And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25, NET)
Outside Christ Church College, Oxford. One of the most beautiful and profoundly ‘magical’ places we have ever been. Scenes from Harry Potter movies were shot here. Albert Einstein, John Locke, John Wesley, Lewis Carroll, and 13 of the 26 Prime Ministers from Oxford studied here. Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was inspired here, and Alice was the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church.
Yesterday, Marion and I travelled to Oxford and had a late lunch in the renowned Eagle and Child pub, where a group of famous Christians met regularly to encourage one another. We sat in the same nook where J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and others discussed ideas that shaped some of the most significant English literature to come out of the twentieth century. I couldn’t help feeling a little exuberant, so I took a few snaps with my cell phone and sent them off to friends and family.
I really didn’t want to write this post. I’ve never read any Tolkien. I’m no C.S. Lewis scholar. I find it difficult to read Lewis’ philosophical theology, preferring instead to listen to his books using Audible. His writing is undeniably brilliant and packed with words that connect the intellect to our faith. But as Dick Woodward once told me, “C.S. Lewis made things complicated, but I spent my entire ministry trying to make them simple—so people would understand.” One of the great wonders of the Christian Faith is that it works on both very simple and very complex levels.
Tuesday mornings at the Eagle and Child pub. This is where Tolkien, Lewis and others sat. The Gloucester sausages and steak and ale pie were quite good. We were late for lunch, so it wasn’t too crowded.
When Clarke received our photos from the Eagle and Child, he prodded me, reluctantly, into writing this post. But it occurred to me while sitting in the Eagle and Child that I have experienced and benefitted from the encouragement of some wonderful brothers and sisters. Brothers like Dave Thompson who will send long, deep, profound emails of encouragement at all hours of the night. And Dave Rudy, who always can add to any topic I may bring up (it’s amazing how much Dave has studied and absorbed). And Rob Campbell, who is the most devotionally devoted person I have ever met (and a finer friend you could not have). And Clarke Morledge himself, with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things theological and hermeneutical (his zeal is as contagious as his heart). And Ken Petzinger, a Princeton-educated physicist who is living proof that Christians also come with extreme intellectual capacity (and who always has something current to share from his personal studies). And Dick Woodward, who was such an encourager and gifted teacher. And Iris Rudy, who is such a good listener (and who commands respect when she speaks). And Tina Campbell, who works at being the most compassionate and hospitable person I know (and succeeds magnificently). And Marion, whom I could never thank appropriately for being such a wonderful, selfless person (and in whom I continually see the Gospel lived out).
So when the writer of Hebrews states, “And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near,” l get it. I am thankful for the Eagle and Child that all of us have experienced.
The University of Oxford has 38 Colleges and 6 Permanent Private Halls (PPHs) of religious foundation. There are cathedrals, churches and scenes like this everywhere you turn. I hope that you can visit Oxford soon!