"We have cause to celebrate because the grace of God has appeared, offering the gift of salvation to all people. Grace arrives with its own instruction: run away from anything that leads us away from God; abandon the lusts and passions of this world; live life now in this age with awareness and self-control, doing the right thing and keeping yourselves holy."
Titus 2:11-12 (The Voice)
Writing this 'Super's Thoughts' in the days before we mark the Feast of Epiphany, these words seem an appropriate reminder of what we have just celebrated at Christmas: the grace of God has appeared. Epiphany, meaning 'manifestation' or 'making clear' is a celebration of the good news of Jesus' birth being shared across different cultures and religions from the very beginning of his life.
Reflecting on the news stories that have attracted our attention over the last few weeks, it would appear that much of the rhetoric and debate engaging many minds at present is based on 'keeping what's ours for us'; on keeping 'them' out (and 'they' are usually defined as someone who looks, thinks, speaks, cooks, worships, lives ever so slightly differently to us); on regaining 'control' or establishing power over others...
Titus writes that grace comes with its own instruction: "to run away from anything that leads us away from God". Sadly, in the past, there have been appalling decisions made by humanity as to which people, behaviours, races and nationalities are closest to God. Too often, the Bible has been used to exclude, justify discrimination and even war, and all in the name of God who is Love.
If we truly believe that God is love and that, as disciples, we have a part to play in God's mission to share that love so that others may come to experience it for themselves and find a welcome within the family of God, then we need to challenge the way the world lives with contradictory convictions.
We need to heed the guidelines given to the Society of Friends (the Quakers):
"Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people's opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken."
Advices and Queries 17
Now, more then ever, it is time for Christian people to dare to be as radical as Mary sang in the words of the Magnificat; to dare to look, not for difference, but for similarity; to set aside our prejudices and preconceived ideas about what leads to God and to spend some serious time reflecting on how we can 'live life now in this age' pointing only to a God who has created nothing in vain and loves all that Godself has made.
And may listening, tolerance, grace and peaceful living in every part of our lives be the Christian's lasting gift to the world in 2019.