Bishop Jonathan to preach at this year's Kirchentag on faith during unsettled times

Bishop of Huddersfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gibbs will preach on the subject of faith in unsettled international times when he visits Kirchentag in Dortmund, later this month.

He is co-chair of the Meissen Commission which links the Church of England with the German Evangelical Church and will speak at a service organised by the Commission on Saturday, June 22 and where the liturgy will celebrated by the Bishop of Hannover, Ralf Meister.

A party of worshippers from our diocese, led by the Ven Peter Townley, Archdeacon of Pontefract, will also be attending Kirchentag, a biennial celebration of Protestant faith which is attended by hundreds of thousands of Christians.

Bishop Jonathan will preach in English on the challenges faced by Christians at this time of Brexit, new populism, nationalism and international tension.

Below is a preview of part of his sermon;

"Right across the continent of Europe, the old certainties have been shaken, and many people are feeling the same kind of confusion and anxiety.  I think this explains some of the patterns of voting that we saw in the recent European elections, with a widespread reduction in support for the older centre parties and a rise in support for more radical voices, whether on the right or for parties like the Greens. 

Many people seem to have lost faith (for now at least) in the old ways, and they are looking for new answers.

"But this experience of living in exile is not new of course.  It was also the experience of the people of Israel, the people to whom God speaks in the 40th chapter of the book of Isaiah.  In this case, many of the people of Israel have been literally taken into exile by the rulers of Assyria. 

"They had been taken to a foreign land, far away from their home, and they did not know when or whether they would be able to return.

"It must have been a terrifying and deeply unsettling experience (as it is for any people expelled from their home and finding themselves in a foreign land).  Had God deserted them?  Why had he let this happen?  What were they to do now, and would they ever be allowed to return to their homes?

"And it is into this situation that God speaks through his prophet.  The opening words of Isaiah chapter 40 speak of comfort for those who are feeling lost and bereaved: “Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God.” 

"And the section that we read goes on to speak of a liberation that is coming, and of the people returning at last to their homes.  It is a message of hope, drawing people into the future, encouraging them to lift their eyes and to focus not on their present difficulties, but on what God is doing and will do for them."

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