Voices of the Churches October 2021
From Deacon Michael Turnbull, Our Lady’s Church, Marnhull; RC Chaplain, HMP Guys Marsh The prisoner sitting across from me looked
FROM THE METHODIST MINISTER – REVEREND DENISE BINKS
I don’t think many people would argue with the basic concept that our world is broken. Not only do we know that there are messy relationships within and outside of the church. We see the effects of Global warming; they say that the fluctuation of torrential down- pours and extreme heat are signs of the earth warming up. Covid 19 has decimated the world, and its after-effects will reverberate for many years to come.
Any Israelite would say that we need Shalom, a word we often translate as peace, but it is actually much, much more. Shalom is taking that which is complex, and/or in lots of pieces and making it complete again, with nothing missing. If we were to look closely at our situation, we would discover that at the very heart of our incompleteness is a broken relationship with God. Once that happened everything began to break down, our lives were no longer whole, they needed to be restored.
Isaiah knew this. He was ‘a man of unclean lips in a world of unclean lips’ until he received the greatest of gifts: the coal that touched his lips cleansed him and made him ready to serve God. His prophecies, so clear and insightful are, I believe a result of Shalom, that healing and wholeness that God brought to his life. God revealed to him that one day there would come a ‘Prince of Shalom’ whose reign would bring Shalom, completeness, wholeness to a world without end (Isaiah 9: 5 – 6). We understand this to be the kingdom of God. Jesus is that Prince of Shalom. He made peace between messed up human beings and God, but it was costly: Shalom is only available to us because Jesus suffered and died and then rose again. He endured all this so that we might experience Shalom, a wholeness and completeness in our relationship with God not because of what we have done but what Christ has done for us. ‘Jesus himself is our Shalom’ (Ephesians 2: 14 – 15).
It doesn’t stop there; Jesus’ followers are called to create peace. We are ‘to keep unity through the bond of peace.’ The Holy Spirit, who grows within us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, etc. is the one who enables us to be children of Shalom. This then is part of our calling as the ‘body of Christ’, to be people who experience Shalom in our lives and share and spread that Shalom in our church communities and beyond. I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t want to belong to a community that is known as warm, generous, loving and accepting, where we flourish and grow and build one another up in love; where people understand the concept of Shalom by what they see and experience in us. Unfortunately, so often what onlookers see and hear is hurt and division, impatience and criticism. Just one look, one unkind comment, one more demand from someone who is doing their very best can have a damaging effect on those who are seeking a relationship with God or new to the faith who sadly may turn away altogether. We all share the responsibility to ‘change the atmosphere’ in our church communities to a point where people experience Shalom and are drawn like magnets to know what it is that makes us different.
The question is, how are we doing? Does this challenge the way that we relate to others within our church communities and beyond? Do we seek to build up, to reconcile and to restore? Or do we criticise, hold on to past hurts and allow wounds to fester? God can only bring flourishing, can only bring Shalom into our relationships when we are willing to submit to his will and work with him. So let us encourage one another as we journey to- gether towards deeper healing and wholeness.
You can read the September 2021 issue of Voices of the Churches via this link