Doing Good for the Love of God

Before anything else, the Diocese of Cyprus & the Gulf exists to offer worship to God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit in the lands where our congregations are set.

Worship is the first and non-negotiable task, duty and identifying characteristic of Christians.

Worship should be a joy. There will be a measure of particularity in our worship because of the particular - not to say sometimes peculiar - people we are in particular places. That particularity should be a joy alongside the common joy of our link, bond and unity as a diocese.

Three years ago, Synod explored and articulated our common diocesan identity. Two years ago, Synod focused on our common diocesan mission. Last year, Synod discussed our common diocesan discipleship. So what’s to be common, what aspect of our link, bond and unity is to be delved into and celebrated in 2018?

It’s something like our common service but it’s more that that might be thought to mean. The thematic title this year is Doing God & doing good. In the course of the week others will unfold those at-first-hearing enigmatic words, both in the spiritual addresses and in the discussion groups that are now a firmly established element of Synod.

Suffice it to say now that the purpose of this theme is to demonstrate that

love of God and love of neighbour are scripturally and doctrinally inextricable;

that love’s not much if it’s not practical; that lovingly serving others and one another and lovingly working for the transformation of society into something better and more divine are part of lovingly worshipping God. They are therefore at the heart of our primary reason for existing as a diocese and indeed as Christians.

“Social liturgy” is an even more enigmatic and suggestive phrase. Perhaps it’s simpler to remember that for Christians the word service is pregnant with at least two meanings. That’s what the theme of this year’s Synod is about.

The Anglican Communion, as those who have been at Synod in these last years will know well, has five thoroughly publicised Marks of Mission, though I wish we’d just called them Marks of the Church. Look them up. This year, we’re starting to engage with Marks Three, Four and even Five.

As always, we meet against the background of the rest of our lives. 2 Corinthians 4 isn’t to be quoted lightly; no scripture is. But for many in the region that we serve, in almost all of the countries God has led us to and for some - perhaps many - of us in the parishes and chaplaincies of this diocese, the resonances are strong.

“We’re afflicted,” says Paul, uncompromisingly and truthfully. “We’re perplexed; we’re persecuted; we’re struck down.” Speaking not just for himself but for others who keep the faith of Christ whatever may come, he qualifies each acknowledged setback and assault: “but not crushed, not driven to despair, not forsaken, not destroyed.” And he continues: “we always carry in the body of the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our bodies.”

He has prefaced all he says by saying we have this treasure - "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, in earthenware vessels, in clay jars.” In other words, human beings are breakable, fragile, and existence is fragile, Christians are fragile, the Church is fragile; but that means it’s clear that what we have “belongs to God and doesn’t come from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Politics, not only in our region but throughout the world, and sadly especially in great nations that should be stabler and wiser like the USA, Russia and the UK, is febrile. Politicians are either faltering or all too certain. Those who should speak and act often don’t and those who shouldn’t do. War and its aftermath, displacement, disease, famine and fear stalk the earth. Some economies are holding up but many aren’t. Even those with jobs wonder for how much longer they’ll have them since patterns of employment are changing. Citizens of nations of our region and, equally, the migrant expatriates that most of us at this Synod are, are given plenty of reminders of our fragility.

But with Paul we’re called to remember that we have a treasure, God in Christ, that doesn’t come from or depend on us and is the reason we worship.

Therefore (2 Corinthians 4:16), “we do not lose heart.” Or do we? Do, say, the deliberations of our church councils reflect, and will this Synod reflect, confidence in the way and love of God revealed in Christ, while being realistic and truthful about challenges, dangers, resources, money and all the rest? Are we ready to be sustained by the Spirit no matter what?

I see many who are. It may be invidious to select places and people but, at St George Baghdad, I and all who visit see not just persistent faithfulness but genuine joy that begins and ends in worship while, on the way, taking in love of neighbour spelled out in the most explicit forms. And in Aden, now yet more troubled and uncertain politically, socially, financially than in recent years, I know that those who through employment or need come into the ambit of Christ Church Tawahi, virtually all Muslins, find they have come into a place that does God by doing good with not a thought of conceptual division.

In the mouths of some, do-gooders has become a derisive term. Perhaps those who use it derisively suspect those who set out to do good are hypocrites with other motives or believe themselves morally better.

For Christians certainly, we seek to do good only because God is good and has called us to share in his goodness. Let our worship be service and our service worship.