Nether Heyford Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
Evidence of the divisions in our world seem to have come to the fore in recent days. There has been the controversy around the death of a participant on The Jeremy Kyle Show – ‘entertainment’ that seemed to depend on exploiting divisions within families – resulting in the termination of this programme by ITV. Elsewhere, the Institute of Fiscal Studies has launched a major enquiry into equality in the UK, suggesting that there are widening divisions between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ which threaten our democracy. Politically, the issue of Brexit is again highlighting divisions not just in the country, but also within the two major political parties themselves. And internationally, rising tensions between the USA and Iran again reminds us of the divisions that exist between nations. Human history would suggest that we are very good at division. It seems as though we need to choose sides, to identify ourselves as ‘us’, and have a ‘them’ to oppose. Our social inequalities and power structures somehow suggest that division is an intrinsic part of our humanity. Sadly, religions are not free from this tendency towards division. Differences in dogma, interpretation or emphasis create divisions within religious groups. In Christianity, for example, different denominations and opposing viewpoints on some of the major talking points of our day demonstrate that the Church is not immune to division. This is nothing new, for in the earliest church, deep divisions existed between believers from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds.
And yet, in Chapter 11 of The Acts of the Apostles, St Peter is told and shown that there is no place for division in the Kingdom of God, when God’s Spirit descends on a Gentile family, and they begin to worship God. Indeed, the Holy Spirit ignores all human divisions – social, cultural, religious and so on – and falls on all who believe. God’s Kingdom is all about removing divisions and creating one new community.
At the beginning of June, churches across the world will come together in praying ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ in a global prayer initiative started a few years ago by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. I will be taking time to add my prayers to those of people around the world, praying that we might see more of the unity characterised by God’s Kingdom; in our families, our society, our churches, our politics and the world. In the Kingdom, there is no place for division, and we are all offered the same identity, as the children of God.
Yours in Christ,
Stephen – 01327 344436