This article was published in the January to April 2018 issue of Rapport magazine.
Simon Holland considers the radical love of the Servant King, demonstrated in Lee Abbey Devon’s performance of Lee Misérabbeys
I ask you to imagine the sound of applause and shouts of ‘Encore!’, as flags were waved and the lights faded in the octagonal lounge for our production of Lee Misérabbeys, our summer revue of 2017.
The script was based on the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, examining the nature of law and grace and the redemption of one individual Jean Valjean. A talented team led by Jon Pocock (our Worship Leader) adapted the lyrics of the songs and retold the story through Community eyes, as we welcomed Christian Smith, someone who had fallen on hard times, firstly as a guest then later as he becomes a member of the Lee Abbey Community.
The line I found most moving was ‘God is the reason that they’re giving their everything’.
For 71 years now Lee Abbey has become a spiritual home to thousands of people, through the main house, the Camps and more recently The Beacon Activity Centre. The vision of our Founding Fathers was for Lee Abbey to be a spiritual powerhouse. A place where many men and women would find Christ for themselves and come to life, returning to their own places of work and worship, witness and well-being, renewed in their passion for Christ and inspired to serve Him and make Him known. This ebb and flow of guests and Community creates a vast tide of God’s love and action throughout the world, and the reason for this is God.
‘Do you see now? You are loved Christian. Loved by God. He loves you as you are, and because God loves you, we love you too. You are welcome and accepted here, and as you become part of our Community I hope that you will see this for yourself, and come to understand that we give because of what God has given to us …’
God has given us His Son who reveals to us the amazing, radical, descending, humbling way of love, the compassionate nature of God, and as we truly see this, we begin to change our attitude. Paul in Philippians 2 writes:
‘Your attitude should be that of Christ Jesus who … made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!
What always leaps out at me from this hymn of the early church that Paul quotes, are these expressions;
‘He made himself nothing’,
‘He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death …’
Surely the most extraordinary statements in the whole Bible! This is God we are speaking of, He remained fully God and yet He made himself nothing. Paul is speaking here of the first Christmas where we celebrate the miracle of Incarnation, God-enfleshed so that God now knows exactly what it is to be tired and hungry, to be harassed and lonely, to be despised, to be tempted, to be frightened, to be like you and me. Yet, that humbling downward spiral was not low enough it seems. Having made Himself nothing, He humbled Himself, and Paul moves our gaze to Easter, the atonement, when being found in appearance as a man He became obedient unto death. How He loved us, how wondrously He served.
As we serve here at Lee Abbey Devon and as you serve where you are, together we make the presence of Christ known and experienced, as we follow the One who made the descending humbling way of costly love. The more we encounter Jesus, appreciate who Jesus is and what He has done for us, the more we will understand the wonderful privilege of being called into relationship with Him. This is what Lee Abbey reveals to a watching and waiting world, that God is the reason we’re giving our everything.
Simon Holland, Warden, Lee Abbey Devon