As we come to the end of a challenging year; one that I hope we can look back on with a sense of achievement, I want to briefly introduce you to one of my heroes.
He is a largely unremembered Swedish man, Dag Hammarskjöld who, in the 1950s and early 1960s, served for two terms as the second Secretary General of the United Nations. His outstanding statesmanship in the service of peace and reconciliation is not often recognised today. He died in plane crash (it was probably shot down by terrorists) in September 1961 while trying to broker peace in the Congo.
Dag Hammarskjöld had left instructions that in the event of his death, a trusted friend was to go to his unit in the United Nations Building in New York and retrieve a manila folder from beside his bed. Much to his surprise his friend discovered Hammarskjöld’s diary – not of the so-called important events of his life – but of his spiritual journey. It was subsequently published under the very simple title of “Markings”.
In this book he recollects his mother teaching him lessons for life; preparing him for danger and for courage in the face of darkness and disappointment. She taught him the Scandinavian saying,
‘The night is coming;
for all that has been, “Thanks”:
for all that shall be, “Yes."’
In his later years Hammarskjold became deeply aware of the darkness around him, but still he was grateful and while saying “Thanks” for all that has been, he embraced with courage the challenges before him and said “Yes” to all that lay ahead. Time and again he repeated that “Yes”.
An entry on Whitsunday (Pentecost 1961), just a few months before he died, is poignant. It is deeply personal and puts to us, in a modern idiom, the challenge that is frequently found in the Bible. This is the challenge to give thanks and say “Yes” rather than “No” or even “Why?” to the challenges and disappointments of life. The invitation is to follow the call of God, to walk into the unknown with courage, trust in the One who calls us, and in hope that given grace (undeserved love) we will triumph over adversity.
As we reflect on all we have experienced this year and all we have learned; can we allow our eyes to be opened to a new reality, a different purpose and the possibility of meaning such as we had never previously experienced?
And so, in this entry on Whitsunday 1961 Dag Hammarskjöld wrote,
“I don't know Who, or What, put the question, I don't know when it was put. I don't even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer “Yes” to Someone, or Something, and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.”
As this year draws to a close, I invite us to give thanks for all that has been and in self-surrender say, “Yes”, to all that is to come.
In closing, I particularly invite you to join us at our Christmas Eve service in the chapel at Hume Anglican Grammar at 5pm. That is A Christmas Celebration on Thursday, 24 December at 5pm in St Peter’s, the Chapel of Hume Anglican Grammar. You will be welcome.
May the God of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, bless you with peace, hope, joy and love, this Christmas and in the coming year.
Bishop Ian Palmer - Priest of Hume Parish