August Magazine leader

From the Vicar

It may take only a small thing for the sun to shine through: a smile across a room, a hand on the shoulder when you are feeling sad, a thoughtful card when life is low. Or perhaps that annoying neighbour suddenly does something, or says something, which reveals that they are human after all, as vulnerable as you are. Moments of recognition can be life changing. For some, a new world can be born, as suddenly a whole new perspective is revealed. Sometimes such a radical change is referred to as a Copernican revolution, after Copernicus who realised that the sun does not travel around the earth, but the earth around the sun. One such a revolution came as Albert Einstein suddenly saw that e=mc2. Did he work that out? Well he certainly did not invent it. It is simply how the world is. One person claims that Einstein had the capacity to imagine that he was a ray of light and he just perceived the physics of how such a light-beam would behave. There may be many moments in our lives when light breaks through and our world is thereby changed. For many, falling in love is like that. Also for many, becoming a Christian is like that too. There are those who, having had no Christian background, suddenly discover Christ, like Saul did on the road to Damascus. Others grow into the faith from childhood onwards. Even so, a change of gear is needed at some point. What is taught us as a child, that there is a God out there, needs to be internalised. An inner connection needs to be made. We need to see for ourselves that we are loved by God and that Christ gave his life for us. The Christian story suddenly shifts from belief to experience. We move from knowing about God to knowing God and life is profoundly changed.

The 6th August is that strange feast day when we remember the transfiguration of Jesus on a mountain. He goes up the mountain, with a handful of his closest disciples, as was his regular practice. Suddenly they see him in a different light. He is still their friend Jesus, but they see in him the very face of God. The experience is described in terms of the brightest light – the light dawns on them. The whole point of Jesus’ ministry is fulfilled in that moment. He must still go to the cross, and rise from the dead, but those three disciples suddenly see the truth that God himself is here in their midst.

At this moment in time a lot is being discussed about the future leadership of the Church of England. Suggestions have been made that potential leaders should be called out early in their ministry and trained, even to the extent of doing a min-MBA course. On one level, this is to be welcomed. We need to take leadership seriously and equip our future leaders for the ministry they will need to exercise. We need a more focused and strategic approach to leadership and a planned approach to church growth. Yet I am left with a nagging question. Has this person seen the face of God in Christ? And does this person reveal something of the face of Christ in the way that he or she lives out their life? We need to order the life of our church in a business-like way, but is what forms us into a body of Christians the shared experience of transfiguration? Such transfiguration starts with the glory that is revealed in Christ. Can we see it? Does seeing it transform our lives? But transfiguration must also be a quality of our church life together. In experiencing the life of our church community, others ought to be able to discover something of the light of Christ in our midst. Well managed churches are important, but they count for little unless there is something in our shared life together that helps others to ‘see it’. How we live as Christians, and how we allow the risen Christ to shape our Christian community, is the very key to what it means to be Christ for a broken world. That must challenge us all. As we consider how we might reach out to the wider community, the starting point needs to be the quality of our relationships with one another. That is something for which each of us must take responsibility. Then our outreach will start to engage whenever we have a friendly smile, a word of comfort for the distressed or the gift of time for another, as we listen to their story without judgement. We are the disciples Jesus has called to witness his glory and we must let that change us so that others too might see that glory.

Nigel LLoyd

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