July 2019

I have just finished preparing a talk for the deanery Mother’s Union open meeting which I am presenting this afternoon. The theme of the talk is ‘South Africa: the good, the bad and the ugly’.
Interesting theme and a real challenge to know how to try and encapsulate the breadth of that theme in one small talk. Well, of course you can’t, but the impossible never put me off giving it a go anyway. What really challenged me was to try and present the good, the bad and the ugly in a way which didn’t downplay the good or the bad, while making too much of either of those. In my home country, which has such a divided and tragic past, opinions get polarised very quickly.
At the same time, in a more theological vein, I am being deeply struck in a new way of this amazing story of God who has over the eons chosen to immerse Himself in the story of humanity, while remaining transcendent and all powerful. Religions tend to emphasise either God’s presence or transcendence. Even in the Christian faith we see this dichotomy – ‘high’ churches creating this elaborate ritual of formalism, ‘low’ churches verging on making God all matey.
There’s this interesting tension I would suggest we need to continually push into of seeing God intimately connected with the human condition, and at the same time calling us to awe and reverence. What does seem to be evident from the Bible though is that Jesus didn’t come primarily to create a church, but to offer us an outstanding thing, to be connected into the life of God as intimately as He and the Father are connected to each other.
What is the connexion between my first and second paragraphs?
First, it’s to say that all of us contain within the parameters of our lives the good the bad and the ugly. It’s a hard thing for us to be honest about these three things which make up our lives. In my experience people seem to be at expert level in highlighting their bad and uglies, and down-playing their good.
Secondly, and this is where God comes in, He is aware of our good, bad and uglies and chooses to draw us into His life with all that stuff which makes us who we are. Doesn’t He care about the bad and uglies? Of course He does, because He wants us to be the best we can be as people. Here’s the thing though, God calls us to change not as a way to get to Him, but from inside His presence and love.
You are deeply and radically loved by God, more than you know. His invitation is the same as it has always been, ‘Come to me, rest in me, live in me’. When we do that we will find a deep peace which comes from God’s life flowing into us.
Rev Stephen Harrison
The Rectory
Church Lane
Leonard Stanley
Stonehouse GL10 3NP
Tel: 07466 858975
Email: rectorstroudwater@gmail.com