TO KNOW GOD AND TO MAKE GOD KNOWN
TO KNOW GOD AND TO MAKE GOD KNOWN
Chosen reference: Revelation Chapter 22 Verse 13
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
The Chester Mystery Plays are performed every five years in the city and in 2013 were presented in the Cathedral itself. These extraordinary medieval plays are based on the Bible, telling the epic story of man’s redemption from the Creation to the Last Judgement and are believed to have been written in the cloisters of the Cathedral in the fourteenth century. These words are spoken by the actor playing God, and I have lucky enough to perform that part twice; it is an extraordinary feeling to speak these words only yards away from where the plays were first written down and they remind me of two things. Firstly, the history of the plays themselves - that I am speaking words spoken by generations of performers before me, people in the city taking part in the plays as an act of devotion. And secondly, the timelessness and infinity of God - he is Eternity, all Space and Time, and yet amazingly we are all His children and he cares for each of us as individuals. It’s extraordinary to think that we can have a parental relationship with the Creator of all and yet, this is what he promises to us all.
Chosen reference: Revelation Chapter 21 Verse 4
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.
When I was growing up my Grandparents lived with us and my Grandfather was my constant companion. From him I learned to love literature, poetry and especially music. He was a born storyteller and spent much time telling me stories – our favourite stories were Bible stories. From this developed the beginnings of my faith. When I was upset or hurt I would go to him and with love and understanding he would wipe away all my tears and say – ‘All things will pass’.
Eventually he would say the words of this verse and try to explain what it meant. Since then I have experienced much greater sorrows and losses, not least the loss of so many people I have loved. These words have stayed with me and in the midst of pain they bring hope and comfort. We may not understand but we can hope that all former things will pass away.
Revelation Chapter 21 Verse 3-4
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
These verses come from the very end of the Bible. They are part of a wonderful vision of the future, when God will have re-created the earth to be the perfect place he always designed it to be, and when we will live with him face to face. I find this an immensely inspiring vision, full of the love and hope we have in Jesus Christ. As we think about pilgrimage and walking with God, this is a picture of our ltimate destination. It picks up on prophecies from the Old Testament to offer a promise of a future where death, mourning, crying and pain are done away with, conquered by the love and grace of God. This
promise has had a profound effect on my life, encouraging me to live here and now in the light of the hope we have in God’s faithfulness, based on the resurrection of Jesus. I took this photograph of the Knife Angel which stood outside the cathedral for a month last autumn. Knives which had been used to bring death, mourning, crying and pain have been transformed into a positive and hopeful work of art. That illustrates for me the enduring promises of God.
Chosen reference: James Chapter 2 Verse 14
What good is it, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?
Can such faith save him?
My interest in social justice began at about the same time that I became a Christian as an adult. Perhaps less of a coincidence than I first thought!
Our world can seem so challenging with conflict, persecution, natural disasters, and is heavily influenced by those greedy for power and self. The flipside to this is the amazing generosity that organisations and individuals demonstrate to help those in need.
This verse encourages me to put my faith into positive action and to campaign for those in need. It also reminds me of the occasions when Jesus spoke of the necessity of reaching out to the poor and oppressed.
James 2:14 has encouraged my involvement with Chester & Wrexham Amnesty International Group, and the Chester City of Sanctuary Group. These are non-faith groups, and I consider it important that I reach out beyond Christian organisations.
Having been encouraged and motivated by James, I am frequently challenged by the question I ask myself; ‘Who is my neighbour?’
2 Timothy Chapter 2 Verse 13
If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
I first read this verse as a student sitting on a bench at Waterloo Railway Station in London nearly 50 years ago. Paul’s letter could be subtitled God’s advice to a young man. It spoke to me then and still speaks to me now about the way in which God wants me to live: honouring and staying true to the full
message of the good news that Jesus brings. In my Christian journey I am all too conscious of the way I often continue to fall short of that goal; how I proceed in my own strength rather than trusting in Him; how I ignore His promptings and ‘do my own thing’. I am thankful that in spite of these failings the God of the Universe remains faithful in His love for me, even when I have been faithless. I know and trust that will remain true for all eternity.
Chosen reference: 1 Timothy Chapter 6 Verse 6
Godliness with contentment is great gain.
When I was at an early stage in my ministerial life this verse was given to me by a trusted friend. He was to me like the old man St Paul gently teaching the young and enthusiastic Timothy. I have always come back to it at times of difficulty and challenge. Holiness/Godliness is a constant struggle for us all. The promise is that the path of godliness has its reward. What follows is contentment leading to a gain of peace, deeper than any human understanding. Conversely it is also true that ungodliness will always lead to discontentment and guilt, anxiety and shame. Follow the path of holiness and contentment and find the gain of peace in your heart.
Chosen reference: Philippians Chapter 3 Verse 10
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection...
This verse was given to me at my baptism on 7 December 1969 (I was 17 years old!) The verse quoted which is written on the back of the baptism card signed by the Minister, actually leaves out the second half of the verse which reads in the NRSV “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death”. This knowing of Jesus Christ has had for me this pattern of resurrection and suffering. The pattern was especially meaningful to me when my when my father died, I was chaplain at the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham and when I worshipped at a black Pentecostal church in Handsworth. All through my Christian walk I find the two going together, including as a bishop! But that is how Jesus Christ
makes himself known and how he has made himself known to me; yes, this is suffering but this is also the power of his resurrection.
Chosen reference: Ephesians Chapter 6 Verse 16
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish
all the flaming darts of the evil one.
This is the Bible verse that was given to me when I was baptised, as an adult, and it has stayed with me ever since! ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God’ (Hebrews 11:6) and ‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God’ (Romans 10:17). So, by living a life of faith, in accordance with God’s Word, the Bible, I can please God and with the ‘shield of faith’ I can defend myself against any and all attacks from the devil. The devil only comes to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus came that I might have a life that is lived to the full and is overflowing (John 10:10). Thank God that, through Jesus, I can live a meaningful and fulfilled life.