Magazine leader - April 2014

From the Vicar

Saturday 29th March will go down in history as the day that ‘equal-marriage’ became a reality in our society. Many will believe that this is a natural development from the introduction of civil partnerships. There was a deep injustice that couples, who had shared their lives together, often over many years, found they had no rights when one of them died, with the surviving partner not being able to be seen as next-of-kin. For my children’s generation, accepting gay relationships seems to be just the way that life is and they wonder what all the fuss is about. For an older generation, it can be a challenge to see what once was treated as a criminal offence as something which is now granted the status of marriage. In the church there are some deep divisions over this matter, which remain to be resolved. Our Archbishop’s challenge is not that we resolve things (which may be impossible), but rather that we learn to listen to one another, learn to live with difference and commit ourselves to helping one another to flourish. To put it bluntly, there are those who believe that no sexual relationship is acceptable unless it is between a man and a woman in marriage. On the other hand, there is a view of the gospel message that, in seeking to follow Christ, we are called to reach out in love to all people. Over the centuries the Church has had an appalling track record in ostracising anyone who is different, as for example in our attitude to people who are Jewish, black, women, Catholic, Protestant, gay and so on. For me, a key phrase I once heard puts all this into perspective. We are called to be the heralds of God’s Kingdom, but we act as if we had been appointed its gate-keepers. In other words, we are called to so live our lives as followers of Christ that something of the face of Christ shines from all we do. In practice we often act as if we had the right to be the moral police of our society. As such, we can end up looking more like Pharisees than Christ. Much to the surprise of many, Pope Francis put it this way: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” Showing people how to discover God is what we are about. We have not been given the task of selecting who will be going to heaven.

All this has a particular urgency as we celebrate another Easter together. There is an acclamation that we use when we celebrate the Eucharist. The deacon says “Great is the mystery of Faith” and the people respond “Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!”. There is, in that great acclamation, a proclamation of the heart of what it means to be a Christian. We turn our lives to Christ because we respond to that overpowering love with which he gave his life for us. To discover such love is to be touched by the hand of God himself. Each of us is so precious to God that he is prepared to give his very life for us. And such a realisation is transforming. It brings us the knowledge that Christ is no mere figure of the past, but all that was revealed in his death and resurrection has become a living reality in the present moment of our lives. To celebrate Easter together is not just to commemorate a strange event in the past in which the disciples discovered that the dead Jesus had somehow come back to life again. The celebration of Easter is the celebration of the reality that Christ is encountered in the here-and-now of our lives and in a way that changes all living. Part of that transformation comes from the experience of living in relationship with the living Christ. Yet that also shifts our whole perspective of life, for we also find that our future lies on God’s hands and that too changes the present moment in which we live. “Christ will come again!” is not some idle speculation about the future, but a living out of the Easter faith in which we travel forward with confidence in life, because, whatever the suffering of the present moment, the future into which we move is the very life of God.

My exasperation with the whole “equal-marriage” debate in the Church is that it promotes this issue in a way that seems to suggest that it is the key thing about being a Christian. It really isn’t. As a Christian, my vocation is to so seek to discern God in all life that I not only discover what it means to live the life of the Kingdom of Heaven, but also that I myself become a sign that that Kingdom is here.

I wish you all the joy of knowing the risen Christ as we celebrate Easter together.

Nigel LLoyd 

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