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Parish letter

From the Associate Priest


 ‘I will lift up my eyes to the mountains from whence comes my help.’ These opening lines of a lovely psalm alert us to two essential aspects of Christianity: a true understanding of created reality and of the need for a remedy to all that pulls down human existence and damages that reality.

It is the disordered nature of human existence and behaviour that now poses a deadly threat to the well-being of the created world upon which we all depend completely for our life and health. This is an extraordinary state of affairs to contemplate when you consider the vastness and age of the earth, and the wonderful living environment which has developed over so many aeons of time. The challenge that we all face in our generation is truly to repent, which means to change the attitudes and values that govern how we behave.

The Bible teaches us that the world belongs to God who created it, and that human beings are trustees not possessors of it. The created world also communicates to us the nature and reality of God, if we are sensitive to His presence within it. This is why so many people find peace and restoration by spending time in the natural environment. This is also why TV programmes about the natural world are so popular, and rightly so.

The Bible also teaches us that human beings are chronically flawed by the misuse of their wills, individually and collectively. What we value determines what we choose. What we value also determines how we treat other people and how we treat the natural world. So the problem before human beings in our generation is at bottom a spiritual one, which is why Christianity is so urgently relevant, even if it appears to be ignored by the media and others.

When Christians meet to celebrate Holy Communion each week, they take bread and wine as the created means by which the life of God, revealed in Christ, may be poured into their lives by the Holy Spirit for the redemption of the world: we say, ‘Fruit of the earth and work of human hands, may it become for us the bread of life and the cup of salvation.’ The common root of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is found in the encounter of Moses with God at the Burning Bush on Mount Sinai long ago. The bush was not consumed by the fire; instead it reflected the glory of God and mediated His presence as the one who truly exists – I AM. The call of God to Moses changed his life, however, and that of his people: it led them from one existence to another, from slavery to freedom, in order to encounter the glory of God in the desert.

One of the great Christian teachers who articulated the relationship between reality and redemption was St Bonaventure, who lived and taught in the thirteenth century and who led the Franciscans. I have now published a second book which introduces and distils his teaching. It is called Way back to God: the spiritual theology of St Bonaventure, and it will be available in paperback from the end of October. It is published by James Clarke & Co, Cambridge, and it stands alongside my earlier book that they also published, which is called Divine Remaking: St Bonaventure and the Gospel of Luke. I commend St Bonaventure to you as I have learnt a great deal from his writings about the nature of reality and redemption.

The Revd Douglas Dales