Easter 2019

Thursday, 11 April 2019 01:32 Be the first to comment!

"Cornelius Moments ....."

Dear Friends,

Cornelius, a foreigner, is praying and is prompted by the Spirit to send to Joppa for Peter. He too is praying and has a vision that challenges Jewish ideas about what is clean and unclean – God makes it clear that what he decides is what goes. Arriving at Cornelius’ house, as Peter tells him and his family about Jesus, God pours out his Spirit just as he did at Pentecost. Peter goes on to baptise them and welcome them into the Church.

At that time, to be a Christian you first had to be a Jew – or so the early Church thought until God intervened. When Peter returned to Jerusalem he was challenged about letting foreigners into the Church. Peter’s reaction is wonderful, ‘Who am I to stand in the way of God?’

Throughout history there have been many Cornelius moments when God has clearly been doing a new thing – think of the issues underlying the Reformation, or when John Wesley reached out to the masses, or in the various revivals in this country and elsewhere. Sadly, and all too often, these were resisted by the mainstream Church and resulted in divisions

– but God was doing a new thing, the Church just forgot to join in.

Added to these are Wilberforce moments, when we have to go back to the Scriptures to re-read them from first principles – that’s what he had to get Christians to do to support his anti-slavery legislation – recognising that if people are made in God’s image we can’t treat them inhumanely.

We live in an age when all kinds of traditional understandings of what it is to be made in God’s image, a child of God, are being questioned and even redefined. We are discovering that many aspects of human nature which were considered fixed and discrete are actually sliding scales of identity. Some are obvious – gender and sexuality; others are more socially constructed – race and religion; while others are complex interactions of a number of spectra – able-bodied/differently-able; as examples. How we respond can significantly influence others’ human flourishing. Cornelius, Peter and Wilberforce give us insight about how to respond well.

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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