Grace and peace from God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
Each day I wonder if today will be the day that I can function normally again. Grief is a strange bedfellow. One of the biggest things that I have learned is that one’s emotions and one’s faith can be on very different pages. It is possible to be confident in God, and his love, even when you are broken. Even when our prayers have not been answered the way that we would have wanted, even when we have lost our very identity and sense of who we are, our brokenness does not separate us from the Love of God. (Romans 8:35)
The world is at war and we are not at peace with one another. The Israel/Palestine conflict is dividing people throughout the world and we are all victims of this violence and hatred, and my prayer is that we will not to fuel the division, but bring about peace. This is not a simple issue and we cannot add to the conflict because of our own bias, we need to condemn the violence, and seek justice and mercy. The Russian/Ukraine war is also dividing the world. Much of Africa is at war. I hope that I am understood, fueling hatred between warring parties, adds to the problem, there are innocent people caught between the warring parties – our first concern should be for them. Infighting within the church, will negatively impact on seekers, who are seeking our God of love. We cannot allow evil to drag is into a fight that aims to destroy all parties. We need a correct response.
We cannot expect peace between two warring nations if we are bringing the fighting into our own communities and bringing further division. We may disagree with one another, we may hold different perspectives and points of view, but let us be Christlike in our approach, and focus on reconciliation, not judgement. Hate is not of God, we may have enemies and we may call them enemies, but we are called to love our enemies. We are called to pray for peace. No one can say that they love God and yet hate a fellow human being. We are facing a crisis in the way that we respond to the conflict, in our own lives.
As I begin a new season of these weekly reflections, I will focus on what God is calling me to share with you from the Word and from lived experiences, but I pray that it will transcend my own experiences. This is not a series of reflections on my own journey, but it is written out of my personal experience. This “perspective” is not a theological treatise, it is a lived experience that seeks to honour God. My main objective in life is to “surrender my life to Christ Jesus and to the service of His people.” And I pray that these perspectives will be helpful to you.
I believe in the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter2:9) and I have committed to this “priesthood” through acknowledging that our Baptism is a calling from God to serve him as ambassadors of Reconciliation. My Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination and Profession as a Franciscan Tertiary, are all by the grace of God and affirm the calling of God upon our lives to serve Him.
They are an acknowledgement that it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we live and work and have our being, in Christ and with Christ and through Christ.
With St Paul I say – “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12)
Daily we are to give ourselves to God, surrendering our circumstances, our desires, our achievements and our failures to be used by God.
My prayer is that as we journey together and seek to deepen our understanding of our Life in Christ, that we may learn together, that our experience of life in the complexities of 2023, may help us to grow closer to God; more dependent on prayer and obedience to God to enable us to respond appropriately to the challenges of the world we live in, so that with Christ and in Christ we may love the world back to God.
May our aim be, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and strength and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:12)
So let us love one another.
Love and peace
Andrew (tssf) (1)
Feast of St Luke 2023
(1) For those who are unfamiliar with the author or this piece – here is a bit of background.
The Ven Andrew Manning (tssf) is Rector of Umhlali Parish and Archdeacon of Umvoti in the Diocese of Natal. The purpose of this weekly article is to promote spiritual thinking for the journey that we are all called to share in. In November 2022, his wife Michelle was diagnosed with Stage Four Breast Cancer and she died on 22 August 2023, one week before their 27th Wedding anniversary.
(tssf) – The Third Order, Society of St Francis