Gordon Wilson and Forgiveness

On our church outing to Edinburgh last weekend, we were accosted with the most horrendous quiz ever to keep us from being bored on the journey. There were questions ranging from “Who was the person who was left 11 Coronation Street in a will?” to “What was the price of the west stand of St James’s Park when it was first built in say-1903?

That’s got you all thinking though - hasn’t it? and don’t you all wish you had been there?

Yes-you were all having a pleasant weekend weren’t you....and we were all tearing our hair out, trying to figure out who on earth Slim Jim was.

We had Jeanette to thank for that quiz so If you’d like to know the answers to any of these scintillating questions please refer to her wisdom and not mine!

Throughout our lives though, we seem to ask question after question and we never seem satisfied until we know the answers to them.

From childhood to maturity we never stop questioning; and I wonder what stage of life it is when we realise the frightening fact that many questions simply do not have answers!

I have a serious question to put to you this morning.

I was wondering if anyone recognised the following famous words, spoken on a B.B.C. broadcast in the year 1987;words which made the person who uttered them, both a national and an international figure overnight.

These were the words:-

“I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. Don’t ask me please, for a purpose. I don’t have a purpose. I don’t have an answer. But I know there has to be a plan. It’s part of a greater plan, and God is good. And we shall meet again.”

These were the words of an Irishman called Gordon Wilson, whose daughter had died suddenly in an I.R.A. explosion, at Enniskillen on Remembrance Day.

One would have expected Gordon Wilson to have had a long string of questions he wanted to ask.

When tragedy strikes or when we find ourselves in distressing circumstances of some kind or other, or things don’t go according to plan, there are most certainly questions that beg to be asked, even if we don’t actually give voice to them.

“Why has God allowed this? Why must I suffer pain? Why does God not heal me? Why has this happened to me? Why did God not prevent it? Why does He not rescue those He says He loves” “Why?”

Yet here is a man who did not seem to be seeking answers to questions, and the words which flowed from his lips were so gracious. Even in the depths of his anguish and his grief,there was no recrimination of any kind. Indeed his words were full of forgiveness,without any trace of bitterness; Gordon Wilson was a man who was not overcome by the evil that had overtaken him in the loss of his daughter, but was in fact, (as can be found in the last few verses of Romans 12), triumphing over that evil with good.

By uttering these few simple words, hearts were moved throughout the world.

I’m sure we are all agreed that forgiveness and graciousness is never easy. Nor is the grieving process.

Neither is acceptance of a difficult situation.

How many times have we felt at a loss to express the tremendous anger and frustration we feel when things don’t work out ? How many times have we fretted and fumed at the injustice life flings our way.

Life itself is not easy. For we are human people with very real feelings and emotions, and normal desires and longings for ourselves and those we love.

So to whom do we turn for inspiration for our pattern of living, when the material of life needs shaping anew, or when life has become threadbare?

To whom should we turn for direction?

Words like those of Gordon Wilson inspire us; but if we look more closely at him and at other saintly people throughout history, we just may see the one who in turn inspired them, because their eyes were fixed on one who became the pattern we must follow.

Such passages from scripture as the one in front of us today, have been an inspiration to many millions down the ages.

It is Jesus who speaks of his own destiny,when he says,

“Now my soul is troubled.

What shall I say:

Father save me from this hour?

But it was for this reason that I came to this hour.

Father glorify your name”

Was Jesus asking to be rescued out of the situation he found himself in?

His soul was troubled. The word ‘troubled’ or ‘agitated’ and the tense of the word used in scripture indicate that this mighty disturbance of the soul of Christ had been going on for some time and it had now become very intense! The horror of his impending death was gripping him. This was no easy compliance with a Father’s will or whim, but perhaps the testing, trying, obedience of a loving and faithful son. Obedience which demanded a soul shaking sacrifice! A sacrifice which perhaps He wanted to shrink from, yet one which He knew He had to embrace with arms wide open, so that His Father would be glorified and so that all humankind would know eternal salvation.

We find evidence of this in Hebrews 7 where it says that:- “He sacrificed himself for our sins-ONCE FOR ALL-when He offered himself.”

When Jesus talked of the hour that had come, He was talking, not literally, but of the designated time that He knew must be! He was well aware of the destiny of the Son of Man! That he should suffer and die!

I don’t know if any of you have seen documentaries on T.V. which have shown how a small booby trap or trip wire within the heart of a pyramid, can set the whole of the inner mechanisms into action to seal it off for eternity. This is what is happening here. The final days of his destiny on earth were about to betriggered into action. His Passion .

And so in answer to his question “ What shall I say-Father save me from this hour?......... he replied,

“No it is for this reason I have come to this hour!”

Here we see not a reluctance, but a glorious acceptance; not a soul in flight , but a passionate embrace of the cross ahead.

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I must add here that in Jesus we see the very real distinction between one who knew how to fight against the evil that could be fought against and altered by righteous anger and courageous action , (when he cleared the temple , for example)_ and the evil which he had to face with a sense of acceptance and submission when events could not be changed.

But there is a tremendous truth in this passage of John’s gospel, which we need to take on board, for all of us at some time in our lives will need to face up to suffering which proves inevitable ,and all the questions, with no answers to them,that accompany testing times. And therefore we ask is how best can we face suffering when it comes our way?

Jesus talks of the need for a grain of wheat to die in the ground first, before it can produce a rich harvest. If it does not enter into this process, it can only ever hope to remain a single grain.

He was speaking of himself, but encouraging us that our lives lived for God must be like that.

For it is God that must be glorified and not ourselves.

His will to be done, rather than our own. His life to be lived in us!

so that God may begin a new work in each of us in whatever situation we find ourselves in, because with God’s power at work in us every situation can be redeemed, and the Father’s glory revealed.

Someone once wrote, “There is a myrrh which God gives us in the cup of troubles and sorrows, of whatever kind it it may be, outward or inward.

And ah if we could but receive this myrrh as from its true source, and drink it with the same love with which God puts it to our lips, what blessedness would it work in thee!

Even in through suffering many people testify to finding

themselves strangely blest and comforted, and many people experience a new dimension of faith. When we walk by faith we don’t necessarily gain understanding, but rather acceptance. Confidence in God is God’s highest purpose for our lives.

When we can trust and accept without questioning, we can move into a dimension of greater peace and intimacy with Him, and who knows who may be watching as we walk through these storms in order to see how our faith works , and whether our relationship with God will sustain us.

The days of our bottomless pits and the depth of our grief will pass, given time.

I think that our mission prayer, many years ago now, was one of the hardest prayers we have ever been called upon to pray.

Perhaps it is more the kind of prayer that only saints can pray , even Jesus himself could have said and meant, yet we were challenged with it, and who knows that God isn’t challenging us with it right now. He may have been asking questions of us for a while and He hasn’t been receiving many answers either!

This is a prayer of submission, this is a prayer to accept with grace whatever comes our way , to the glory of God................

here a grain of wheat dies in order that a miracle can happen or some harvest may be produced.............................

There couldn’t be a more powerful declaration of faith for us to respond to than this, for it covers the burial of :-our lives, our work and our leisure, and our wealth.

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I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will,

rank me with whom you will;

Put me to doing , put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you;

let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing;

I fully and freely yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

You are mine and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen