What is the essence of what we believe?
We believe that the world, the universe, the things we see and can’t see but exist, were created or formed by an eternal, personal and good spirit-Being whom we call God. The nature of this God is revealed through the writings of the Old and New Testaments, which we call the Bible. The Bible reveals that the world was created as a good and beautiful place in which life and health flourished. Human beings were the pinnacle of this creative work, sharing the personal nature of this God, made for relationship with Him, with others, and with the created order.
In the freedom of relationship, however, human beings chose to launch outside the protective boundaries they were given. The consequence of this was a fracture through the heart of the created order. Relationships were broken and distorted. Human beings lost harmony within themselves, with others, with this God, and with the environment around them. Decay and death became normative experience. This wasn’t simply a slip-up. It unleashed a whole new destructive power. A word the New Testament frequently uses to describe this power is sin. Sin and death are inseparably linked. We are all subject to this power, and whilst we can do a little in our own strength to fiddle around the edges of our lives with good intentions and resolutions, we are actually helpless to break its true power in our lives. Not only so, but our choices frequently reflect that power and our broken relationship with the God/eternal Being is severed permanently.
From our side no repair job was possible. No human endeavours, no political system or ideology, no utopian dream, no super hero, has been able to reverse these effects. Some human endeavours and efforts have been better than others, but none have delivered freedom from the power.
In our helplessness God acted. That is the story of the Bible from the fourth chapter on. In the light of our predicament God acted. He acted in history, in the everyday lives of people who themselves demonstrated all too often the worst of human destructive behaviour. God acted in history through people. He chose a people to be the avenues or channels for this work of redemption and restoration. He blessed them and walked with them. This is the story line of the history of the Old Testament. He gave them a way to approach Him – it involved much sacrificing of animals and preparation – but such was the significance of coming before the One who is perfect goodness and who does not co-exist with the power of sin.
However, it became evident that this people could not truly be the channels of redemption that was planned. They rebelled from God’s intended ways and gave in to destructive powers. But a bigger picture emerged with the hope that God would send someone special who would embody all that was required, who would be the one to save human beings from this mess, who would chart a new course, and make restoration of relationship possible.
All this came to its focus and fulfilment with the birth of a child in remote Palestine. Humble, unknown and unlikely parents took part in a cosmic plan, whose dimensions they barely glimpsed. This eternal God was taking a radical step. The breach could not be repaired from the human side but from His side. It took gutsy, earthy, uncompromising action to become embroiled in human life and affairs and yet do so as had been intended from the very beginning. This is Jesus, the Christ. The New Testament reveals that Jesus shared fully in the human nature of all people and yet, paradoxically, at the same time shared fully in the eternal nature of God. He ‘took on’ human flesh. He embraced our humanity. He lived a life of total goodness in harmony with eternal God, whom he refers to as Father.
However, the powers of the day did not welcome the coming of Jesus. Both religious and political powers combined and colluded to rid the earth of him. His crucifiction, the common punishment of Jews of the day, was inflicted after harsh beatings and deprivation. He was put to death. However, even this had been foreseen by prophets centuries beforehand. God would not be welcomed upon earth for he would threaten the core of our broken beings. Yet his death was needed as the perfect sacrifice, what animal sacrifice had pointed towards. Much of the New Testament reflects on the meaning and significance of what Jesus Christ achieved through his death. For, remarkably and miraculously, he was raised to life on the third morning, and after several weeks in which he appeared to his followers, was ‘taken up’ to be with the Father, taking bodily humanity, as it were, into heaven itself.
His followers were not left alone or forgotten, however. He had promised that there would be another to be with them. This is a reference to the Holy Spirit, the third member of the one we call God. Jesus could only be at one place at one time, but the Spirit could be with all people everywhere. The followers were left with instructions to live out the new life Jesus had brought, to declare the good news of all he had achieved, and the invitation for us to be restored in relationship with the eternal God through the life of Jesus Christ. Access was now possible and a new future available. This was to be done in the manner of Jesus himself, where both compassion and truth meet in relationship.
This message and the reality of this new life was entrusted to those followers who corporately are known as the church. History took a new course with the coming of Jesus and he left the message that time would be limited and one day he would come once more and all things would be brought to their fulfilment. The church is not a building but a people movement. A people who acknowledge what Jesus the Christ has done for them, and that they have made the choice in their lives to be part of his team and his future, and will seek to shape their lives according to his way. This people movement known corporately as the church has not always done a great job with what Jesus has entrusted, but remains his core vehicle for bringing the hope and good news of restored relationship with the world today.
It is a message and a hope which is universal – for every culture and people group. For every individual no matter what their past or present, or no matter how destructive has been their experience of life. Forgiveness and hope are made available to all.
In summary, this is the essence of what we believe. As a church, the people of St Lukes share the faith of all Christian people everywhere. As part of the Anglican church, we have a particular history and some particular ways we do things and are governed, but we are simply one expression of the diversity of God’s church, whether local or global. We are not a perfect church. We are people still working with the effects of sin in us and around us. But in Christ the power is broken and we seek to help one another live lives of integrity and humility in service to God, and with the help of the Spirit.
We would love you to be part of the blessings of God today. We would love you to be part of the church, whether at St Lukes or elsewhere. We would welcome any thoughts or explorations you need to make at this time as part of your own journey.
Phil Hurwood (vicar)