RSS Feed

Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 04.04.2024

Video for 4th April 2024, Low Week

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.

After the rigours of Lent we celebrated the resurrection last Sunday.  The events of Easter hang at the pivotal point of history, with implications far beyond their historical truth. Sometimes things happen and nothing can ever be the same again. A bereavement changes the contours of someone’s life. An unexpected recovery from illness or deliverance from accident gives an entirely different perspective.  People often live differently because of these experiences.

The New Testament describes a lot of the adjustments of the early Christians in response to the resurrection, which became the heart of their preaching. Jesus mandates some of these changes himself. One of the best known is the great commission at the end of Matthew’s gospel.  In verse 18 he says, “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." This evangelistic call is clear and unequivocal. It is predicated on Jesus' absolute authority over everything revealed in the resurrection and ascension.

Such confidence is widely regarded in our culture as arrogance.  “How can you be sure?” people ask. “There are lots of different roads up the mountain, that Christian faith is but one of them, simply a manifestation of our own culture.” That was certainly not Jesus’ view. Apostle Peter is clear that such faith sharing should always be done with gentleness and respect, often in response to the questions people ask as a result of seeing the difference faith makes in people’s lives.  The problems of missionary activity have often come when faith is caught up with the dynamics of power. In the colonial period there is no doubt that some sharing the faith found it difficult to distinguish between the way faith was expressed in their own culture and the non-negotiable core that could be expressed legitimately in many different ways.  Old sepia photographs show African clerics dressed like characters from Kilvert’s diary. A few years ago, in Nigeria, I was uncomfortable that local Christian leaders were taking services in full cassock and surplice in 95-degree heat! An instantly recognisable Church of England service only really came to life at the offertory when elements of local culture were incorporated.  I think questions like this lie behind some of the statements from the Oversight Group of the Church of England’s Racial Justice Commission. Apologies are sought for. ‘seeking to destroy diverse African traditional religious belief systems. And that this act of repair should intentionally facilitate research into spiritual traditions in Africa and the diaspora, thereby enabling a fresh dialogue between African traditional belief systems and the gospel’. If such conversation enables a fresh confidence in the capacity of local cultures to express the Gospel in their own setting without reverting to European norms I am all for it.  We are all enriched by diverse cultural expressions of the Gospel as we were last Palm Sunday by many Roman Catholics sharing with the procession bringing their own gifts and insights. However, I would strongly part company if they are suggesting that the Gospel should never have been shared with people overseas in the first place.  Our wonderful partners from Tanzania are witness in their vibrant faith and evangelistic zeal to how the Gospel has been embraced. As one would expect it has not only transformed individual lives but cultures as well.  The health care system, transformation of gender relations, deliverance from superstition, child sacrifice and other destructive activities can be traced back directly to people accepting Christ. Incidentally, this is exactly the same for us in this country. Without the Gospel there is every chance we would still be painting ourselves with woad and sacrificing people to gods in peat bogs. As Tom Holland has demonstrated in his book Dominion, much that secular culture values in terms of tolerance, scientific progress, care for the weak, and even multi-party democracy have a direct audit trail to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  There is no guarantee that these things would have arisen without it.

So, the resurrection of Jesus makes our faith inescapably evangelistic.  It flows directly from God’s revelation of his love for humanity in Jesus.  The great commission was not just for the first disciples but for all of us, all Christians in every time, in every place, to all people. Fortunately, we are not called to share simply subjective experience but the conviction that Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. This remains the turning point of history, and if personally embraced the turning point of every life. I remain committed to sharing that news with everyone, wherever they are from and whatever their cultural or faith background.


Powered by Church Edit