are all God's beloved, no matter what nationality,
race, faith, gender, sexual orientation, background,
and we are all the
beloved of God.
The famous Dutch
theologian Henri Nouwen has written extensively on the idea that we all are the
beloved of God. Nouwen had worked with students at top universities in the United
leading a high profile
academic life, and he ended up working and living in the L'Arche Community
people with severe mental disabilities, who had no idea who he was and
they helped him to heal his own
brokenness. Nouwen experienced first hand that
the people he lived among, so marginalised by society,
were the people who
opened his eyes to the living reality that everyone is valued and loved,
just the high profile, powerful, people.
Nouwen observed that in
society we are often made to believe that we are what we do. Very often
that is one
of the first question we ask people we don't know. 'What do you
do?' And then in our minds we stick a
label on them. As if that is who and what they are...
Often we are made to
believe that we are what we have. The bigger car or house the better,
the better, the more beautiful the better. As if that determines
who and what we are...
And, for many people most
powerfully, we are often made to believe that we are what other people tell us
we are. When we receive a compliment we grow a bit, when we are criticised we
shrink a bit....
But... we are the beloved of God. That is who and what
we really are...
Gandhi suggested that we
can only find peace externally, in the world, when we have resolved the war in our
own deepest selves. And in order to do
that we need silence. One thing the
world needs is silence.
To stop and look at our deepest selves and reconnect
with the sacred, in whatever faith tradition,
but to reconnect with
ourselves as the beloved of God.
Ghandi of course was a
Hindu. I'm not sure if you've come across The Dutch Jewish writer called
who died at the age of 29 in Auswitz, who has become a modern voice advocating
inner journey where there is no space for hatred and division but
uni-fication and love. She was at the receiving
end of hatred and it cost her
her life, but she advocated always not to hate in return.
Two years ago I spent 30
days in silent prayer in St Beuno's in North Wales and it
changed my life.
There was so much that could come to the surface and inner
turmoil released and dissolved. We need
So many people in society
these days feel that they don't count, that they are not welcome, that they are
to be a burden, there is so much loneliness and divisions. We need to find
a way to show that all are the
beloved of God.
In our second Bible
reading from Luke gospel, Jesus showed that God has a special longing for the vulnerable
to flourish. Jesus said,
'I've come to bring good news to the poor, release
of captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.'
It's really good that Leiden and Oxford have been
working together for 70 years now, to reduce
division and enhance co-operation.
The twinning started just after the second world war when the world
damaged and bruised and as mentioned before,
today we remember how
thousands of people lost their lives on this very day 100 years ago.
Let us continue to work
together for making God's vision our vision.
May our working together
continue for many more years to come, whether we will be together in
Union or not. We are all God's beloved.