Beyond the broad cultural differences that create barriers between us, all human beings form one family. Whatever our culture, our race, our age or our history, we share a longing, a thirst for life in fullness, a mark engraved by God in us to draw us towards him.
Seeing this woman kneel before Archbishop Ezekiel for confirmation, I imagine her heart-longing to be just like ours, wanting this to be a moment of truth, to experience God as he is, to break beyond faith – to know. She may not yet have grasped that in Christ we discover God has been seeking us all the time and that the Risen Jesus communicates the Holy Spirit to us, an invisible presence drawing us towards the fullness of God.
She kneels in front of a bishop dressed in 16th century English robes – a massive contrast of Gospel and Culture! To the woman the robes speak of authority and dignity. To us they should speak not so much of colonial history as of connection. This man confirming Christians in Sudan is one of us, part of our team, part of the Anglican Communion.
So many circles intersect at this moment, a missionary encounter between ways of life that meet in the very life of the Christian community. Whatever the history, here Gospel and culture connect. The timeless Gospel of God is to be interpreted in the cultural shape of human life in Sudan today.
Living in a Muslim area of Bradford, this Ramadhan I spent some time gardening with a neighbour. He said “I don’t want my children to be Christians: I want them to be Muslims.” It’s a statement that shocked me because of its affirmation of Islam as a satisfying way of life and its denial of the desirability of Christianity. To the woman in the picture, to Archbishop Ezekiel, and to me, Christ is altogether beautiful, the Way, the Truth and Life.
Let us pray for Archbishop Ezekiel and the team of five other bishops in Sudan for an anointing to be channels of God’s Spirit, an anointing to open the kingdom of heaven, and an anointing to be inspiring of discipleship.