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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 18.01.2024

Video for January 18th, 2024

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.

There is a trite expression that every journey starts with a single step. Each of us will have begun our faith journey somewhere.   The stories of faith in the Bible often hold a mirror to our own experience. This is particularly true of the calling of the first disciples.  A more diverse bunch it would be hard to imagine. They are listed in Mark chapter 3. Simon, renamed Peter, with the impetuous side and an overinflated view of his own abilities.  James and John, known as sons of thunder – presumably because they had a foul temper. Andrew – the more devout one who was a natural evangelist. Matthew, a tax collector and Roman quisling. Thomas who recognised the importance of proof and personal experience in matters of faith. Simon the zealot: an armed revolutionary, and even one who from the very start Jesus knew would betray him.  There is a fascinating study to be done of how their lives were changed through three years with Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost. Peter is broken and then restored.  There is little evidence of a foul temper in John whose intuitive and poetic gospel magnifies love.

The varying accounts of the call of these disciples give different angles.  One seems to suggest the call of Jesus and the decision to follow was instantaneous. Others, like the account in Mark, suggest that their specific ministries were called out from a wider group of people who had been drawn to Jesus. This seems to be corroborated by other events like the healing of Peter’s mother in law.  Peter had clearly known Jesus for some time before the specific call to leave everything and follow came to him. Few people would drop everything to follow someone they’d never met, however charismatic their personality.

Their call recorded in Mark chapter three charges them with some specific tasks, to preach and to share Jesus authority over evil. But there is something that preceded that call in Chapter 3 verse 14, “he appointed twelve that they might be with him.” It’s a theme that Jesus revisits elsewhere, for example in his commendation of Mary for her devotion over and above the immediate tasks of hospitality. The Church like many organisations has professionalised leadership. Our emphasis recently has been on a set of competencies that those called into ministry are charge to cultivate. Its not that those things are unimportant - those called to teach the faith should be able to do it competently and in a way that engages their listeners.  However, the New Testament emphasis is much more on the cultivation of character.  The key to its development, so evident in the disciples is that simple phrase – to be with him. They say that people begin to look like their pets.  I’m not sure that’s true, but we do tend to become like the people we spend a lot of time with. As St. Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Bad company corrupts good character”. If we want to obey the primary call of followers of Jesus to become more like Jesus, there is no substitute for this.  Our character is being formed one way or the other every day. Every interaction; everything we watch or read, or consume of social media; every habit will be moving us towards Jesus or away from him. The ancient and well- tried disciplines of faith are impossible to short circuit. 

I know that if I do not spend quality time with Jesus, after one day, I will know about it, after two days those closest to me will know and any longer you’ll probably discern it yourself. Cultivating faith requires these sorts of disciplines. Lent is coming in a few weeks and I encourage all of us to use that time well.  We could reflect on the amount of time we spend browsing the internet, on social media and compare it to the amount of time we spend in prayer, the Bible and spiritual reading.  Some of our spiritual discipline – or training could be the disciplines of abstinence, what we give up.  Others might be things we take up which are spiritually nourishing and helpful. Cultivating habits of prayer, bible reading and spiritual reading are one of the main ways in which we are ‘with Jesus’ and become a conduit by which his Spirit can act in our hearts doing a work of transformation. How are we going to be with Jesus so we can become the people Jesus wants us to be and do the things he wants us to do. I hope we will all grow in this together in our year of faith.

+ Richard


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