Basil Spence, the architect here, was caught in a fox hole under fire in the Second World War after the Normandy landings, and the person sharing his foxhole said, words to the effect of, 'If we survive this, what will you do after the war?' And Basil Spence said, 'I will build a cathedral.' Well that was a bit brave. There hadn’t been one built since the 17th Century.
He tells how he stood in those ruins when the competition for the design started, and the image of what we now see just dropped into his mind. Clearing the rubble, imagining the new with the gift of the Spirit of God, building it stone by stone, piece by piece, glass window by glass window.
How do we do that? ‘Oh yes, we are not going to give up,’ says Emmanuel – God with us – ‘until poverty is abolished.’ And the cynic whose voice I took in the early bits of this address says, ‘Oh yeah, great, that’s a lifetime’s occupation, and your grandchildren’s too!’
How do we do it? It always begins, as Tearfund knows so well, with our relationship with God. Reconciliation of relationships with God is not an add-on; it is the only source of life, energy and vision.
And the clearing of the rubble, the building of our new world continues with recognising that relationship with God draws us into relationship with all God’s people. It means that the smallest and the least in the eyes of the world, in the power of the Spirit, are part of God’s action. This is how Tearfund works: in partnership with local Christians and local churches.
'Let us remember that action to release the poor also releases those captive to wealth... Jubilee blesses all.'
The year of Jubilee was the 49th year when all land returns to its original owners, when all debts are wiped, when the slate is wiped clean and an entire nation has got the chance to start again. Jubilee was about the entire nation, but in Jesus’ mouth, it becomes about the entire world. The Spirit of God is upon me and it is in the power of the Spirit that we bring jubilee to the whole world.
Two sets of prisoners
Jubilee therefore is about freedom and release. It is freedom for all captives whether to the sinful structures of slavery, of debt, poverty and injustice. But let us remember that action to release the poor also releases those captive to wealth, to power, to their own want and need for money and security. Jubilee blesses all. It can as easily transform the powerful and rich as the weak and poor. Of course, one problem is that the rich and powerful do not always, or even often, welcome liberation from their golden chains.
That is why we celebrate the gift of Tearfund to church and to world. You bring gifts and inspiration, you go on proclaiming the Year of Jubilee. You transform our vision of God, of his creation, of the restoration of all things in right and just relationships. May God grant you the next 50 years with resources and vision to match the last.
On Sunday 27 May, we're uniting Christians and churches around the world to lift their voices in prayer to end extreme poverty, and pray a prayer written especially by Justin Welby. Please join us!