2023 is off to a tumultuous start. American democracy barely functioning. Constitutional monarchy under threat in UK (by the unsparing revelations of the 5th in line to the throne, no less). Brazil experiencing a Trump-like attempt to overthrow an electoral result. Benedict XVI has died. Cardinal Pell has died. Some terrible storms disrupting life in NZ - we thought it was the summer holiday season. The CofE under convulsions again re That Topic. And also having conniptions, again, over +Philip North, who won't ordain women, becoming a diocesan bishop.
Ever willing to assist, here is a picture I took, while on holiday, of splendid calm and peacefulness:
This is a plantation of Californian Redwoods, normally a coastal dwelling tree, in the sub-alpine district of Hanmer Springs, South Island, NZ. They were planted in 1930 and may live for 1000 years, so just babies, but calm, peaceful infants. Think what crises and calamities the world has lived through since 1930. These trees have grown as God would have us grow in Christ: faithful, maturing, fruitful, lasting (e.g. Ephesians 4:13-16; Colossian 1:19-29).
If a/the major question of this blog is, How might we become what Christ intends us to be, a unified people of God? , then a close second question is, What does it mean to follow Jesus Christ today?
How might we be faithful, maturing, fruitful, lasting disciples of Christ in 2023?
The answer, obviously, is to ... change "of" to "in" [smile].
How might we be faithful, maturing, fruitful, lasting disciples "in Christ" in 2023?
Clearly, to the extent that we can be responsible human decision makers in respect of the course of our lives, we need to walk as closely with [note, another important preposition, see Mark 3:14] Christ as possible: through daily Scripture reading and prayer, through reception of and participation in the sacrament of communion, through openness to the work of the Holy Spirit, through various other spiritual disciplines.
But, we may also look to and give thanks for God's promise to us in Christ: that Christ will live in us and we will live in Christ (essentially, the whole of John's Gospel, much of the Pauline writings). To go back to the forest in Hanmer: those splendid Redwoods have grown by God's grace as God has gifted them rain, sunshine, carbon dioxide, etc. To become what God wants us to be is foremost a matter of God's grace, the Giver of life will gift life to us.
Yet, and yet, and yet: as we see, even in the first couple of weeks of this year, various people, otherwise at least baptised, possibly claiming to be some kind of ecclesio-political warrior for God, maybe holding powerful office with the support of church leaders, even holding high office in the church of God, proposing courses of action and/or propagandizing perspectives seemingly at variance with objective truth, or, just being foolish. The grace of God in growing us in Christ may be thwarted, tripped up or just thrown aside.
Although we can see this in certain people, living and departed, who currently exist in the laser light of news headlines, do we not see it in ourselves?
Outside of the headlines, do not we ordinary mortals ourselves thwart the grace of God as we make choices that then lead - hopefully - to confession of our sins, to acknowledgement with sorrow of our capacity to not grow in grace, to stunt our maturing, to be unfruitful and to look like we will not be found to last the distance with God?
While not completely aligned with the topic above, I do not want to miss the opportunity to copy and paste a citation made in a commnet by Mark to the previous post:
Michael Sean Winters, writing in the National Catholic Reporter, on George Pell and his warrior approach to secular modernity:
"There are times when the church needs lions, protectors, prelates and others willing to man the barricades, at least in times of persecution. But the late 20th and early 21st century witnessed something different from persecution.
True, the acids of modernity, as political commentator Walter Lippmann once called them, were eating away not only at the faith but at the disposition to believe. The culture was becoming secular, but not the way late 18th-century French culture had become secular. People were not so much hostile as busy. They lost interest in the faith, failed to see that it related to their daily lives, and moved on.
Lions like Pell treated these developments as modern-day reign of terror and thought they could hasten the Thermidorian reaction, but they misdiagnosed the situation. Modernity was not producing anti-clericals in the mold of Robespierre but rather people who were alienated, drowning in materialism and plenty, needy.
The times called for pastors, not prophets, for accompaniment not thunderbolts, for missionaries and evangelizers not apologists, for lambs not lions."