I've just recorded a video message for the year 10 pupils at Ilfracombe Academy. I'm their year Chaplain - we have a system of chaplains for each year group, to take assemblies, visit classes, be a resource for RE lessons, and so on. At the moment, we can't go into school, so all that remains is an online assembly. To be honest, I'm not sure which is more daunting: standing in front of 120 teenagers, wondering how they are going to react, or spouting into a laptop camera, with no idea how they will be reacting when they see the video.
Anyway, aside from my little neuroses ... the theme I was asked to speak on was "Love". In the cycle of assemblies, this topic is always scheduled for the week nearest to Valentine's Day. But, of course, we all know that love is more than hearts pierced by Cupid's arrows - or heart-stopping moments of sending and opening anonymous cards. So I started talking about wider ideas of love: in particular, of what it might mean to love truth, to love the poor, to love justice. And about the opposition this kind of love can provoke, and the cost to those who insist on loving in this way.
For Christians, Jesus shows what this kind of love looks like, and what it stirs up in hearts gripped by fear. Truly inclusive love, that welcomes in the stranger, the outcast, the sinner, is deeply threatening to those whose security depends on setting limits to the scope of love. Jesus' execution is an act of fear. The powers that be, religious and political, cannot tolerate the consequences of the big, the boundless love he represents.
Plus ca change ... In our day, that bigger love is embodied by many courageous seekers of truth and justice. Not all of them, perhaps not many of them, are Christians; but I believe they are planting the Kingdom of God. Alexei Navalny returns to Russia, as soon as he has recovered from the poisoning that carries the Kremlin's fingerprints; he is arrested within minutes of setting foot on Russian soil, and now faces a lengthy jail sentence. This defiant courage, which I find almost incomprehensible, must have its roots in a passionate love of truth and justice.
Less dramatically but with equal persistence, Marcus Rashford will not give up on his campaign to eradicate child poverty. In him, too, there is the sense of a non-negotiable commitment to truth and justice, a love for what is right. Like Navalny, he can't stop - it matters too much, it is rooted in his experience, so to deny it would be to deny himself.
I am happy that in people like these two, and in many more whose names I will never know, the God of truth and justice, the God of love, is planting seeds of his Kingdom. It doesn't matter whether or not they invoke Jesus Christ; they are following in his steps by showing this bigger love, this hunger for truth and justice. Acknowledging this, I ask myself: how much do I love in this way? Can I move beyond admiration for others to acting, giving, insisting on what is right and good and true?
And can I believe - holding before me the risen Christ - that love wins?