Bishop's letter: Redemption and risk

First published 28th March 2012

This month Bishop Lee offers some reflections following his recent accident.

Ash Wednesday seems a long time ago.  At the beginning of Lent I penned some thoughts on Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.  Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.  In that piece I offered an invitation to consider how much we are prepared to risk.

Three days later I was involved in a rather spectacular accident half way through a bike race when the cyclist in front of me suddenly lost control of his machine and went down.  Three of us ended up on the circuit tarmac but whereas the others got back on their bikes to finish the race I needed hospitalisation.  This provided a more immediate opportunity to mull over my words than I had either anticipated or desired!

People become aware of their frailty at different times and in various ways.  The racing driver Stirling Moss continued to fling cars around race tracks at ridiculous speeds until he was over 80 years of age.  Then he found himself feeling afraid behind the wheel and knew it was time to stop.  I am now persuaded that bunch circuit racing involves too much risk of a crash for me to enter again.  But does that mean I should stop road racing altogether or even mothball my bike?  (I suspect you know the answer to that.)

Over the years I have met many people who have become overly risk averse because of a damaging experience in life.  As a result of their hurt (usually emotional rather than physical) they have made a decision not to do anything like that again.  Those who have been badly let down or feel betrayed by someone in the family or a business would rather pull up the drawbridge than risk further wounding.  In the Church, ministers and church members consciously or unconsciously decide there are no go areas because of previous bitter experiences and disappointments.  I regularly meet people - leaders and members - who have been seriously bruised through belonging to a church and I can see they have effectively opted out even if they have not actually left.

This may contradict what the Church seeks to be but we recognise it as a reality and very understandable.  Yet it is in our corporate and individual frailty that we find opportunity to discover the power of redemption.  What we celebrate particularly through Holy Week and Easter, and week by week in the Eucharist, is God's redemptive purpose and power.  Believing in and practising this redemption means being prepared to put ourselves at risk again, not disengaging or shutting up shop.  To trust again, to offer ourselves in service, to forgive, to give a lead, to re-commit.

And this includes when we have badly let down ourselves and our Lord.  After all that led up to the crucifixion Simon-Peter wanted to write himself out of the script but Jesus had very different ideas.  Simon-Peter did not need writing off but redemption: healing and re-energising for the task.   If this is what you need to get back on track as a disciple our Diocesan Healing team are available to assist you.  I for one have been very grateful for this ministry.


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