Friday, 29 February 2008

Following the Leader

This month's comment in All Saint's parish magazine.

Many of you will no doubt have seen and heard the media reports regarding the nomination of our new bishop. The process is meant to be confidential until the wider church in New Zealand has had a chance to confirm the nomination and the person is formally invited to accept the position. This has meant that some of the reports are a bit loose with the facts, and as a result some folk have expressed their concern about what the future holds. Change always brings worries – we like the status quo, we’re happy where we are, etc. But my purpose is not to dispel those worries by telling you about our new bishop (I’m not allowed to!). Rather, let me remind you as we move forward that the church is not run by a minister, by a bishop, or even by the vestry! Our church is, always has been, and always will be run by her Lord, Jesus Christ.

The Church is made up of people – normal people like us – who have been called by God and saved by his Son. And it is because Jesus has made us Christians, because he has made us his church, that we, and therefore the church, belong to him. The bible uses great language of us being bought by Jesus, being redeemed by Jesus, being married to Christ, being the body of Christ. This means a number of things.

Firstly, Jesus will care for his church. Speaking to his apostles, Jesus declares that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church. The history of the church shows us that this is true. Even in parts of the world where the church is physically attacked, Christ cares for his church – nurturing and growing it by his Spirit through his word. This makes sense, of course, when we remember that the church is spoken of as Jesus’ own body. To quote Paul – ‘no one ever hated his own body, but he (or she) feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church’ (Ephesians 5:29). Jesus cares for us, his body. He will always care for us, and we entrust ourselves to his care.

Second, Jesus will get his church home. As Christians we have been made for a relationship with Jesus, and God is bringing us to heaven where that relationship will be made perfect. We have confidence that God is working towards that purpose, and confidence that we will reach that goal. We believe God when he says that he works everything for the good (that is, the accomplishment of God’s big plans) of those who love him. No matter what happens to us – in our personal lives or in the wider denomination, we trust that God has got things under control and is working towards that big goal – getting his church home.

Lastly, because the church is Jesus’ church, his body, we are loyal to Jesus. Only he has bought us, only he truly cares for us, only he is bringing us home to be with him. No person, no structure, no institution commands the same loyalty from us as Jesus does. He is king of king and lord of lords, and our first allegiance must always be to him and his ways. If we stick to him, we’ll be right.

A new bishop will bring change – I’m hopeful that much of it will be good for us. But a new bishop also changes nothing – as those with faith in Christ we have always been his people, always been loved by him, always been cared for by him, and will always be loyal to him.

No comments: