A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
And refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.
Over the weekend, news has broken yet again of violence inflicted on a mass scale – this time on Western soil. The horror experienced by the people of Paris is unconscionable. In God’s world, no one should be huddling in silence in the basement of a concert hall, holding hands with strangers, and praying not to be found by gunmen. Pregnant women should not have to cling to the outside of first-storey windows, taking the chance that a fall to the street below might be the safer option than to stay indoors. And let us not forget that these atrocities for many in our world are an all too regular occurrence.
This week, Wellington hosts the New Zealand Defence Industry Association conference – where 200 of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers will be represented. New Zealand can’t claim not to be complicit in the ongoing cycle of global violence.
This is a grim way to begin this Bishop’s News! But as we lead into Advent and Christmas perhaps we can look with fresh eyes at the all-encompassing love of God through the redemptive suffering of our saviour Jesus. He reached beyond boundaries of nationhood in the way he engaged with those around him and ultimately commissioned his followers to do the same. He subverted Messianic expectations of a military leader and chose the path of non-violence – and it wasn’t just the case that he had no other choice. We read his words in Matthew’s gospel [26:53]: ‘Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels’ (which in the Roman context of his day represented around 60,000).
Jesus’ outstretched arms on the cross gave us his final earthly symbol of God’s grace for all people, and we are given the hope that this is not the end of the story…
In the face of global terror it’s easy to feel that there is nothing we can do. Yet every time we face up to injustice and hypocrisy within ourselves and in our conversations with others, we edge closer to where God calls us to be. When we choose to use our intellect wisely to inform ourselves about global events, we do likewise. When we lobby and pray for our leaders to make peaceful decisions; when we give our support to those in crisis regardless of their racial or religious background – then we share Jesus’ message of all-encompassing love.
And at the end of the day, God transforms his world from the inside out. So when we plead with him for peace within ourselves, that particular fruit of his Spirit ripples out from each one of us. We may not feel that we are doing much, but we are not alone – we have ‘him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us’. [Ephesians 3:20]
May God bless us and our leaders as we seek to find new ways to heal deep wounds and bring peace to his world.
On a much more positive note, this Saturday our ordinands for diaconate and priesthood are presented at the Cathedral. Please keep them all in your prayers as they go on retreat from Thursday. May their lives be richly blessed as they fulfil the vocation to which God has called them.
With every blessing to you all