From Rev. Anna Bishop
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
This week my morning walk is taking me through our local Bluebell Wood. I could not begin to describe its beauty to you; the trees rise through an unbroken carpet of violet as far as they eye can see, and the sweet scent is overwhelming. It may be sentimental to be moved to tears by the tender beauty of fresh beech and bluebells, but I soon found that I was weeping not only in delight and gratitude, but also in grief for all the places where such loveliness is being destroyed; I can’t bear the thought of this precious place being torn up by shells, smothered with plastic waste, blackened with air pollution or submerged under rising sea levels.
And I know this is happening to so many places I have never seen myself, but where there must be just as much beauty. When I opened myself to the love of this particular place, that love led me beyond this local spot, to a passionate care for all natural beauty. Suddenly these were no longer ‘causes’, but real losses that touched me
nearly. That is what love does to us. It brings us joy, energy and fulfilment, and through this it transforms us so that we become available for the transformation of the world beyond ourselves.
Sometimes the life of Christian Discipleship seems like a set of obligations, a list of demands which, if you’re anything like me, you often feel inadequate to meet. And we as preachers and clergy are much to blame for giving that impression over the centuries and still today. But the Bluebell Wood has reminded me that to see it in this way is to start at the wrong end.
Christian Discipleship is a matter of love. We need to start with what we love, what is life-giving and to give it our full attention and commitment. Love growing within us will do the rest.
For many years I felt that in a busy life, barely keeping my head above water, the ‘green’ agenda was just one demand too many for me to meet. But as I have
reconnected with the natural world over the last few years, my whole way of life has been transformed, through that love growing in me. It now makes me happy to spend a bit of time sorting the recycling and a few extra pence on all-renewable energy, to make a small detour to refill glass bottles of cleaning and washing supplies. I’m not at all sad that I will never fly again and I look forward to the day we can afford an electric car and an air-source heat-pump. None of these small things feel like demands or obligations, but are a life-giving part of my relationship with the natural world I love. That love has changed my way of life at every level, through gratitude and satisfaction.
So what or whom do you love with a devotion that transforms your whole way of life? Perhaps it is your children or grandchildren, which leads you to want all children to be as safe and as happy as yours. Perhaps you have cared for somebody you love, which has made you long for all who are ill or elderly to be cared for with dignity and devotion. Maybe you yourself have had an experience so healing and life-changing, that you want everybody in your situation to be able to have that experience.
It is, of course, my job to say that we need more volunteers in all areas of church life! But it is also my role to remind you not to be so caught up in the demands and obligations of church life that you become cut off from what you love, and what gives you energy and joy.
The path of Christian Discipleship is different for each of us. Yours may not lie within church activities at all, or it may be at the very heart of them. But both we and others know when we are on the authentic path of Discipleship by these two signs: that it is life-giving for us AND life-giving for others.
So find what you love: spend time delighting in it and devote yourself to it. And love will do the rest. Love will show you the way. Love will transform you and the world around you.