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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 30.11.2023

Video for November 30th, 2023

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.

There has been a flurry of activity in the Palace Chapel today as the finishing touches have been put to the prayer space.  I hope you will come and visit. As you can see there are several stations to pause and pray, sit in silence, or be creative with the materials provided.

The theme of the space starts from the passage in Ezekiel 47 which talks of the river of life flowing from the Temple.  It an image that Jesus picks up in the temple in John’s Gospel where he parallels the life flowing from this ancient centre of worship with the life that he will give, flowing from himself. Ezekiel is the Old Testament prophet of the Holy Spirit. This extraordinary man, denied the work he had prepared for to be a priest by the Babylonian exile, who, inspired by the Spirit, looks forward to an age of the Spirit that would surpass the glory of their contemporary religious experience. The images are striking; dry bones are transformed into a living breathing army; a religious life that is about the transformation of the heart rather than by external observance; and the vision of water that is to transform not just individual hearts but the whole world. This is the heart of the Christian Gospel.  Jesus’ death and resurrection inaugurates this new age. Those who respond to the call to ‘repent and believe the Good news’ and confess Christ’s lordship receive the gift of God himself. This is not something that is always accompanied by a vivid experience or the receipt of particular gifts. But it is something that begins to make a difference in our lives. The New Testament envisages a slow but steady transformation into Jesus’ character likeness

As this is not meant to be a dry theory I thought I would tell a few Holy Ghost stories. I mentioned a few weeks ago I was at the 24/7 prayer gathering in Vienna. At the final service in a magnificent catholic cathedral 2000 of us gathered to worship from a range of denominations.  We were sitting next to a couple from Alabama. At the end we were invited to pray for one another in small groups.  The young man felt he needed to share a picture the Lord had given him which he felt might be for me.  That has happened to me many times before, and usually such things are very encouraging.  What hasn’t happened before was to be given something that was word for word what I received from my spiritual director mentor 6 weeks ago! I don’t think they knew each other or conferred. I’m still working out the implications.

A verse in the passage from Ezekiel talks about the leaves of the trees by the river being for the healing of the nations.  A few years ago, I had some really bad heart palpitations that required a visit to casualty. I was diagnosed with what’s called SVT.  Usually these things progress and require either beta blockers or a rather unpleasent ablation procedure. They were getting quite debilitating.  I shared this with some friends at a local church who prayed for healing.  I very occasionally now get a slight flutter.

Last night we entertained some people from around the diocese who are doing amazing things in their small rural churches.  One person told a story of a conversation with a neighbour that has led to them becoming a Christian.  They are going to be baptised in the local river at Easter. Another talked about an evening of spiritual questions where nearly half the village turned out and a significant number are carrying on the conversation in a small group, many of them as yet with no faith.

I can point you to outdoor churches and forest churches. I can point you to really well done ordinary services where people just come in and have an overpowering encounter with God in the communion service.

Friends we are not in the religion business we are people of the Holy Spirit.  He goes before us, he is at work and sometimes we just need to ask to have our eyes opened and join in. Ezekiel encourages us to raise our gaze to a further horizon.  These extravagant experiences were granted to him in absolute extremis when he thought all hope was lost. Our God is in the business of bringing dry bones to life, exuberant flows of water from temples that transform the world, bringing healing and new life.

Do come and join our prayer space either in person or remotely, and sign up on the Year of Prayer page on the website. Year of Prayer details God’s Spirit is at work – lets tune in and go with the flow.

+ Richard

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