Giles Fraser: Clarity at the heart of the St Paul’s storm

by
26 October 2011

THE reader will, I hope, excuse me if I do not address the complicated issues that currently beset St Paul’s Cathedral. Suffice to say, when you sit in the middle of a storm, and a great deal of misinformation is flying about, you are thrown back on the fundamentals of your faith.

No one ever said that following Jesus would be easy. In fact, as Christians, we are given fair warn­ing that the opposite is likely to be the case. And so it turns out.

But one of the most interesting things about these challenging times is how scripture comes alive. Indeed, I do not remember the Bible ever speaking to me as vividly as it does today. As the saying goes, I don’t read scripture: scripture reads me.

I have a friend who has this theory about British food. (Bear with me on this one.) He argues that, because it rains a lot in Britain, therefore the grass is green, therefore the cows are good and fat, and therefore the only thing you really need to do is to put the meat in the oven, add a little seasoning, and it is perfect to eat.

In many other places, he argues, it doesn’t rain so much, and the grass is not so green, and the cows are not so good and fat; therefore the chef requires a more creative approach to his or her ingredients. The chef has to invent sauces and add spices to make the food taste good.

I sat thinking about this theory the other day, when wondering how to preach on the Gospel. So much preaching is often about adding unnecessary interpretative sauces and spices, when, in reality, the scriptures are able to speak power­fully for themselves, with only a little hermeneutic seasoning to bring out the taste. It is at times like these that you realise that the scriptures don’t always need a lot of help from the preacher.

St Paul’s Cathedral takes its name from a man of faith who knew a thing or two about being caught up in an extraordinary whirlwind. May I ask you all to pray for all those who live and work in — and indeed those who are now camped around — this wonderful place? May we all be a beacon of God’s love and mercy in a complicated world.

Having written that sentence, I realise that I have never used a column to ask for prayer. Perhaps, after all, this column is not a clever exercise in issue avoidance. Perhaps for all my years of being a column­ist, it has taken a crisis to show me what I have always wanted to say.

The Revd Dr Giles Fraser has just resigned as Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral and Director of the St Paul’s Institute.

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