A season of change

Flame blows in the wind

There is a profound passage right at the beginning of the Bible, in the book of Genesis, that has struck me at this time of continued crisis in week 11 of our Coronavirus lockdown, now gradually easing here in the UK and across the world. The passage from Genesis chapter 1 says:

“Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”.

This week, in the UK, deaths from Covid-19 have exceeded 40,000 people. These are people who are more than statistics appearing on our screens every day, but are individuals with loved ones, families and lives and they each have an identity.

Critically, also this week, we have seen the outpouring of protest about the way that black people are treated, compared to and by white people, in western societies. These protests have followed the terrible and traumatic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis where police officers have been dismissed and received criminal charges for his murder. Mainly peaceful protests around the world have seen thousands and thousands of people marching in cities and towns with the tag line #blacklivesmatter. An outpouring of protest on the behaviour of some towards others and a plea for a change in behaviour by many, despite the transmission threat that Covid-19 poses amongst crowds.

It seems that as a human race we have much to learn and the passage from Genesis 1 has been ringing in my heart and mind this week. Scripture gives us insights from God himself on how we should behave towards him and towards each other so that lives may be fulfilled and other Christian writers I have seen have also been led to this passage.

Our God full of holiness, goodness and love, beyond our comprehension, makes humankind in his image and gives them responsibility to take stewardship over the world he has created and delights in. Some will use passages in Genesis to enter into a debate of science versus religion, often to dispute the existence of God, but they miss the point of the Genesis passages. This is a relational God, who wants the best for humanity, made in his image and who gives them dominion over a world he delights in, including everything in it, which also includes the wonder of scientific theories and facts.

God trusts his friends and delights in us, so that we can delight in the gift of the world around us and we can manage it for the better, whilst knowing a relationship with God. God uses the word ‘us’ in the passage which scholars debate about. God could be talking to the angels or he could be in a relationship as God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; but the point is that God is about relationships and right behaviour with humanity and humanity with God and with each other, if we are made in his likeness.

The oppression, persecution and destruction of others is not of God’s behaviour and shouldn’t be of ours. The breakdown of behaviour means that we are reliant on our law and police enforcement systems to protect us when things go wrong. Every life is precious and valued by God and should be by us. Breaking the commandments from Christ have consequences of destruction in our world, but we of course sometimes find keeping the commandments difficult and would be nowhere without God’s healing grace, bought dearly by his only son’s death on a cross, followed by his resurrection and ascension. Jesus summarised the commandments.

” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

We are asked to treat each other and behave towards each other as though they were ourselves. This is God’s kingdom of grace and forgiveness. Of course, many have experienced being treated badly, sadly this happens all too often. Remember how you felt and then consider how God feels when we behave badly towards him and each other, his heart breaks with the pain. It is, then, how we react to being treated badly that matters and makes a difference in bringing God’s grace and forgiveness into a broken world and fulfilling our role to make it a better place. God gave over his son Jesus Christ to death on a cross so that we may know grace and forgiveness from him and lead new lives.

Coronavirus Covid-19 and the wrongful traumatic death of George Floyd are just two examples of brokenness, out of many in our world, that drive humanity to do better and be more like Christ, the true image of God himself. Jesus’ friend John wrote these words

“(Jesus Christ), was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John the Baptist testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ “) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”

Every Anglican service of Holy Communion will start with a time of bringing our own brokenness and sins to God with the intention of changing our heart and mind and receiving his grace and forgiveness. A time to examine our own intentions in front of God, so necessary in our world. The healing starts with us and our change in behaviour, in God’s presence, in order that we can be good stewards of his world.

We are in a season of change. We are in a season of God’s change as his Holy Spirit blows amongst us, changing us. Will we let the candle flame, the light of Christ in our lives and in our world, be blown out, or will we let the Spirit fan the flames of change, God’s change?

Our prayers could be:

Holy and loving God, we come to you in sorrow as we see around us those who have lost their lives in this time of Coronavirus and the pain and grief of loved ones. In the pain of grief may they know your healing.

Forgive us our sins and help us to live in you.

Holy and loving God, we come to you in sorrow as we see the anxiety of black people around the world at the way they are treated. Help us to care for those different to us and know that we are all made in your image and that you know us and you know who you made us to be.

Forgive us our sins and help us to live in you.

Holy and loving God, we come to you in sorrow as we see the plight of the world and its environment. Help us to be stewards of the world you gifted to us and to care for each other.

Forgive us our sins and help us to live in you.

Holy and loving God, may you pour out your Spirit upon your Church and your people that all may know you and may we do your will in this season of change, so that many more will know who you are and our world may change. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

About Rivers of Living Water

Retired Vicar
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