Bishop David Robinson
At our recent clergy and lay retreats we took as our theme "The Kingdom and Change", asking questions about how we can be better witnesses to the kingdom of God in the variety of different settings in which we live. We considered some of the challenges we face acknowledging that change, while difficult, is essential if we are serious about bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ and seeing Christian communities flourish across the Diocese.
One result of our time together was to acknowledge that the central key to bringing people to faith in Jesus and to making the kingdom visible in our places of work and learning, our families and communities, was the need to remain true to the words of Jesus and to love one another.
It was Tertullian, writing in about AD 200, who appears to have been the first to note that one of the defining features of the early Christians was the love they had for one another. It was this care for others, especially those on the fringes of society, that left a lasting impression in the minds of non-believers, and led many to become followers of Jesus.
Sadly, in today's world, we have sometimes become indifferent to the needs of others tending to reflect the values of the society in which we live rather than the values that Jesus taught. In a world that is overly focussed on the individual and not the needs of others it is good to be reminded that at the core of our faith lies this command to love others (John 13:34).
The challenge that lies ahead of us is how to do this in the communities where we live, work and play. How can we make the love we have for others a reality in such a way that Jesus is known and lives are changed? This loving others will mean stepping outside of our comfort zones and becoming vulnerable for the sake of others. It may mean changing the way we do some things, it will certainly mean being more outward focussed, looking at the different ways that we can reach out into our communities.
Can I take this opportunity to encourage you to pray about how you might make the love of God visible in your community, to share with others how this might be made possible and to courageously step out in faith, loving others in such a way that people would look at the parishes and ministry units across this Diocese and say of us "See how they love one another".
With every blessing
Bishop David Robinson
Recent raids on suspected terrorists, an increase in Australia's security status and claims that Australia faces a significant threat of a terror attack have perhaps changed the way we once felt about security.
In a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Pope Francis, speaking about the number of armed conflicts raging in the world, stated, "Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war; one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction."
"War is madness," he said as he urged us to find a way of bringing peace into the world.
I wonder what you think? Are we in a piecemeal world war, is war madness and is there an alternative? How should we respond to the rise of the Islamic State with its barbaric acts of violence? Is there a specific Christian response?
None of these questions have easy answers. We are called, by God, to love our enemies but how should this be lived out in the face of terror? I do find myself wondering about these challenges and thinking about how we can respond at a local level.
I think it is too easy to assume that just because someone is different they are a potential threat. My experience of living and working overseas and of working with refugees in Australia is that the vast majority of people are seeking peace. They have no desire to maim and destroy and they condemn those who would commit acts of terror. They want safe homes, to be able to live without fear and to give their children the best start in life that they can.
A significant danger that we face is becoming so caught up in the political and media rhetoric that we start to see shadows where none exist. We see threats that are not there and we make judgments about people because of their faith or nationality that are not true. Our behavior towards others becomes distorted and, while we might say we love our neighbours, we love with conditions. We love only those who look like us, behave like us, believe like us. This serves to drive a wedge between the different groups in our society, creating anxiety and increasing tension.
When Jesus commanded that we love our neighbours as ourselves we can be sure he did so with good reason. The Kingdom of God is not revealed in division and disunity but in communities of love; communities that reach out to the refugee, the outcast, the ones who are different.
In the face of anxiety we are called to cast our cares upon God, to trust in God's goodness and to pray for peace – to pray 'your kingdom come'.
On a worldwide scale we may not be able to achieve much, but in the communities in which we live, learn, work and play we can make a difference; we can be the peacemakers; we can be bearers of the kingdom as we reach out with unconditional love to others.
May the God of peace, love and hope bless you as you serve him.
With every blessing
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