Thursday, 17 July 2008

Jesus reveals himself in... us?

Canterbury Cathedral’s community have been fantastically open and generous in making all the resources of the place available to us. Rowan has gven us two half hours of Bible teaching, to lead into a wandering, thoughtful, slightly arty, smorgasbord reflection and retreat experience in one of the most amazing holy places in the world.

In Galatians 1:15 Paul says God reveals himself not “to” me (safe option in most translations) but (Greek) “in” me. So every calling or vocation is an invitation to become, gradually, a place where God’s life is revealed, his promise and judgment. We sometimes meet fellow disciples who make us realise, with devastating clarity, how far we need to change. This is holiness. So we thank God for all who do this in their calling as Bishops, including (especially?) those unable to join us. The Christ we are all called to reveal is one whose body is real, in time and eternity, who gathers God’s Children from the corners of the earth into his kingdom. This is the prime vision we were called to represent and enact. II Corinthians 11:28-9 —
Besides other things I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for al the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble and I am not indignant?
So the only way of being a successful apostle is to be incapable of distancing oneself from the weakness of others. Bearing apostolic witness we have to speak of a new humanity in which we bear others burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ. Represent Jesus Christ and your defences will be down, and you will share in the weakness and loss of all, and your assumed loss will be part of the pain God takes upon himself in his infinite love. Paul sees the Church as the body called to actualise the death and resurrection of Christ in the world.

Therefore bishops can never, however much they’d like to be, become the spokesperson of a single nation, or cause, or group, however worthy they may be. Some will call it dithering — we have to find ways to make it prophetic. It would be much easier to be turn the church into an association of people who sign up to particular ideas, or reflect the nation in some vague way. What we actually have to do is express in our living the whole new humanity that is being gathered up in Christ. therefore we can never simply be servants to one subgroup. We have been taken hold of by Christ. We may of course want to affirm this person or that, but we cannot without also some note of challenge as well as affirmation. Therefore bishops have to prioiritse living and proclaiming the life of a Christ who gathers lost humanity into one in himself.

So Unity is not just everybody feeling good about each other, a quantitative thing, but a qualitative thing — each person impoverished by the another’s loss, each person enriched by others’ holiness. This is what Church is for, according to Saint Paul; and we’re off with some homework to reflect on what it means in our own lives and ministries. This isn’t, of course, what Rowan actually said — more what I heard him say. So, it’s time to go away and reflect...
I am massively looking forward to tomorrow.

6 comments:

Peter O said...

Alan,

I think this is fine, as long as we don't interpret it as though we construct a "Christ concept" by our unity. Unfortunately, if any of your episcopal colleagues were to deny that the man Jesus who walked on the earth and was crucified is the same Christ who was physically resurrected and ascended to the father, then all they would be doing is creating a religious concept rather than acknowledging Jesus as utterly ontologically independent from them.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks, Peter. I think you've put your finger on the oldest problem in the book — a tendency to create a Jesus not completely anchored to the person of Jesus Christ who broke bread and walked the streets, and healed, and died and rose agan. I’m 110% with you on the need to keep that linkage seamless and whole, or people start putting themselves in a la-la land that made gnostic ("denying Jesus has come in the flesh") theologies seem like a good idea in the first century. This unfleshing of the Word continues to inspire New Age stuff and nonsense today. People think a Jesus like that will be really cool. He may be to them but, unfortunately, like the urban spaceman, “here comes the twist, he don’t exist!”

Tim Chesterton said...

So every calling or vocation is an invitation to become, gradually, a place where God’s life is revealed

Well, that's enough of a challenge for me to be working on today...

Peter O said...

In fact, anybody who denies the resurrection is "unfleshing the Word" (love that phrase by the way - genius!!!) and has stepped outside Christian orthodoxy.

On another front, care for me to send you one or two of KJS's sermons....

:-)

By the way, the mathematician in me is slapping your hand. You can be 0% with me, 100% with me or even 57.946% with me. You can't be 110% with me.....

Vashti Winterburg said...

Please, tell us something about the photographs.
Vashti Winterburg

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Vashti, I;m no expert, but I think they were as follows. The stained glass is from the mracle windows at the East End of the Cathedral, which show numerous scenes of miracles of healing associated with St Thomas à becket, whose shrine was here. They are among the finest examples of medieval glass in the world. The inside of the Bell Harry Tower is an extrarodinary mix of angles and interlocking spaces, like one of those Martin Escher drawings. It’s fine 15th century work. next photo shows Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury welcoming us to the retreat on day 1. Next up is the throne of Augustine — the cathedra in the cathedral. Finally the linked arches support a water tower put in the for monastic community about 700 years ago. It's a truly amazing place!

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