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Here is a brain teaser for the start of 2021. Is a tiger truly a tiger if it is shut in a cage?
You will recognise the black and gold stripes of a tiger, even though somewhat diminished. But what it lacks is freedom.
It is the same for faith. We have just marked the incarnation of God with Christ’s birth at Christmas. Thus starts the human attempt at the imprisonment of God. Keep him wee in a manger, pliable and annually reliable. And on it goes.
How often have you heard Jesus was a good moral teacher? Yes, but that is keeping the incarnate Son of God in a cage. He is a teacher, true, but so diminished. For what about the challenge to powers-that-be, the scandal of genuine friendship with women, the kissing clean of lepers, the anguish of rejection, crucifixion and the resurrection.
The hope for 2021 is that faith breaks free of the constraints we put on it. And that God’s liberation surges across the world – setting people free.
Let us carry the carers, the shop workers and the teachers into places of true respect. Let us shake off the shackles of our own prejudice to recognise the freedom inherent in people regardless of gender, race, class. And open our minds to truth and not the fake news of the Trumps of this world. And let Scotland shine a beacon of justice for our planet when the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (Cop 26) is held here in November.
Faith breaks free of its cage, God in Christ steps forth in our human story, when we open our hearts and minds. God in humanity – that is incarnation.
The prison bars have been burst open – let us live and be free. Faith in 2021, faith in the future.
Reverend Dugald Cameron, Kilmore and Oban.