Passion-tide Meditation In North Cyprus

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, St. Andrews Kyrenia (Girne) - which on Sunday was host to a Turkish Church, a Russian-speaking service, and the International Church. Here I sang, swayed and testified with the congregation of mainly Nigerian students. In the morning I preached to the crowded congregation at the Anglican Eucharist, which the following Passion-tide Meditation reflects:

‘What good can come out of Nazareth?’ (John 1:46) Under the cover of that catch phrase, or of ‘He’s just the carpenter’s son, isn’t he?’ (Mark 6:3) many good actions and intentions of Jesus were missed out on. City Jews often despised Galileans in general but it seems even Galileans despised people from lowly Nazareth or from a lowly occupation. And because of that Jesus went to the Cross.

As a pilgrim to Cyprus who knows nothing I wonder if I have heard similar phrases, expressed in different ways: ‘What good can come out of Turkish Cypriots?’ ‘What good can come out of Greek Cypriots?’ And within churches: ‘What good can come out of non-Orthodox Christians?’ ‘What good can come out of Orthodox Christians?’ ‘What good can come out of people who say Christ transforms bread and wine?’ ‘What good can come out of people who go to liturgical churches or out of people who don’t proclaim they are born again?' and so on.

Qualities of Christ the Messiah, which he desires to impart to us, include ‘a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and of reverence for the Lord’ Isaiah 11:2. This has been called ‘spiritual intelligence’ in a book of that title by Cindy Wigglesworth. Spiritual intelligence enables us to be aware of our own and others’ frames of reference, to live from a centre of deep compassion and empathy that transforms these, and to maintain peace and equilibrium in all circumstances. Such qualities enable us to embrace the appropriate emotions for each place and situation. Thus Jesus neither peddled nor wasted time on prejudice - he wept over the city. In Passion-tide, could we wait with Jesus in silence until tears come and we, too, begin to weep over the consequences of all our prejudices?

In the last week of his life on earth Jesus threw out the money-changers, not just because they made money out of poor people’s religion, but because they usurped the space set aside for foreigners to pray. He longed for the temple to be ‘a house of prayer for all nations’ (Mark 11:17). I am delighted to see your PCC survey on how you can be a more welcoming faith community. I wrote a course called The Transforming Church which includes a unit on how to turn a church building into a spiritual home for all.

I also noticed in yesterday’s newspaper a report on The Cyprus Peace Process under the auspices of the Swedish Embassy which included the Religious Track talks among religious leaders, and the comment that Cyprus could become a model for co-existence between Muslims and Christians in the entire region. There will be many different views, but Jesus’ desire that all peoples should be able to pray together is surely worth thinking about. I have heard it said more than once that in North Cyprus, where neither a Muslim nor a Christian form of religion dominates, God is using the space created to draw more people to Himself.

When Jesus was crucified the inmost barrier in the temple was split open. The resurrection heralded the possibility of a new way of being a God-follower, where our eyes see ‘the light that enlightens every person’ (John 1:4), where ‘in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free person’ (Galatians 3:28).

That is why, in the Celtic as in the Hebrew tradition, both hospitality and blessing play such a big part in everyday life:

We saw a stranger yesterday. We put food in the eating place Drink in the drinking place Music in the listening place And with the sacred name of the triune God He blessed us and our house Our cattle and our dear ones. As the lark says in her song: Often, often, often goes the Christ In the stranger’s guise. (A Celtic rune of hospitality) Let us bless our neighbours and our enemies, our familiar land and unfamiliar land. Let us bless 'every blessed thing'.

That is how the kingdom of God comes among us. That is how our countries can become prejudice-free and compassion-full zones. So, whatever our point of view, let us pray that Jesus will give us ‘resurrection eyes’ to see everyone in a new light.

Posted at 07:13am on 9th March 2016
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