Whenever my wife and I travel to new places, we nearly always try to visit the local church. We look around the building but we also see what literature is on show. Often, we find little gems which carry meaning, and speak to us. Here is one from a Coptic church. I believe it speaks for itself.  Reverend Dr Claude Scott

When I say…. ‘I am a Christian’

When I say….‘I am a Christian’

I’m not shouting I have ‘arrived’

I’m whispering ‘I get lost’

‘That is why I chose this way.’

 

When I say….‘I am a Christian’

I don’t speak of this with pride.

I’m confessing that I stumble

And need someone to be my guide.

 

When I say….‘I am a Christian’

I’m not trying to be strong.

I’m professing that I am weak

And pray for strength to carry on.

 

When I say….‘I am a Christian’

I’m not bragging of success.

I am admitting I have failed

And cannot ever pay the debt

When I say….‘I am a Christian’

 

I’m not claiming to be perfect.

My flaws are too visible

But God believes I’m worth it.

 

When I say….‘I am a Christian’

I still feel the sting of pain.

I have my share of heartaches

which is why I seek His name.

 

When I say….‘I am a Christian’

I do not wish to judge.

I have no authority.

I only know that I am loved.

Many people say to me something like this “I find it hard to believe in God, like in the Bible, but I do believe in something. I don’t go to Church but I am spiritual”. Some prefer to call that ‘something’ a ‘Higher Power”, or “Creative Energy” and they find Him or Her or It when they’re by and on the sea, walking on the marshes, or watching the awesome beauty of a sunset. Some recognise the presence of something greater than themselves when they experience love, or find themselves doing or overcoming something they never thought they’d be able to.

All through the Bible; the story of God’s relationship with God’s people, the people of God struggle with ‘getting’ God. Although we read that God was there right at the beginning, and even before then: like a wind Creator God ‘hovers over the face of the waters’, and although there are tender pictures of God as the Good Shepherd caring for all his sheep, and as the best kind of Mother nurturing her young child, God is often portrayed as a violent force bent on destruction and vengeance. Sometimes it seems to me that God is made in their image rather than the other way round and I find those stories very hard to reconcile with a God of love.

This time of year is known as ‘Epiphany’ in the Church. It means ‘manifestation’ or ‘showing’. At that first Christmas God sent his Son Jesus to show us what God is like. The angels called the shepherds to the stable. These poor people of low social standing were the first to meet God’s son. Then three kings came–foreigners, from a different race and culture drawn by the extraordinary star. The animals also were there. Then, when Jesus grew up he made a point of reaching out to all the people who were normally marginalised and cast out of society. Children, women, those with incurable diseases, those with physical and learning disabilities and mental health illnesses, those of a different race and skin colour. There is good evidence to suggest Jesus also reached out to heal someone in a same-sex relationship. Jesus showed what God’s ‘kingdom’ was like: God’s way of living in peace and love with each other and with creation.

Jesus showed that God’s love is for everyone. He doesn’t love us because of what we do, what we look like or how we are seen by those around us, he loves us for who we are. In Arhbishop Desmond Tutu’s book ‘God has a dream’ he says ‘“In the end what matters is not how good we are but how good God is. Not how much we love Him but how much He loves us. And God loves us whoever we are, whatever we’ve done or failed to do, whatever we believe or can’t.”  and I say ‘Amen. That’s the God I believe in’.   Reverend Libby