Skip to main content

Isles of Wonder

As the six-month countdown to the Olympic & Paralympic Games began, the artistic director Danny Boyle revealed the theme of the opening ceremony. Boyle’s inspiration for hisIsles Of Wonder is derived from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest in which Caliban refers to the wondrous beauty of the island. “Our Isles of Wonder salutes and celebrates the exuberant creativity of the British genius in an Opening Ceremony that we hope will be as unpredictable and inventive as the British people,” said Boyle.

“Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,” declares Shakespeare’s Caliban. This week I have been more aware of the island’s noises than its beauty. Amid the rumours of the allocation of bonuses, the clanging of the decline thereof and the cacophony of calls for stripped knighthoods, it’s hard to detect any sense of wonder, beauty or unpredictability. For all the while a predictable British exuberance of a less noble quality abounds.

And yet, when we delve into history, these isles indeed knew a sense of wonder, a kind of genius that combined nobility and entrepreneurship; an understanding of citizenship that measured success in terms of communal wellbeing rather than personal enrichment.

A historic glance would, for example, shine a light on George Cadbury: "We can do nothing of any value to God, except in acts of genuine helpfulness done to our fellow men". Such commitment to the less privileged shaped the working conditions in the Cadbury factories, as well as housing, pension, medical and dental care for their staff. Every summer, Cadbury provided food and entertainment for 25,000 children from the deprived areas of Birmingham. Reflecting on his life, he wrote: “I have for many years given practically the whole of my income for charitable purposes….”

“’Charitable’ is too narrow a description; ‘reform’ would be more apt. Successive generations of Cadburies were catalysts in a wide range of social reform. The wider Quaker community only made up 0.2 per cent of the population, yet its contribution to British society is massive. The business and banking ethic of Cadbury, Rowntree, Boots, Barclays and Lloyds was derived from their Christian faith, as they followed “the Divine Light”.

Historically, the English Protestants understood the whole of life as a vocation – a sacred space of worship through deeds of love, righteous service and commerce. “What mattered was not worldly riches but a richness towards God expressed in gratitude, generosity and a life of virtue,” writes Peter Heslam in Transforming Capitalism.

Isles of Wonder indeed.

Recent research by the University of Essex concluded that the British are less honest than we were a decade ago. The business and political commentator Jeff Randall voiced this week a poignant question: “What kind of people have we become?”

The script God has given us continuously engages us in a dialogue who we want to become. Whatever our vocation, we daily make choices affecting communal wellbeing and personal integrity - choices which either accommodate the dominant culture or align with the alternative script.Critically, it will not only shape our personal life but also the institutions we are part of. We can all pursue a vocation that has its home in faith and virtue and is concerned with the wellbeing God intended for the wider community.

As the eyes of the world are upon us, may the Olympic ceremony celebrating the best of Britain be genial, inventive and exuberant. Beyond that, may we see the growth of the city on a hill comprising a people whose character is pure, merciful, humble, peace-building and just. In the words of the creative director: “the light of the world”.

Marijke Hoek, Coordinator Forum for Change - Evangelical Alliance

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

When God turns a deaf ear on prayers

Does God always hear people’s prayers, or do some pray in vain thinking that God hears them, when in reality He chooses to turn a deaf hear to their cries? Some may perhaps have a notion that all prayers are worthy, and God being who He is is by nature willing to listen and hear their prayers delightfully. They entertain the notion that it is their birth right for God to listen to their prayers and answer them accordingly. Also, there are some who come before the presence of the Lord with severe doubts, defeated by the devils whisper that they are such an unworthy soul that for them to lift up their cries to the Lord is an abomination. They are mute by their own wickedness, depressed and thus fail to pray.

What does the scripture say about God turning a deaf hear to prayers? It is to be said that God is sovereign and can choose to answer any prayer as He sees fit. He is altogether happy and never backed into a corner, God always does whatever He pleases for He is free to do as He wills…

What does it mean to live a godly life?

If you ever asked yourself the question, what does it mean to live a godly life? and if your not exactly sure what living a godly life involves, this extract taking from Charles Seet book 'A Christian in a non-Christian world' provides ample guidance on just what to do.

Now it is worth asking the question then, 'What does it mean to live godly?' It does not mean that we are just to confine ourselves within a set of rules and regulations. Some people reduce godly living to a list of 'do’s and don'ts.' But the meaning of godly living goes far deeper than that.

Godly living means living in the manner that God wants us to live. It means having the same feelings, attitudes and heart's desires that God has. It means that we love the things that God loves, care for the things that God cares for, and dislike those things which He dislikes. And since God loves righteousness, a godly person also loves righteousness. Since God hates sin, a godly person also hates …

Women of the Bible: Adah and Zillah

The Sin of Adam and Eve resulted in the fall of humanity. Every generation after them became wicked and that is why scripture affirms, ‘that there is no one righteous, no, not even one.’ Mankind became enslave to the passions of its flesh, its desires became its ruler and men followed the natural dictates of their hearts; and were it not for Sovereign grace, the race of men would now only be read of by angels in the library of extinct creatures. Adam and Eve witnessed the consequences of their sin in the death of their beloved son, Abel, by the hands of Cain who murdered his brother in anger and was thus sent away from the presence of God. My dear sisters, sin is not only sin when it is found in its extremes, sin is also sin in its subtlety and vanity. Sin is sin when one's affection is set on another and not on God, when one lives to please a thing or a being which is not God; this is also sin.
This becomes especially evident in the lives of Adah and Zillah the wives of Lamech. Th…