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April 2013

August 30, 2013

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Thoughts From The Cottage

 

Dear Friends

 

I was very struck by the first homilies Francis I gave as Bishop of Rome and I feel we could do well to reflect on some of the points he made. They deserve as wide an audience as possible.

 

“When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly. We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, all of this, but we are not disciples of the Lord,”

 

“We can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a compassionate NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not build on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.”

 

“I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward. My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.”

 

Francis is calling the church back to its roots, to profess its faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and to really grasp what it means to be the Body of Christ. We may be protestant dissenters but we can say Amen to much of what Francis says.  He is a man who wants to reform the church, upholds the traditional God-given values in matters of sexual ethics and morality, who is not afraid to challenge the political wisdom of the day and wishes to see the church recognised for its faith and its social work. I find it interesting that exactly the same words could be said of Justin Welby the recently installed Archbishop of Canterbury. More than half the world’s Christians are either Roman Catholic or Anglican so this gives me great hope for the church at a time when politicians want to marginalise its influence.

 

Many of the new church movements would also echo much of the above as would the traditional evangelical and pentecostal churches. Maybe we are moving away from the narrow liberal thinking of the last fifty years that has seen the membership of mainstream protestant churches in Western Europe plummet as churches have tried to ‘keep up with the times’. The URC now has just over 61,000 members, in 1981 it was just over 147,000, a drop of 58.5%. But there are signs the tide is turning, there are growing churches, membership of GEAR (Group for Evangelism and Renewal within the URC) is increasing, candidates are offering for the ministry who have a broad evangelical faith and a zeal for the Lord, churches are once again seeing that ‘good works’ come as a result of real faith not the other way round. Now is the time to pray for revival.

Ian



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