From The Rev’d Gareth Miller – October 2019

Brian Wood

The Rev’d Gareth Miller

Dear friends


What do you think of John Bercow? He’s a bit of a Marmite character – you either love him or you loathe him! Well, by the time you read this he may well not be Speaker any more. (I could of course ask the same question about Johnson, or Corbyn, or any politician or celebrity.)

Robert Mugabe died recently. I found myself at a Middleton Stoney Cream Tea chatting to someone who had been in his cabinet for many years. As one might expect, I discovered that the real Mugabe was a more nuanced character than some have suggested. But mostly bad!

In the Gospel we hear Jesus saying, “There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety and nine virtuous people who have no need of repentance.”

Of course, Mugabe did not repent (and that doubtless explains the poor turn-out at his funeral). Unlike David Cameron, who, from all accounts, has been very repentant in his autobiography about his mistakes and the division the referendum has caused.

Divisions, polarisation, oppositional attitudes – these seem to be the norm these days. But has it not always been thus?

Jesus himself was a sign of division. The infant Christ signifies to Simeon both salvation and schism. The Magnificat says the mighty will be brought down and the lowly lifted up. Jesus warns that his words will divide families. Those he encounters tend to fall into two camps: the religious people, the scribes and the Pharisees, who by and large oppose him; while those who respond to his message are the tax collectors and sinners.

So polarisation is not a new thing. But what’s the antidote? The answer is repentance. When we turn from self and turn to God change begins. (When we stop being directed by self-interest and self-absorption and put God and his kingdom at the heart of our lives we start seeing things differently). When we resist the temptation to trust our own ideas, our own theology, our own politics, and ask for the gifts of humility and discernment, then we come to experience truth in the realities of our world – in the poor, the dispossessed, the fragile and the doubting. Then and only then does the possibility of a new world emerge.


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