Bishop’s Message: Lent 2016

Dear Friends

As you know the focus for the Diocese is mission.

For Jesus, the mission begins with the Father and Jesus was literally born into it. We too share that mission of love which begins with our rebirth at baptism.  Jesus’ mission matured over the years until it became public through his baptism, his time in the wilderness and the calling of the twelve disciples.

We may all have our different understanding of what mission looks like and how it can be enacted but at the centre there is a longing to be in love with God and share in his love for all people.

In the ordinariness of life, as a working man, Jesus learnt about human life, values and relationships. He is truly human, but the divine nature was always there and although it is not recorded, Jesus obviously developed a close and loyal relationship with his Heavenly Father as his mission became more urgent and shaped.

His baptism and time in the wilderness brought everything into sharp focus and so began three transforming years of ministry.

Jesus is always the model of the church.

Jesus reminds us that we are to follow him and develop the same relationship with the father. His mission gifts us with being both human and divine. We too have an eternal destiny and this is made possible in God’s love.

As a church, indeed as a Diocese, we often behave as if we are in the first thirty years of Jesus life…. The job of being human and living in the human structure dominates our life.  Sadly the Divine spark can be a mere flicker.  Yes, we are definitely responding to the pressures of finance and unviable structures and shaping ourselves to the task ahead. Any organisation facing challenges would do the same. Now, however, is the time for those years of mission.  Our purpose, like Jesus, is to invite people into the presence of God and find their real selves.  Now, more than ever, is the time for church growth.  This is done as we develop our personal commitment and live well in our faith communities.  From this transformation to move apace we may need to undergo a wilderness experience.  Not necessarily in a hostile environment but in an inner place of peace and of no distractions.  The Orthodox call it poustina – a deserted place for God and me.  Only by being formed in God by prayer, reflective reading and by generosity of heart to others will we become the disciples of mission.

A startup experience in your personal wilderness is a good way to begin. Please ask your clergy for guidance if you are not sure what that means.

This lent please pray deeply with God and be open to be a disciple of Jesus. Talk to each other about the place of mission in your church and in your personal and family lives. Be focussed upon what you believe the Father wants us to do and share in his plans.

This year, as part of our Time for Mission, I am asking you to respond generously to the Bishops Lenten Appeal. The money raised will go to the new Bishop’s Mission Fund.  I am aware that some of you have little resources and for the sake of modest aid the projects of mission and outreach may seem daunting.  I call upon all of us to help in creating a fund that can encourage and equip us in our mission in the Diocese.   The purpose of the Lent appeal is always to support others.  The Bishops Mission Fund is the same – it is not for you and me!  It is to support and encourage those who are exploring faith or not even aware of it!  We always give well to physical projects: this year it is important also to encourage projects of the heart – to bring others to the knowledge of God’s love and welcome them into the family. Be creative, be caring, above all be Jesus in your community and let his redemptive healing bring others to the Father.

Enjoy Lent and grow others in Christ.

+ Bishop Richard