Like everyone, we Christians need our heroes. We have Jesus, God and human being, tempted yet perfect. Above all others, for us, Jesus has to be our hero, our role model and our goal. But when the Christian life gets hard or we feel down, the example of Jesus (if not his love and support) can seem distant and beyond our reach. That is why the Church has always remembered Christians whose life or death are an inspiration; ordinary people like ourselves who show us that even in difficult times the Christian life is the best of lives and that a Christian life can be lived.
Looking through the list of such people, remembered by the Church of England this month, two in particular made me think. The first is George Herbert the Priest and Poet who was born in 1593 and died just before his 40th birthday in 1633 and is now remembered on 27th February. George Herbert is well known for his inspirational hymns such as King of Glory, King of Peace, Let all the world in every corner sing, Teach me my God and king, and The God of love my shepherd is. These have lifted many of us and helped us rededicate our lives to the service of Christ. But for me it is his poetry that has not been set to music that inspires me far more. The simplicity and profound depths of poems such as The Collar and Love (III) never cease to move me. Herbert's works are made all the more inspirational when we realise that they are the fruit of a simple life dedicated wholly to God.
The second person that made me think is Janani Luwum the Archbishop of Uganda martyred for his faith in 1977 and remembered on 17th February. During Amin's reign of terror in Uganda, the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches increasingly worked together with the Muslims of Uganda to speak out against the horrors happening in their country. On 12 February 1976 Luwum delivered a protest to Amin against all acts of violence. Church leaders were summoned to Kampala and then ordered to leave, one by one. Luwum turned to Bishop Festo Kivengere and said, 'They are going to kill me. I am not afraid'. Finally alone, he was taken away and murdered. Later his body was buried near St Paul's Church, Mucwini. Don't worry if you had never heard of Archbishop Luwum; I hadn't until I came across him this year. What struck me about his inclusion in the Church's calendar, is that people today are still being transformed by the power of Jesus of Nazareth and still finding in Jesus a reason for living that is stronger even than physical death.
Revd Nigel Tuffnell