Black Lives Matter – a challenge to respond written for Norbury Parish Church

In light of the appalling death of George Floyd I want to rededicate myself to become more educated about my own implicit racism. I want to learn how to speak out against racism and support those who suffer because of it. I want to be a minister and pastor who can say black lives matter because God loves all people. What follows may be clumsy. It does not fully articulate the pain and hurt I, or others, feel but it is a response to the current situation. It is a challenge to those who attend Norbury Parish Church to educate themselves and to rededicate themselves to help grow our church into a place which is truly welcoming to all. 

No matter how clunky, or clumsy, our voices may sound we need to speak out. We need to acknowledge the implicit role we all take when a black person dies because of race and we need to be move from silence to lament and out of our lament we need to respond. Our responses may be cautious, clumsy, and in some ways quiet, but if we do not respond the situation will never change.

In the past few weeks it has been hard not to think about racism. The appalling death of George Floyd has sparked a lot of passionate discussion about racism both in America but also here in the U.K. as well. As you read this I am sure you will have your own thoughts and opinions about race and racism in the U.K. but I want to challenge you, and us as a church, to think more deeply about racism. I want to challenge us as Norbury Parish Church to think about what it means to say we are “welcoming to all”, yet our church is monochrome. I want us to think about what we are saying without words, and I want us to become more educated and more compassionate towards those who do not want to come into our building. I want us to be able to respond to both explicit and implicit racism and truly become a community that values people for who they are. 

In 2016 I arrived at Duke University with very little understanding, or knowledge, of my own implicit racism. It was only through sitting through American History classes, and seeing horrific pictures of black people being lynched that I realised I was part of the problem. I had lived a fairly settled life and failed to educate myself on the struggles of others. I had been implicitly racist because I had benefited from a system that was set up for me. For that I can only apologise to those whom I have benefitted from. 

While at Duke, and ever since, I have chosen to educate myself about racism. I have read authors such as James Cone and Ronald Thurman. I attended a Racism Equity Training Course where I further came to terms with my “whiteness” and the role I have played in building a culture which benefits white males. I have listened to black feminist theologians and tried to disrupt the voice in my head that says everything is okay. I may have not protested but I have tried to become more educated. 

I want to urge you to become more educated. I want to urge you to read voices that are different to your own. Challenge yourself to move past the status quo and see things differently. Read Renni Eddo-Lodge’s book, “Why I am no longer talking to White people about race.” Continue to read it even when you feel uncomfortable. Watch videos and TV programs, read black and minority ethnic authors and try to change your perspectives. 

We all play a part in racism, and we as a church play a part in racism. When we gather as a church and feel comfortable we are implicitly being racist. When we say nothing we are implicitly being racist. When we fail to welcome the “stranger” because they do not look or sound like us we are being racist.

I want Norbury Parish Church to reflect the amazing diversity in the Kingdom of God. I want us to stand up and say Black Lives Matter, because they do. I want us to become more educated and I want us to respond out of the discomfort that will cause us. 

 The world is full of injustice and intolerance which we often choose to ignore but I want us to stand up and see it for what it is. I want us to acknowledge the implicit role we play in it and I want us to change. Our response will no doubt be clunky and clumsy. It may be quiet but I hope it is practical. I pray that we as a church we continue to be a community that stands against injustice and intolerance and I challenge you to respond. To listen to the marginalised voice. To acknowledge the implicit role we all take when we benefit from a white culture. And to change. I challenge you to grow in love and to use your voice however timid it maybe. However clumsy, or clunky it may sound, I want us to be a community  that speaks up for change. 

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Musings of a Cathedral Mouse: A place of Welcome

This week I began to experience my first taste of Cathedral life at Chester Cathedral and I thought I would keep a sporadic blog to reflect on some of the experiences and to look back at later and ponder what God was up to at the time.

The first thing I want to reflect upon, sat drinking a steaming cup of coffee having completed my first full week of Cathedral life is how welcome I have been made to feel. The welcome has been wonderful, people have spent time with me (answering no end of questions), let me follow them and watch what they do and make me cups of tea when I have needed.

But I am not the only one. Every pilgrim who ventured through the doors seemed to be welcomed with a smile. Whether they be a tourist looking for an “experience”, I thoroughly recommend climbing the 246 steps to the top of the tower, or the person who wants to come and light a candle and pray. Everyone was welcomed with sensitivity and a smile. Chester Cathedral tries to go out of its way to welcome you, whether you be HRH Princess Ann to the person who refused to give his name but wanted to talk, we try to be a place of Welcome.

This may not sound like much but in the midst of a busy city I think it is important to be a place of warmth and welcome. Each morning the day begins with morning prayer. Gathered in a small chapel, around a single candle flame, we welcome the day with its unpredictability and thank God for those who we will encounter. But I will cover prayer later!

For now I end with this..

Whiskers twitching,

Nose sniffing,

There’s something in the air.

Not bread, not cheese,

Nor incensed steam,

But some form of deeper joy.

As the doors creak open,

Something is awoken,

A welcome beyond word or prayer,

A smile,

A nod,

A welcome that offers care,

A welcome that needs to be shared.

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Psalm 23: Faith, Trust & Lockdown.

Over the past few months I have been reading Psalm 23 a lot. It has become a bit of a vocational hazard. It has been chosen by many families to be read, or listened too, at one of the most difficult moments faced by all; a funeral. Yet, there is much to be learnt from this psalm beyond the moments of death. 

Psalm 23 is probably one of the most well known, and popular, psalms and although wholly appropriate to be read at funeral services this psalm has as much to say to the living as it does to the bereaved. For this is a psalm which puts our daily activities; our eating, drinking, resting, seeking security, into the hands of God. This psalm shifts our self-entered perspective into a radical God-centred perspective. 

I wonder if there is something that you could not have lived without during these past few months. Whether it be music, or food, or warmth, or the internet (and the dreaded Zoom), things which have enabled you to fill your life and make sure you have been okay. Things which have enabled your life to be comfortable no matter what is going on out there. 

I wonder if you panicked when the shops got low on toilet roll, or if you stocked enough pasta to get you through to Christmas. Did you trust in the kindness of others, or did you cling to self-protection and a culture of grabbing what you needed before looking out for those in need. 

Whatever choices you made there is a passage in the Gospel of Matthew which, when linked with Psalm 23, promotes a different way of life and tells us to trust in a different story. Jesus, speaking to his disciples, says this:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear . . . But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.” (Matt 6:25, 33 NRSV)

Strive not for the things of the world but, instead, strive for the things of the kingdom. Look first to God, then to the world. Focus on your heavenly needs rather than your earthly ones. This is the message Jesus is giving the disciples and they are words which we need to hear as well. 

As you return to this famous, and often read, psalm. Why not reframe your thoughts. Instead of reading it as a psalm within a context of death and dying instead read it as a psalm about striving to not worry now. For who has added a year to their life by worrying. No-one. Before worrying, pray. Trust in God. Live counter-culturally. 


In our culture we are told to trust no-one. The state will let us down, our friends will let us down, God will let us down. Ultimately, we need to trust in ourselves. For it is only through self provision that we will survive. Yet our Gospel tells a different story. Our Gospel tells of a story of hope in the midst of suffering. Our Gospel tells us that there is someone else to trust and that He died and rose again for us. That has to be something to be thankful for, even when we didn’t have enough toilet roll or pasta!

So, as you re-read this psalm pray that you will trust more in God, and less in yourself. Seek to live humbly and walk faithfully as a child of God. Pray to God trusting that He will answer your prayers when you call. For, as we read in Psalm 23, God provides all our food, all our security, all our hope.

Maybe this, over and above any other, is the reason that I have spent a lot of time with this psalm of the last few months. Not because it speaks of hope, and comfort, at a time of death. But because it reminds us that God is our hope and comfort now and that we can put our trust in Him. Maybe it reminds us all that rather than going it alone we should let God into our life and trust that He will provide for our needs, even when we run out of toilet paper and pasta. Maybe, just maybe, in this psalm we find a purpose and prayer. In this psalm, more than many of the others, we hear of a God who loves us completely and does not want to see us go without. Our God has abundantly more than we can ask or imagine we just need to trust.

St. Thomas – the Way, the Doubt, and the Faith.

John 11: 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

I am not sure how many of you are aware of our little secret. I remember one conversation which happened not so long after my licensing in which I had to reveal it. Our common name isn’t in fact the churches actual name. Although colloquially known as Norbury Parish Church, our church is actually dedicated to St. Thomas. We are, in truth, St. Thomas, Hazel Grove.

“So are we St. Thomas, Hazel Grove, now you’ve come?”

“Well no. We’ve always been St. Thomas’s theres just a lot of them in the area so Norbury Parish Church works better.”

“So we don’t need to buy more paper.”

“No, not at the moment at least.”

There are many churches named after Thomas, and for good reason. Thomas, the doubting disciple, challenges us to to face the reality of our doubt and faith. We run with Thomas into situations, confident our faith will win out and yet the next minute we are demanding proof, unsure if God is real at all. In Thomas we find an exemplar of the christian challenge of faithful doubting. Something which many of us have now mastered as an art form. Yet, in and through Thomas so much more of our faith is revealed. 

In the passage quoted from John, Jesus is demonstrating the complexity of faith. The disciples, confused by Jesus’ response to hearing that Lazarus is unwell, demand an answer. Not another parable, or riddle, or story, but an answer. How often do we want an answer? How often do we want God to show up and tell us what to do. How often do we sit in silence hoping for a voice. Or sit in the pulpit expecting a neatly packaged plan for life. 

The answer they get must have shock them. Just as it would shock us if Val, or Hugh, or Peter, or Alan, gave us such a direct response to our questions about faith:

John 11: 14 – 15 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

The absurdity of this must smack the disciples right in the face. Why go somewhere that is dangerous. For Judea, where Lazarus was, was somewhere that was not safe to Jesus. In fact the gospel writer plainly tells us that the Jews had tried to stone Jesus when he was last in Judea. Why go somewhere that is dangerous, when Lazarus is already dead. Well, because that is what faith is about. 

Faith is about those moments when, even though we don’t truly understand, we encounter God more fully. When something of the christian faith is revealed to us. Especially when we didn’t expect it. When we understand, like Thomas, that we need to let go to the very thing we cling to so as to encounter, and be embraced by, God. 

“Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Thomas says to the other disciples. Not really aware what is being demanded of him, or what the way looks like at all. Yet, in this moment, Thomas reveals something to us which is crucial to our faith journey. 

Our faith is wrapped up in life and death. We are called to die to self and live in Christ. We are called to let go of all the truths the world around us believes and believe in God. Even when that doesn’t make sense. Let us then be a little bit more like our patron saint and be willing to jump both feet into this thing we call faith. Fully aware it isn’t easy and never will be. But fully expectant that as we travel as fellow pilgrims we will be able to utter those words that Thomas utters to the resurrected Christ at the end of John’s Gospel. After doubting his resurrection at all:

My Lord and my God. 

Let us die to self and be raised in Christ. Let us be a little bit more like Thomas fully doubting but fully present. Fully human and fully accepting of the work God is doing in us.  Even when we cannot see the light for the darkness. Let us find Christ in the most shocking places and let us follow wherever Christ calls us, even if we forgot the map. 

Norbury Parish Church COVID19 – Pastoral Letter 1.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, 

May I share with you a prayer for times such as these:

Keep us, good Lord, 

under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious, 

be with those who care for the sick,

and lift up those who are brought low;

that we may find comfort 

knowing that nothing can separate us from your love

in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Amen. 

It is with a heavy heart that we are stopping corporate worship at Norbury Parish Church. As of Sunday the 22nd of March we will not be gathering for collective worship in our church. That does not mean we cease to pray. May I encourage you to pray earnestly for those who are in need; for Hazel Grove; for our world, for our leaders and for all those who suffer due to the COVID19. 

We are in constant conversation about how we may best serve our congregation in times like these. We shall share material through our Facebook Group and website, for those who have access to computers, so that we may continue to gather in some sense and worship together at 10.15 each Sunday; even if we may be separated in our own homes.

For those who cannot access computers; we will endeavour to produce a list of phone numbers for our ministry team to use to contact all parishioners to know how best to serve those who are vulnerable or isolated. If you wish to help us in doing this in any way please do contact me through my email; jcaskwith@gmail.com or via the Vicarage phone which is 0161 759 8531. 

We do not know what the weeks or months ahead will look like but a team of us from Norbury Parish Church will endeavour, where we can, to care for those who are in need. I ask you to keep a discipline of prayer and encourage you to stay safe and follow the national guidelines with regards to self-care. 

Every Blessing,

J.C.Askwith

Vicar of Norbury Parish Church.

Now is the moment to act. A sermon for ash Wednesday with a call to repent and treat the world differently.

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

There is nothing like the words of a prophet to remind us of our own sinful nature. To remind us of our sinful mortality and to demand us to change. To shake us to the very core and make us look up and see what is going on around us. 

16 year old Greta Thunberg is one such voice. A voice calling us to repent and change. In one of her speeches she says:

‘I want you to panic. I want you to act as if your house was on fire. I have said those words before… I agree. To panic unless you have to is a terrible idea. But when your house is on fire and you want to keep your house from burning to the ground then that does require some level of panic.’ 

I think one of the hardest voices to hear is the voice of the prophet. The voice of the person who reminds us of our mistake and calls us to repent and turn from our evil ways. 

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ. 

Greta Thunberg finishes her speech with this:

‘Our house is falling apart. The future as well as what we have achieved in the past is literally in your hands now. But it is still not too late to act. It will take a far-reaching vision. It will take courage. It will take fierce determination to act now, to lay the foundations when we may not know all the details about how to shape the ceiling. … To do your best is no longer good enough. We must all do the seemingly impossible.’ 

Joel had a similar message for the people of Israel, their best was no longer good enough, they needed to do the seemingly impossible, turn to God and repent. Otherwise they were likely to face death and destruction. 

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

Theologically, one of the most prominent messages that our passage from Joel places in front of any reader is a need to lament and turn back to God. But in the midst of their lament Joel promises them hope. Joel is not simply calling Israel back to God because it is the right thing to do but because God is where their hope is found. Joel is calling the people back to God so that their shame can be removed and their honour restored.

Joel does not just offer hope for the restoration of a sinful humanity but also offers hope for the restoration of creation as well . In verse 14, Joel makes reference to God’s blessing not just being upon the people but also upon the land. Here, Joel insinuates that God will leave a blessing behind him and that this blessing will restore the land as well as the people. This would have been important for the people of Israel who, at this time, would have been living in a land of desolation, and it is an important message for us to hear as well. 

In light of flash flooding and forest fires. In the words of Greta Thunberg and extinction rebellion we are being challenged to repent of our sinful treatment of the planet and amend our ways. We can see before our very eyes places of desolation and we must lament and, like the people of Israel, return to our God of hope.

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

Our current situation calls for us to repent. To turn back to God and put our trust in Him. For Israel this call to repentance was through acts of “fasting,” “weeping,” and “mourning” (2:12), which were linked to lament. Lent could be such a moment for us. Lent could be a time where we assess our sinful ways and mourn. It could be a moment, in the words of Pope Francis in On Care for our Common Home, that we weep and mourn for the state of “creation.” It could be the moment that we return to the Lord through worshi. There has been a moment like this. A moment which demands us to mourn, repent and turn to Christ.

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

It is important to respond to the needs of “creation” in our worship; both liturgically and missionally. This, on the one hand, involves lament and repentance, it can involve mourning, but, above all, it must involve action. General synod made the bold promise of making the Church of England carbon neutral by 2030. This is impossible if we do not act. If we do not repent, turn from our previous ways, and act. 

We, the congregation of the parish of Norbury, need to be bold in our actions. We need to think about things differently. We need to be willing to change our ways and rethink how we care for creation. We need to move away from a model of apathy to a care which is deep and compassionate. We need to think bigger than recycling, bolder than turning of a light. We need to start rebuilding the foundations, even if we have no idea what the ceiling will look like. We need to reimagine what it means to live in a way which cares for one another, our homes, and the planet. This may take time, and it won’t be easy, but it is what we must do. For our house in on fire but it is still not too late to act.

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

Our passage from Joel reminds us that our salvation does not simply come from our repentance, but from God’s compassion. Therefore, in all our lament and repentance it is important to remember that it is not our action that redeems us but God’s grace. So, although we are called to care for creation and to repent communally, we are also reminded that it is God who saves us and it is God who redeems us. In the end our salvation does not come from our actions but from God’s love. 

When we come to the altar and receive ashes we are reminded not of our failed humanity, but of God’s redeeming love. We are reminded that there is a better path. There is a more worthy path. One which offers redemption for both us and the planet. We just need to be prepared to hear that call. What Joel reminds us is that our actions alone can never save us. It is only God’s grace that can do that.

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ. 

Greta Thunberg. 2019. No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference.

Pope Francis. 2015. Laurdato si’ – On Care for our Common Home.

Challenge and Call: Do you love me?

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Jesus asks three times if Simon Peter loves him in John 21. Three times Jesus commissions him to:

  • Feed my lambs
  • Tend my sheep
  • Feed my sheep.

Three times he asks Simon Peter if he loves Jesus.

Underneath these questions is a call to “Follow God”. To be taken by the hand and led into the unknown. Simon Peter is hurt by Jesus’ constant questioning, he doesn’t understand the call that his being placed upon him and yet he responds each time the same.

“Lord… I love you.”

This last year has been a whole heap of unknowns for Ashleigh and I. A year ago I joined with 21 pilgrims who yearn to see reconciliation and peace throughout the UK and Ireland. We had many moments of joy, but as we moved onto the next phase of our journey I realised that earthly reconciliation is only a temporary fix. A plaster, to cover the wound which can only be healed by the love of God.

Ashleigh, started her journey towards ordination. And after a couple of false starts she began training in September part time and has grown from strength to strength in her ministry. Reflecting the love God has for all people in deep and profound ways.

Yet, if that wasn’t enough we also answered a call to take up ministry in a new place, with a new flock. 50 days ago I was installed as Incumbent of St. Thomas, Norbury, and what a 50 days it has been.

We have seen over 1000 people come in and out of our building. We have mourned together at the loss of dear friends, while also celebrating and remembering the birth of Christ. We have danced and sang together, celebrating what is, but also sat pondered what is to come. It has been a hectic month and a bit, but that is part and parcel of God’s kingdom.

When Ashleigh and I look back on the last few months, we cannot believe what we have done. We know we are crazy, we know it has made our lives harder. But, we also know what motivates us, and it is the same love that motivated Peter.

When we began training for ministry we were very aware that life would not be easy. That there would be compromise and difficult decisions to make, but we decided to follow God’s call.

As I reflect upon Jesus’ question to Simon Peter, I cannot but help think that I’d be annoyed too. Annoyed that Jesus didn’t believe me, but then like Peter I would be missing the point. For just like Peter none of us know where we are being called. All we know is that we are being called through love. And the challenge is to show that love to others.

Jesus asks “do you love me?”

We are shocked by the places God’s love has shown up over the last few months and we are so excited to continue to follow it, wherever it may lead us. But, sometimes it is hard to remember who we are doing this for. It is easy to be caught up in the shiny or promising and forget the love which has called us.

The love which braved the darkest depths to call us home. The love which suffered the agony of the cross. We will not all face Peter’s call. Not everyone is expected to bare that particular cross. But we are all called out of God’s love.

I wonder where that love is calling you, and I wonder what your response would be to Jesus’ probing question.

“Do you love me more than these?”

Musings of a Cathedral Mouse- A Place of Hope

My second week in Chester Cathedral has been exciting and varied. It has included a whole variety of roles and opportunities but two of the most difficult challenges have been planning two large services. This may not come as a surprise as I am mostly spending the month shadowing the Canon Precentor.

The first service was a large funeral for a member of the Cathedral community, and in this act I have found a thread of Cathedral life which could be overlooked, the Cathedral as a place of Hope.

In the funeral liturgy we read of our certain hope in the resurrection. We acknowledge that death is not the end of our Christian journey and we speak of hope.

One of the prominent theme’s of Cathedral life is the mingling of different strands of business and worship. Dean Tim talks about creating a culture which is focused on Christ. A culture which has Christ at it’s heart. A culture founded on hope and this was something found both in the funeral but also in the second service I took part in: The Licensing of Pastoral Workers and Readers.

This second service spoke of hope in a different way. It spoke of the hope of the Christian faith continuing. Of faithful disciples witnessing to the Good News of Jesus in their communities. Over 600 people came to celebrate with them and cheer them on as they began their new ministries and it was wonderful to be a part of.

But one of the most striking moments for me was when we stood outside the West Doors and finished the final hymn and said the grace. In this moment Bishop Keith reminded us that this was what it was about. Stood outside the Cathedral on lookers filming this rather peculiar spectacle we were demonstrating the hope of our faith. It was a very powerful moment for me to reflect on!

I think at the heart of Cathedral life is hope. Hope that there is a different way to live. Whether it be through saying the offices, or celebrating the ministry of the diocese, there is hope found in the worshiping life of this Cathedral.

But, there is hope in other places as well. There is hope in lighting a candle with the mourning parent. There is hope in listening to the honorary chaplain telling stories about people’s differing needs. There is hope in listening to how the vergers care for people who have nowhere else to turn. There is hope in encouraging one person to remember that God can is with them in their daily life.

Many people enter the cathedral, some are explicitly looking for God but many are not. I am filled with hope that all encounter God in their own way, and fully believe that without spaces like this they may never encounter God at all.

Hope lingers,

Hope dwells,

Hope hovers and broods.

Hope does not demand,

Or expect.

Hope for the hopeless,

Hope for the hopeful,

Hope for those who regret.

A flickering candle,

The music of Handel,

Prayers fumbled

Silence which humbles

All

fill this cathedral with hope.

Journey of Hope in Neston

Lent may be past us but in Muthuraj Swamy’s Reconciliation which was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2019 lent book, the author writes: ‘Reconciliation begins with God, because it is God who initiated – and continues in – relationship with the world.’ The word reconciliation can be scary for so many reasons. It requires us to be willing to offer ourselves, to acknowledge our mistakes and be willing to listen to the other. It is however, ultimately about relationship. 

Over the past five months I have journeyed with twenty other Christian leaders as we have explored the work of reconciliation and peace in the U.K. and Ireland. We have visited several sights of pilgrimage, we have been taught lessons by those who are further along the road than us and we have supported each other as we have quickly learnt what it means to invest deeply in relationships.  

This journey has been a real privilege, it has opened my eyes to the breadth and diversity of the wonderful work that the church is involved in: the supporting of prisoners, working with divided communities, walking alongside people who have been abandoned by those who swore to protect them and it is a journey which I hope to share with you. 

For those of you who have accepted the offer we will journey together over the next month, we will share stories together as we come to appreciate the work of God in each of us, and hopefully we will end the month more enthused to listen to what God is up to here in Neston. 

The call to reconciliation is for all of us however and I encourage you, whoever you are, to think about the part you play. I encourage you to think about the ways you can help to be a part of our community, and to that end I leave you with this reminder from Swamy: ‘In reality reconciliation is greater. . . it is a long process of building relationships.’ 

I pray then for your relationships, I pray that you may begin to find words of peace and hope this month and remember that we are called to the work of reconciliation by the one who formed us, loves us and is one-in-three, the beautiful dance that is, the Trinity.

Amen. 

Reconciliation and Relationship: A reading of Genesis 2

In Genesis 2 God created Adam and Eve out of nothingness. On Ash Wednesday Christians around the world with gather in churches and receive the sign of the cross on their forehead, and will hear these words:

“Remember that you are but dust and to dust you shall return, repent and turn to Christ.” 

These words remind us that we were created by God, whether man or woman we are dust and to dust we shall return. We are not God, we do not have all the answers and that is okay because our God is a God of mystery. We believe in the mystery because we were created within that mystery. Whether man or woman we were created in unity and in mutuality to help creation flourish, we have strayed from that call and I think God is calling us back into relationship with creation. 

Genesis 2 tells us the story of Man and Woman being created in unity. In unity with each other and in unity with the world. It tells of a vision which we should strive for, a perfect unity in which all can live and move and have our being. Yet, we only have to go to Genesis 3 to hear of human’s response to that very vision. To read the story of Adam and Eve becoming creatures of oppression, trapped in a cycle of abuse. We read about them being tainted, of Sinentering the world. However, throughout the ensuing story one thing remains: God’s desire to be in relationship with us. Throughout the story there is always the possibility for change, for reconciliation back to God. 

         God is calling us back into relationship, trying to reconcile our relationship with the planet as well. That doesn’t mean that we are being called back into relationship with a church denomination, or a specific set of belief, but we are being called back into relationship with the God who made us and the God who loves us. In Genesis 2 we read of God wanting us to be in partnership. Not just union as Man and Woman, but for us to live in union with the whole of creation. Israel’s faith reflected this. The story of Israel demonstrated a people who understood their call to live in a world where solidarity, fidelity and responsibility are essential. Israel had a word for this, and that word is Shalom. Shalom, which has been mistreated and misinterpreted, means much more than peace. Shalom is about wholeness, about mutuality and about unity. Shalom is the kind of peace which can only come from the true flourishing of all. Shalom is not the kind of unity which we can pay lip service to, it is the unity which is found in God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

On the surface the word reconciliation can seem daunting. I know it was for me when I sat in a room with 20 other Christian leaders who appeared to have far more experience than I did. It also seems like big dream stuff, the desire of reconciling waring nations, divided communities or a fractured church. Yet at the heart of reconciliation is relationship. This is what Genesis 2 reminds us of. It reminds us that we are not just called into relationship with each other. We are called into relationship with God and with the planet. How often do we perceive Christian faith in terms of mission and evangelism? In terms of oppression and belief systems. We want to reconcile our fellow society to God, and yet we fail to think about our own journey. We fail to think about how our life reflects and demonstrates God’s desire to be in relationship with us.

Genesis 2 tells us a story of relationship. It reminds us of our calling into relationship and unity; relationship with each other, relationship with the planet and relationship with God. All our life decisions should reflect that desire for God to be in relationship with ALL of creation. Relationship is key to our reading of the Bible, our living out our Christian faith and our striving for reconciliation and peace.

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