Bishop's Comment: Followers and Learners
6 September 2016 by Bishop David Urquhart

Bishop's Comment: Followers and Learners

This is a season of new beginnings in school term, government, and national self-understanding.

If your summer has included relaxing holidays has it also been a time of renewal of your faith?

A recent return to India, to visit mainly Muslim friends, helped me articulate for them my own religious journey.

To be a Christian is not just inherited cultural practice but a dynamic relationship with God. So, I explained, for me that means being known as a follower of Jesus Christ, learning from him day by day.

Rowan Williams in his new paperback 'Being Disciples' (SPCK 2016) says that a disciple is 'a place in the world where the act of God can come alive' (p18).

He goes on to remind us that this calling cannot be achieved without continuous renewal in the costly grace of God in a pattern of being in Christ's company through prayer, scripture and fellowship. From stillness we can be looking expectantly for what Christ is doing and then going out to where he is already.

St Paul in his letter from prison to Philemon asks 'refresh my heart in Christ' 1:20 This is not a request for ease but for a new outpouring of practical love through the Holy Spirit. As we mature in the life, death and resurrection of Christ we can expect change and challenge. In Dietrich Bonhoeffer's words 'costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a person must knock'.

During my first visit to India 40 years ago, as a Christian business person checking out the main world religions, I spent an afternoon with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. She had two questions for me 'Are you all for Jesus?' and, on discovering I lived in central London, 'What are you doing for the homeless alcoholics outside Paddington Station?'

One of the themes of our discipleship this season will be found in doing 'Love Your Neighbour' acts of kindness allowing the saving power of Jesus to be revealed in schools and in homes, in work and community, in cabinet meetings and on the streets.

So we will be part not just of a 'Christian country' but a country where Jesus Christ is followed, worshipped and glorified.

The Rt Revd David Urquhart
Bishop of Birmingham