Bishop’s Letter: March 2017

Bishop’s Letter: March 2017

Kia ora whanau.

Grace and peace to you all.

Two weeks ago, staff at our Cathedral hung a series of coloured banners from the ceiling, proclaiming Jesus’ ‘I AM’ statements from the gospel of John. This has been followed by a large LED cross, hanging from the ceiling, which in the darkness each evening glows out of the building for those passing by. If you get a chance to pop into the Cathedral before Easter, take a look.

We have been reflecting and re-committing recently on what it means to be one family, and in our Lenten studies what this means under the sovereignty of our transforming God. The Cathedral banners have been a helpful reflection for me – proclaiming again that Jesus is the start, the end, and the bedrock of who we are as individuals and as family; and that we cannot be in right relationship to each other without Him.

My friend John Crawshaw wrote the following for a recent Urban Vision gathering and this too has stuck with me (thanks John for letting me quote you!):

When I first read Bonhoeffer’s statement (in Life Together) that we don’t have direct access to one another (that way is blocked by our own ego), but we are only in relationship, in communion with one another through and in Christ, I didn’t agree (“of course I can relate directly to another person”), and didn’t really understand what he was saying. But I’ve come to realise that Bonhoeffer, theologically speaking, is describing our reality. Sin really does turn us in on ourselves, does cut us off in aloneness, and only in and through Christ can that be overcome. Only in and through Christ can we enter into communion — deep belonging, with others. We cannot grasp or create communion — it is a gift of God, so we relate to others through Christ. Aelred of Rievaulx, a Cistercian monk from 12th century England, wrote a classic called Spiritual Friendship and he agrees, saying spiritual friendships must “begin in Christ, continue in Christ and be perfected in Christ.”

Many of you will be familiar with the old image in street evangelism leaflets of the cross bridging the canyon. I think we can reclaim this, but with the cross instead connecting us all; the only way that we can truly connect with each other in right relationship. We sometimes feel like ‘WE’ are building the church – but in reality everything is sourced and founded in Him and the hands of the cross form the connection points between each other.

This morning I had the privilege of talking at the Prison Chaplain’s conference, on ‘How to Sing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land’. Their ministry within a complicated environment where Jesus’ radical hospitality is often denied in the face of institutional suspicion needs such strong people of faith. What grace and prayer needs to be with those who live in a space where Christ’s arms are stretched out in love, not knowing whether that embrace will be received. How much harder it makes it, then, when in our Christian communities we forget that it is Christ, and our identity in Him, that binds us together. Let’s spend time this month thinking deeply on the spaces in our families and communities that we need Christ to inhabit more deeply, and invite Him into those areas, knowing that He wants to be there to transform us and those around us.

Finally, thank you to all those clergy and Synod representatives who attended last week’s Electoral College in Palmerston North, to select a nominee to take forward for confirmation by the House of Bishops and General Synod. We hope to have an announcement for you shortly.

In Christ,

+Justin