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Bishop Richard's Weekly Video Message - Transcript 14/04/2022

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video

As we travel through Holy Week with Jesus and the disciples, there is a sense of impending doom.  The mood oscillates between extremes. Joy and hope as the party enters Jerusalem, then a growing despair as that anticipation of victory fades, replaced by foreboding as the authorities close in.  Not dissimilar to our world today.  Moods rise and fall with reports from Ukraine, economic uncertainty, inflation and rises in fuel bills. In the midst of this there is a growing nostalgia for a better time and anger and blame swirling around at leaders who are failing to deliver.

Within our Church we are not insulated from this, and indeed have our own problems. People tell me of their post COVID anxieties.  There are fewer people, coming to church less frequently, giving less money and less willing or able to volunteer for the roles that sustain the institution.

This is our reality. But we are always people of hope that transcends circumstances.  We know in the midst of Holy Week foreboding that Sunday is coming in a way that the disciples clearly didn’t. But we also know that the journey to Sunday still passes through the cross. Our own journeys to resurrection progress through little crosses.  

The apostle Peter faced his own cross when he denied Jesus and experienced a restoration when he was re-instated after the resurrection.  His response to Jesus first call at the lakeside was driven by his own ego: what he thought he could bring to the party. He had clear ideas about what the kingdom of God would look like.  His delusions of what the kingdom of God was like were shattered by Jesus rebuke, “get behind me Satan, you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” His confidence he would stand in the face of pressure was shattered by his denial of Jesus in the Courtyard of the High Priest’s house.

In many ways our church is experiencing a similar crisis. We have to face the painful reality as a church that we can’t go on like this. Many of the things we dreamed of when we began our journeys of faith are not turning out the way we hoped they would. We are not connecting missionally and we are financially unsustainable. But – and its an important but, if we hear the question of Jesus to Peter for ourselves, we can find our frustrations, disappointments and grieving as a doorway to something far greater than we could imagine.  He simply asked him, “Do you love me?” Peters second call begins with the right answer to that question: a simple, “yes Lord, you know that I do.”  Peter’s new future was an uncertain one where all the familiar things were stripped away. It wasn’t a journey that would end well.  He will be led by others where he doesn’t want to go.  It will be an extraordinary journey where he sees in his own life the miraculous power of God.  He will see healings and conversions and God’s intervention in extraordinary way.  He will experience gifts of great wisdom. He will find his preconceived ideas shattered and his tiny vision enlarged to encompass not just his own people but the whole cosmos. He will enter into John the Baptist’s paradigm – he must become greater, I must become less, and in the end discover he can glorify God even in his death. 

A heard a story a few years ago of a South African botanist whose life’s work was around the study of a rare species of proteus flower which was found on one small patch of a hillside in a remote part of South Africa.  She guarded this area vigorously.  She fenced it off to protect it from grazing animals, but number of plants declined year on year. One day in the height of summer there was a grass fire that swept up the valley leaving only ash. She slipped into a deep depression, perhaps understandable if your life’s work went up in smoke.  A few weeks later, she received a phone call urging her to return to the site of the fire. Reluctantly she went back.  As she turned the corner into the valley she was flabbergasted.  The entire valley, not just her small fenced off patch, was covered in proteus flowers.  What she hadn’t realised, with all her efforts to protect what remained was that this plants seeds needed to be burned to germinate.

What do we need to let go off personally and corporately so we may make the Easter journey from death to life? Jesus asks us simply, “Do you love me?” For a fruitful future – that is enough.

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