Friday, 22 July 2011

Lucian Freud, the lost boys & the perfect elder brother

Lucian Freud the famous realist artist has died today. His portrait work is known for it's spreadeagled, warts & all presentation. You won't like what he produces if you sit for him, but it will be realistic, every bulge, every inch of mottled skin, every imperfection exposed.

His art was as real & ugly as his life unfortunately. For decades, Lucian & his younger brother Clement were estranged. When Clement died a couple of years ago, the full picture of the divided brothers was hung on the wall for all to see.

The intense dislike of one another dates back to their earliest years. Stories abound, but the truth seems to lie in a race which they ran against each other through Hyde Park as boys. With Clement winning, Lucian shouted 'Stop Thief!' A passer by apprehended Clement, whilst Lucian sprinted on to victory.

For such a trivial boyhood rivalry to harden into a lifetime of hatred is deeply sad. Perhaps we should expect nothing less of the grandsons of Sigmund Freud, the Psychoanalyst. His extravagant theories of responsibility for such loathing probably point the finger back at him anyway!

Not long before Clement's death, Lucian was asked whether there was any chance of reconciliation. He replied in pugnacious style: "Why on Earth would I want to speak to him or see him again? I was offered a knighthood but turned it down. My younger brother has one of those. That's all that needs to be said on the matter."

So his younger brother was buried without him there, & now Lucian goes to the grave having carried an elder brother's resentment for a lifetime.

Cain & Abel, Esau & Jacob, Joseph & his big brothers, the Prodigal Son & his elder brother - these stories all show the same underlying anger that we carry in our hearts. A self justifying, self pitying, judgmental loathing which produces fruit of bitterness & hatred. You don't need a Freud to tell you that this is no healthy way to live!
The irony of all these tales of angry sons & lost boys is that we have a Father who invites both brothers to the table. The Father of the Prodigal welcomes the one son & pleads with the other angry son for him to also come back into intimacy.
Our way home is not through gritted teeth, or just forgiving & forgetting - rather by following our true elder brother, Jesus Christ into the love, acceptance & forgiveness that we all so desperately need, & which can be ours in the Father heart of God.

It's too late for Lucian & Clement to do anything about it - but what are we going to do with the years of estrangement & heart ache which we carry around?

Friday, 8 July 2011

Feast & Famine, 1980's style.

'The world is swimming in nearly 400 million tonnes of surplus grain....For the first time in history, there is more than enough food......by World Bank estimates, some 730 million people - one out of seven in the world population- do not get enough calories to live an active working life.'

Newsweek wrote these words in an article entitled, 'Feast & Famine'. They were penned in the 1980's. It was the 1980's when we first saw horrific pictures of swollen bellied children with flies on their faces in East Africa. It was the 1980's when this generation first saw the combination of civil war, drought conditions, & corrupt leadership culminating in millions dying in our front rooms on the TV news each evening. It was the 1980's when the first truly global compassion movement emerged to do something about this completely avoidable tragedy. It was the 1980's when we held hands, raised our cigarette lighters in the air & sang 'Feed the world' at the top of our lungs. It was the 1980's when we vowed that this kind of thing should never happen again.

The world is still swimming in grain. We have enough water. We in the West have more than enough. And yet the combination of corrupt government, conflict & drought is once again sweeping up millions who already live below basic western living standards in East Africa. It is moving towards 30 years since we made those promises in hope & yet once again this evening our TV news readers make appeals for emergency aid. Once again we watch mothers choosing which of their weak, emaciated children to save, & which to let go.

'Again I looked & saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:
I saw the tears of the oppressed - & that they have no comforter;
Power was on the side of their oppressors - & they have no comforter.
And I declared that the dead who had already died,
Are happier than the living, who are still alive.
But better than both is he who has not yet been,
Who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.'


The writer of Ecclesiastes was right all those years ago when he spoke with a broken heart about our meaningless existence.There really is nothing new under the sun.Have we really come full circle to this again in so short a space of time? This penetrating insight offers no solutions, only leaves us in the dust, mourning with those who mourn, recognising the world really does need a Saviour.