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Watch Out, There's a Bishop About!

Monday 5th September 2016

The Archbishop of York writes in today's Lancashire Evening Post and the Blackpool Gazette, ahead of the Crossroads Mission starting this Thursday. His article follows in full...

 

Builders were carrying out a refurbishment project on an old building which had fallen into disrepair and discovered a document which stunned them.  It was in the form of a scroll, with statements about God, guidelines for government and principles for personal behaviour.

 

When the scroll was read aloud to their king, he was at first distressed and then determined to act on it.  He started a reformation.  That scroll had re-introduced him to the God whom his people had largely forgotten: they had lost contact with their Maker and had strayed from his paths.  The scroll was the Old Testament book Deuteronomy, the building where it was found was the Temple in Jerusalem and the 20 year-old King was called Josiah.

 

Although all this happened centuries before Christ, I reckon it gives a clue to what we need right here and right now.  It’s not as though we are totally ignorant of what life is about and how we should behave, but rather that we are suffering from a collective loss of memory and need to be reminded.  

So 23 bishops and I are descending on Lancashire (the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn) from 8 to 11 September to do a bit of gentle reminding.  The message we carry isn’t new-fangled or fanciful, but the timeless truth about God’s initiative with the human race.  When this comes alive to people, it astounds them. We are not calling the people of Lancashire “to believe six unbelievable things before Breakfast.” We desire everyone we encounter to accept Jesus Christ’s invitation: “Come! Follow me and be my friend.”

I have never known a time when the world was in a more precarious state than it is today.  Millions are being displaced from their homes, atrocities are committed on children and unsuspecting crowds and post-Referendum Europe is barely stable as an entity.  Politicians are expected to provide an answer and reviled when they can’t.  In this moral vacuum young people, who are idealists at heart, may settle for short-term goals or are enticed by ruthless ideologies. 

Children born today are entering a far more dangerous world than their parents did.  Pope Francis said recently, "The word we hear a lot is insecurity, but the real word is war… When I speak of war I speak of wars over interests, money, resources, not religion.”

It’s time we stopped sleepwalking on a very broad road paved with promissory notes in the hope that things are bound to get better.  It’s time for action.  We need a transformation for each individual person and all our communities.

For some, the Christian faith has been lying dormant for years.  It’s time to dust it off and to recognise that God has been dropping us gentle hints.  He wants you fully alive and invites your co-operation now!  Others may regard themselves as non-religious, but have a concern for the future of the world and don’t know where to turn.  I have some good news for them: Christianity is for latecomers and learners.  No one can claim to have got it sown-up, for this faith is based on a relationship with God and like all relationships, it either develops or degenerates.  Real Christians have an invisible ‘L’ plate on their backs and chests, which means they’re always learning.

They will learn some of the teaching of Jesus, like “the meek shall inherit the earth”.  Meek?  In this context the word means kindness, forgiving, not easily provoked to anger, possessing an inner tranquillity”.  Isn’t that the kind of spiritual and mental transplant we all need?  And that’s just for starters.

We are at a crossroads.  There’s an old verse in the Bible which says, "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Recovering the Christian way of life does not mean turning the clock back.  God is our contemporary and is concerned for you and me right now.  

 

The opening event of the Crossroads Mission is on Thursday 8 September at 2pm at Blackburn Cathedral; the closing event is Sunday 11 September at 4pm at Preston Flag Market. In between there are literally hundreds of other events taking place in parishes and schools across Lancashire. You are warmly invited to attend the opening and closing events (no ticket required) or any other Crossroads Mission events. For a full list visit www.blackburn.anglican.org and click the Crossroads panel on the homepage.

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