Today's news has been full of tributes to Rabbi Lionel Blue, who died yesterday. as well as being a well regarded radio broadcaster and writer for the past forty years, he was also a teacher of theology and Jewish spirituality. So it was highly fitting that one of his rabinic students should have broadcast a 'Thought for the Day' tribute on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, as he was a regular contributor over many years to that programme, especially on Monday mornings, where his blend of good cherry, funny insights and spiritual wisdom really had you laughing and pondering as you went about your daily tasks.
He had some lovely things to say about his relationship with Jesus, about whom he had learned from evangelical students in Oxford as an undergraduate. Jesus, that unique and original Jewish character, who inspired Lionel to be himself, to find himself in ministry as a rabbi, and as an overtly gay man with much to say about the real nature of unconditional and faithful love in human relationships of all kind.
His name first became known to us in the early seventies through a paperback cook book, one of several to carry his name, this one called 'A taste of heaven'. He taught generations of people, believers and unbelievers alike, to lighten up, relax and enjoy life's goodness, while taking all its hassles in one's stride, muddling through wherever necessary. What a lovely person. What a great life, whose wisdom made a quiet difference to so many of his contemporaries.
In recent years, due to age and infirmity he broadcasted less and less often, but his funny remarks and profound reflections about the nature of old age, decline, grief, and feebleness revealed that there was no diminishment in his ability to seek and find the glory of God in any imaginable situation, and convey that essential reassurance affirmed in the poetry of the Song of Songs:
'Many waters cannot quench love. Love is stronger than death'.