River Wissey Lovell Fuller

February 2011 Newsletter

February 2011

Keith is moved by a letter from the (Catholic) Bishop of East Anglia and uses it to illustrate the meaning of his faith.

I was very moved, early this year, to read the letter by the (Catholic) Bishop of East Anglia to the people of his diocese, in which he reminds them that he has had prostate cancer for some years and has been enduring the treatments. His purpose was to let them know that he is coming near to the end and that, rather than resign, he wants to continue to minister to them, in so far as he can for as long as he can.

The letter is one of gratitude and love - even joy and hope, with no slightest suggestion of resentment or anger. As you read this, he may well have already passed on.

I try not to preach to the readers of this letter every month, although I know that I can sometimes be accused of preaching AT you. But, at a time when religion seems to be seen as vindictive and divisive, as intolerant, militant and even vicious, this letter by Bishop Michael is a reminder of what the Christian religion is really meant to be about.

Christianity gets its name from Jesus, called the Christ, which means the Saviour or the Redeemer - the one who will save us from ourselves. It is our 'job' in life to rule ourselves, to behave well, to save ourselves from our own bad instincts. This can most easily be recognised in the context of personal health and well being. Many of us, especially in the rich West, over indulge in what we should not (eg chips, chocolate and casual TV!) and are reluctant to do what we should (eg exercise, think and help others).

Jesus showed us how to do these things that we should do. We have no real evidence of his moderation in other ways, other than his declared refusal to go for the high life (the temptations) at the very beginning of his 3 year ministry. During his ministry, he brought joy and new life to thousands. If this was all, how could anyone object to Jesus? How could anyone not want to follow him and his example? If this was all, there would be no religious aspect as such - in our secular age, we would find him wonderful and extraordinary.

It is a shame that, because there WAS a religious aspect, Jesus is rejected (baby and bathwater!) by so many - it is especially shameful in this country, where we have a tradition of teaching the message of Jesus (read my last month's letter if you want to see me get exercised about this).

Jesus claimed to be from God. When he does that, he wants us also to claim to be from God. He claimed that all he did (including all the so-called miracles) were due to his Godly lineage. He persuaded his immediate disciples that they could do all that he did, if they believed that they were from God also - and they did - do and believe. He ultimately proved (to those that were ready to believe) that he was from God, by his coming back to life, after his execution, and by his Ascension to Heaven a few weeks later.

All of this is less fantastic than much that we watch in Star Trek or The Lord of the Rings. As a culture, we are now ready to read and watch and game about magic and dragons and fantasy, but sneer at the possibility that Jesus was a man from God and that all of us have an eternal life to live, the nature of which will be influenced (for good or ill) by our lives here and now.

Many people die (and live) in desperation, because they have no hope - either they have no belief that anything can happen after they are dead or they fear what will happen after they are dead. Personally, I am so relieved (and happy) that I am in the same part of the thinking universe as Bishop Michael. I KNOW that my Redeemer liveth (words from the King James Bible, so extraordinarily set to music by Handel). I know that however awful are some of the things of which I have been guilty, God (of whose shape I have no meaningful imagination) reaches out to me through Jesus (of whose shape I have real imagination) and that I can be brought to a good eternal life.

Bishop Michael, in his letter, told us that his doctors had given him weeks to live. He heads his letter - 'Health' Statement - not 'Illness' Statement.

His overall heading was 'Waiting in Joyful Hope'. What logic can lead anyone to refuse to consider that as the way to approach his end?

Keith MacLeod

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