The Dean - The Very Revd Andrew Nunn
Micah 6.6-8; Matthew 5.38-48
Jesus is talking to his disciples and says to them something which is as powerful now as it must have been then. ‘You will know the truth,’ he says, ‘and the truth will make you free.’
As we’re only too well aware, this Second Anniversary of the events of the evening of the 3 June 2017 falls in the middle of the inquest into what happened that’s been taking place across the river at the Old Bailey. Many of you who are here this evening have been involved in that one way or another, some of you have made statements and given your own evidence to the coroner, some of you may still have to do so. Others of us here have been looking on, listening, watching, reading as the reports have come out, every evening, every morning.
My grandma always had a jigsaw on the go. It was a very popular pastime years ago, even more so than now, I suspect. She’d spread the pieces out across the dining room table and if we were round at her house we’d be allowed to help.
‘Find the edge bits first’ she’d say. So we found all the bits with a straight edge and little by little the frame to the picture would be created. Then would begin the painstaking business of filling it all in. I remember one jigsaw, a painting of Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and there were phlox and roses in the foreground and thatch in the mid ground and blue sky in the background. And gradually as we found the right pieces the picture emerged. Then there was always an argument though about who’d have the privilege of putting the last piece in place so that the complete picture could be seen.
It seems to me, reading the accounts of that dreadful night that so much has emerged that none of us ever knew about. I was only on the edge of things, arriving on the fringes of the market as the attack ended, being sent back by the police, emerging into a scene of terror and carnage in Southwark Street. I only saw what I saw. And in the following days and weeks and months I only heard what I heard from the people who saw what they saw. None of us sees the whole picture. But the pieces, in this process of inquest, are being put together.
Inevitably, and in a painful way for many of you, the memories are being re-examined, the wounds re-opened, the horror and the pain and the grief re-kindled. Yet we want to know the full story, we want to hear the evidence, we want to know the truth because the truth will set us free – eventually.
Of course, there will always be things that could have been done better, swifter, more effectively. Of course, there will be lessons to be learnt, lessons have already been learnt and not just by those who seek to protect our freedoms and our lives. Those of us here, in this Bankside community, have been learning the lessons – and what we’ve learnt is that we are stronger than we ever knew.
To be honest, what has made me weep again over the past few weeks have been the heroic stories, the willingness of some to go to the help of others, the unselfish response to strangers, who became sisters and brothers. Our Second Lesson spoke a bit about this, about ‘going the second mile’, doing more than could be expected, doing more than could be demanded. It’s going the second mile, the extra mile, that is the heroic, selfless act and it’s going the second mile that we saw in those few devastating minutes of the attack.
The prophet Micah speaks powerful words to us about what it is that God requires of each of us
‘to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?’
Doing the right thing, loving the kind thing, embracing the humble thing, this is what God asks of us and as the pieces of the jigsaw are put together in the final days of the inquest this is, I am sure what we will see.
But it’s no good just telling people what to do, we have to show people what to do. And that is where Jesus, for me, is so strong. He lives what he taught, right there to the cross and beyond. He showed us the way of love even in the face of evil, he showed us what the light is like even in places of darkness. And the heroes of London Bridge and Borough Market have done the same – and telling all the stories, putting the pieces together makes us realise in a new way just how much we owe to those who died as much as to those of us who survived.
I said the truth will set us free, eventually. The memories have been revived, the wounds have been reopened, and healing must continue but now we can see a bigger picture, a hard and painful one to look at, but the God who walks every step with us, every mile with us, the God who goes to hell and back for us is there with us, holding us in our pain and loving us, loving you, to the end.
That is the truth that will set us free.