January 2019

Tuesday, 01 January 2019 13:28 Be the first to comment!

"Christian Unity in a Divided World"

Dear Friends,

In recent years I’ve become increasingly aware of a shift in our national discourse, with a significant willingness to use the ‘us/them’ language of division around nationality, race, religion, gender, sexuality, disability, age and more, from the highest levels of politics to the vile stuff flying around social media. Such us/them language is deeply troubling, not least because of the way it has been a precursor to some of humanity’s most evil moments, whether in ancient history or modern times. It’s been part of the church’s history too, both in its internal divisions, and when it’s failed to stand out against such social and political trends.

Even the early church had its divisions. Luke records some in the Acts of the Apostles, while in Galatians, one of the New Testament’s earliest letters, Paul wrote, ‘There can be neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but all are one in Christ’. And in Ephesians he writes, ‘There is one body and one Spirit, ..... one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all’. These reflect Jesus’ prayer in John 17, ‘May they all be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you’. Clearly the early church was struggling to live up to this calling.

Continuing church splits down the centuries tempt me to wonder whether there is any point in trying to work for its unity, but before succumbing to such a council of despair it’s important to remember that, whichever part of the church we may belong to, there is far more that unites us than divides us when we keep our focus on Jesus.

Friday 18th January is the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which Brock Valley Churches Together marks with a service at St James, Whitechapel, on Sunday 20th at 3.00pm. To it each church will bring something to represent what it cherishes about our unity in Christ.

In a world that seems to be hell-bent on isolation, division and us/them conflict, maybe Christians working together despite their differences can be a sign of hope – and even a prompt to change.

God Bless,
Revd Stephen Cooper

Dear Friends,

The moment when we acknowledge the presence and reality of God – that he is the creator and we are his beloved creation – we open up a whole new set of questions: If God is God, then what does that mean for me? How do I live in relationship with God? What is God’s will for me? Of course, these are questions not easily answered.

A good number of years ago a friend of mine was wondering whether God might be calling him to ordained ministry, and asked me what I thought? My reply was twofold. Firstly, to pray for the idea to go away – if it was of God, then it wouldn’t go away, whereas if it was of him it would soon pass. Second, he that was too good a Christian to be wasted on ordained ministry – there would be much more important things for him to do for the Kingdom of God.

As it turned out, the idea went away and instead he went to the US to do post-graduate studies. Now he’s a professor of theology in a US university where he teaches hundreds of students each year to think about the God questions in the complexities of the modern world – a much more important role for the Kingdom of God than being a Vicar!

So what might the will of God be for you? for me? A couple of years ago we did a course called ‘Life on the Frontline’. The premise of the course was that everyone is on the frontline of the Kingdom of God, whether at home, down the pub, at work, with the children or grand-children, at the gym, with our friends, or wherever. First and foremost, where we are is where we’re called to be the Body of Christ, his presence in the world. Though it may change as we journey with God, where we are now is where God is calling us to be his people, on the frontline of the Kingdom of God – for now this is his will for us, each one of us.

It is tempting to put the idea of special ministries on a pedestal, vicars and the like, as something to be looked up to. The truth of the matter is that our first calling, above all others, is to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus. Living that out is always the will of god for us.

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