Sorry, showing off again. In case your French is a bit rusty, the title of this post means something like - to retreat in order to jump back better. In other words, it doesn't translate well at all ... but here I am in Brecon, on retreat, and hoping to jump back better. We'll see!
For now, I just want to share with you, in the aftermath of the horror in Christchurch, how moving I found the picture of a man standing outside a mosque in Manchester, with a flat cap, a big smile, and a home-made placard, on which he had written:
"You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray."
This man is a Christian, but that in itself is no reason for Christians to congratulate themselves. I would have found it equally moving, had I not known that. For me, there is something very beautiful, very much of the God I believe in, in his message, his smile, and his willingness to keep watch so that those who may be feeling threatened can pray in peace. Even the absurdity of this lone watchman guarding against violence is quite lovely - his cheerful smile says that he's not afraid.
I don't know whether Andrew Graystone intended this when deciding what to write, but his words remind me of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, pleading with his friends to stay awake, to keep watch while he prays.
And then there's the boldness of declaring to a bunch of strangers, "You are my friends". I think this boldness can only come from a deep belief that those we don't know, those who are different from us, are to be approached, greeted, welcomed as friends. This is a stance, a choice, which offers hope to all of us.
So thank you, Andrew, for your message, your smile - and your flat cap. And for reminding us that we are called to treat everyone as children of God, as brothers and sisters, as friends.