Maya Angelou as one touched by an angel

Maya Angelou died yesterday, aged 86. She was born poor and black and her gifts were born out of pain and hardship. She knew why the caged bird sings. Her son, Guy, writes: “she was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace.” She helped many through the passion, hope, humour and compassion of her autobiographies and poetry. She is a wise woman of our age, and eminently quotable. On this Ascension Day I choose her poem Touched by an Angel to remember a woman who had a love with the power to live and see through so much.

Touched by an Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from  our timidity
in the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and all will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.


>Morning Prayer today included the wonderful reading from Leviticus 25 outlining the teaching on Jubilee.

It’s green – recognisnng the rights of the land – every 7th year was to be a sabbath of complete rest for the land – a time for the land to sigh.

After 7 lots of 7 years – ie the year after the 49th, the 50th – “and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants”. All capital transactions were to use the Jubilee as its basis. So if land was sold it was sold until the next Jubilee year with the land returning then to its original owner. The price for the sale was to be linked to the number of crops.

How amazing is that! In our country we talk about ‘old money’ and ‘new money’. We talk about the ‘landed gentry’ who are the beneficiaries of a capital system which knows of no Jubilee.

Is it surprising that there is no reference in the Bible to the Jubilee principle being put into practice? Of course it isn’t. Because in this world of ours people like to accumulate power (and property). We shouldn’t be surprised that vested interests prefer the status quo. The consequence is that inequality, oppression and poverty become systemic, and people become alienated. It also means there can never be Jubilee, because that is when liberty is procalimed throughout the land to all its inhabitants.

(This picture was taken by Jeanette)

I live in a village community which would be transformed by the Jubilee principle. Inheritance (particularly land) is an enormous issue within families and grievances stretch generations back. Fault lines are embedded in the fabric of community life. It’s not stereotypes that divide communities such as ours. It’s not race, gender or age – though they do paly a part. It’s who snubbed who three generations back, and which side people founght on in the war that counts (the Civil War I mean!)I suspect that when hurts are deeply embedded in the fabric of a community most people don’t even realise that they are there.

The Church is able to offer a breathing space – a place to untangle the past and space to take on enterprise with fresh partners and renewed relationships. The political realignment of the Jubilee principle may not be feasible but the life of the Church (the mission of God) show that the fault lines aren’t inevitable, and that alienation and division are short-lived – certainly less than 50 years. This sounds very idealistic doesn’t it? Why’s that?