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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 15/10/2020

Bishop Richard

Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s video.

Last September I took part in a sponsored, tandem parachute jump raising money for the Church Urban Fund. I’m grateful to them for organising it and for British parachuting in Peterborough for their care. However, you should realise my inane smile and thumbs up is actually a mask for blind terror. I have decided I like the ground very much.

There is much in this experience that is a metaphor for the journey of faith. When you jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet you are confronted with the inexorable force of gravity. You are heading in one direction only with virtually no control over the unfolding of events. That is a bit like life – as COVID has graphically demonstrated. Faith does not insulate us from the problems of the human condition. Indeed, Jesus said, in John 16:33, in this world you will have trouble. Over most events we have much less control than we would like to think. Who by worrying, said Jesus, can add a single hour to your life.

Secondly, you realise you are completely dependent on another to get you down safely. Someone, who as you plummet through the air, you can neither see nor hear until you land. The air noise is too much. In our culture the word faith used to describe something you believe, either with no evidence or despite evidence to the contrary. In the scriptures the word means to place your trust, even your life, in something you passionately believe to be true. The great Saints of faith endured much, up to and including martyrdom, trusting that Christ on the cross had made it possible for them to be forgiven, restored to relationship with God and that his resurrection was a foretaste of the glory to come. Living in the light of this reality enables us to live life from a completely different perspective. We can push ourselves in service beyond our comfort zone because we do trust that Jesus will supply us with the emotional and psychological resources to do so when we need them.

Thirdly, it’s a perfect illustration of real faith is a response to the testimony of others. I had never jumped out of an aeroplane before (and probably won’t do so again, unless you promise to give a lot of money to a charity of my choice). I did it because others had gone before and survived, enjoyed it and recommended it. The instructors gave confidence that they knew what they were doing and would look after you. The fact that many hundreds of people had gone before you and lived to tell the tale was also quite encouraging. Many people who have come to faith as adults would say the same thing. They heard the truth of the gospel, they saw it lived out sufficiently credibly in the lives of Christians and on that basis they took a leap of faith. Not based on no evidence, but on sufficient grounds to commit themselves to the leadership and direction of Jesus in their lives and to surrender their personal autonomy to Him. Even with all the evidence that all would be well, I still had to get in the plane, get strapped to the instructor and jump out when told to.

A story is told of the great 19th century tightrope walker Blondin, who did stunts on a wire strung across the Niagara Falls. On one occasion he asked the crowd whether they believed he could push one of them across in a wheelbarrow. They all cheered and said, “yes”! Surprisingly, when he invited the first volunteer, he could only find his manager prepared to actually do it!

I’m aware that this video is watched by nearly 2000 people each week. Some of you watching may have never made this leap of faith for yourself. You might have been coming to church for many years. You may have questions still unanswered. The fact is that some of those questions may not have an answer, certainly one that our finite brains could grasp. I’d argue that we have enough evidence in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that God loves us more than we could possibly imagine and that he wants us to experience life in all its fullness. That fullness is to be found in a life

submitted to Jesus Christ. This leap of faith is not to leave our brains at the door, its a leap of trust to accept the gracious gift of life and give our lives over to new management.

You could do that now in a simple prayer. Do pray it after me. “Lord Jesus, thank you that your life, death and resurrection shows me that God loves me, wants fullness of life for me and provides a way where I can enter into it. I ask for your forgiveness for living my life ignoring that and seeking to run things my own way. I now submit my life to your direction and ask you to confirm that by giving your very self in the person of the Holy Spirit to come and live within me.” AMEN

If you’ve prayed that prayer, let me know. I’d love to connect you with other Christians who can help you grow in that relationship. And the parachuting was terrifying – but rather fun!

Have a great week, and in the middle of ever-increasing COVID anxiety, may we all learn to trust more deeply the Jesus who gave himself for us.

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