Easter Message 2019
Posted on the 20th Apr 2019 in the category Announcements
When, in 1 Corinthians 15, St Paul describes his calling to be a witness of the resurrection, he insists that he deserves to be known as ‘the least of all the apostles’, since he once persecuted the Church. This is a powerful reminder that the Good News of Christ’s resurrection is, among many other things, the proclamation of the possibility both of repentance and of change. Christ raised from the dead is free to come to his enemy, to sinners wherever they are, and show himself, inviting them to sorrow and to faith.
Or to re-phrase the refrain of the famous Easter carol:
Since Christ, who once was slain,
has burst his three-day prison,
our faith is not in vain –
for now we are forgiven,
for now we are forgiven!
But Paul’s case tells us there is more. Saul the persecutor, seeing the glorified Christ on the Damascus road, in that same moment also sees his own victims in a new way: as those in whom Christ is present and suffering. So his turning to Christ is also a turning in love towards those he caused to suffer. At first blinded by this revelation, which convicts him of his spiritual blindness, his sight is restored in baptism.
The world—ourselves included—so very urgently needs to hear the Good News that repentance and change are possible. All around us we see human aggressions and conflicts, in which people are imprisoned by their past resentments and their future fears. They turn to division and violence in order to settle scores, or to make others afraid, or to secure themselves against future threats, repeating the enslaving patterns of the past and guaranteeing more violence in the future. They cease to be able to see the wounded and dying Christ in those whom they themselves have made to suffer, whether among their enemies, or simply those who are increasingly caught up the margins of war and terror, perhaps especially the innocent and children.
St Paul says elsewhere (Gal 5.1) that we who believe in the Lord’s Resurrection must be aware of falling back into this imprisonment and slavery, when in truth Christ by his cross and resurrection has set the world free. And we can show to the world the power of that truth when we become ministers of reconciliation (2Cor 5.18-20): first, when we proclaim that God forgives and desires to be reconciled with us, and then when we forgive and seek to be reconciled with each other.
May God save us from our failure to believe that the Risen Christ has power to change us and every person; and may he give us the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins and the true freedom of the Risen Life, so that, we may proclaim the Good News with joy.
Posted on the 24th Jan 2019 in the category Announcements
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Christmas Message 2018
Posted on the 24th Dec 2018 in the category Announcements
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The feast of the Lord’s birth, celebrated universally by Christians, is nearly upon us. And with only few short weeks of my sabbatical remaining, I offer you my greetings for a holy and blessed Christmas, and the assurance of my prayers.
“When the time had fully come,” says St Paul (Gal 4.4), “God sent his Son.” The world God’s Son entered was not a world of peace and harmony, where everything and everyone was ready for the peaceful spread of new ideas, justice and reconciliation. He had first to appear in an age and in a place of discord, of force and violence, to share our slavery, and to make himself one with those who are powerless and poor, so that at every moment in history it will be the powerless and poor who first recognise that he is among them.
Thus it is that he also speaks to the slavery and poverty in the heart of each of us. When the time of testing and loneliness comes upon us, when our needs are most naked before him, when we are powerless and poor, then we can recognise him with us, among us, declaring in the very midst of our struggle and pain both divine power and human dignity.
At the end of a year that has exposed many signs of the vulnerability and fragility of even the securest societies, as well as in countless individual lives, we are reminded that ours is a time when we may expect to see Christ raising up the powerless and poor, and reaffirming their freedom and their worth. Let us therefore not be afraid of going to the places of slavery, of poverty, and of desolation—in the world, in our neighbourhoods, and in our own hearts—ready to meet Christ there, ready to echo him in words and deeds not only of forgiveness and release, but also of new life and transformation.
In the name of the Lord:
+ Jonathan Ebbsfleet
Easter Message 2018
Posted on the 1st Apr 2018 in the category Announcements
‘There was a new begetting this day –
and if a new begetting, a new paternity, and fraternity both.’
So wrote our great Anglican teacher and preacher Bishop Lancelot Andrews, very nearly four hundred years ago (Sermon 16, On the Resurrection, 21 April 1622). The resurrection is the new birth of the human race, the creation of a communion among human beings that cannot be destroyed, because humanity is caught up in the glory of Christ as he conquers death and sin.
We need to hear this news, each year, because we still give so much of our energy and skill to dissolving the bonds there are between human beings. It’s the measure of our estrangement from the life of God; and it is only as we rediscover the promises of the Risen Christ that we learn where the reconciliation that endures can be found. Through the cross and the empty grave alone Christ has made us ‘no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people’ (Eph 2.19). We are reconciled to each other because he has reconciled our fallen humanity to the Father.
These last months, even weeks, we have seen in many situations, national and international, the breaking-up of our bonds and our trust. Power and death and division are still hold sway in our relations. So, as we celebrate the Feast of Feasts, let our joint prayer be that the Spirit of the Risen Christ will bring us truly to a ‘new begetting’, a new birth; that the Church will be God’s instrument of lasting peace; and that humanity may have the strength to resist the power of death in the Name of the One who has overcome it for ever.
With prayers and every blessing:
+ Jonathan Ebbsfleet
Christmas Message 2016
Posted on the 25th Dec 2016 in the category Announcements
The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ 2016
Yet again, the year that is ending has witnessed only a rise in the horrors of violence and its chaotic consequences. One of our Anglican hymns for Advent cries out to God:
Where is Thy reign of peace
and purity, and love?
When shall all hatred cease,
as in the realms above?
It is a prayer that will be repeated with great fervour this Christmas by refugees and displaced people, by wounded and bereaved people, by oppressed and abused and trafficked people, in cities and camps the world over, among them, unforgettably, Bethlehem itself. The same agony seems to lie behind Pope Benedict’s Christmas prayer of 2011: ‘O mighty God, we love your childlike presence: your powerlessness, your humility. Through you love triumphs. But we suffer from the continuing presence of violence in the world, and so we ask you: show your power, O God. Cause peace also to triumph in our time, in this world of ours.’
The agony that we feel as violence and chaos continue is simply the reverse side of the greatest good news of the season – that God has taken on our human form and raised it to glory. The Immortal Son of God has taken on our mortal flesh, so now the face of Christ has been revealed in all human beings. For the eyes of faith, the consequence of this fact is that no human form or face can hereafter be ignored or abused; and whenever those same eyes do see God’s image attacked and disfigured, they will weep all the more bitterly. Thus the strange fact is that what makes us most passionately glad and grateful at Christmas—the Christ child’s powerlessness and humility—is also what gives us the possibility of grieving as we should for the defacing of God’s image in the world. Let us trust that it also gives the Church the vision, the courage and the strength to go on working and praying for a world where God’s image in mankind—and indeed his presence in the whole created environment—is universally honoured and protected. Our transcendent and glorious Lord has bowed in loving respect to our fallen and failed human nature; as Christians we can do no other than imitate such loving respect.
I offer my warmest good wishes for Christmas, and my prayer that Christ, who renews our
trust and hope in this celebration, will remain close to you throughout the coming year.
+ Jonathan Ebbsfleet