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Bishop in Europe’s Easter Message 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,


“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor. 5:19)

It is of the nature of this ‘Easter Message’ that it is written, published and mostly read in Lent, well before Easter. So I invite us to think about the joy of the resurrection in the context of the events leading up to the crucifixion of our Lord.

In the celebration of the Church’s liturgy there is the greatest dramatic distance between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. On Good Friday we recall the arrest of Jesus, Peter’s betrayal, the trials before Pilate and Herod, the baying crowd demanding crucifixion, the scourging and crucifixion. These are all events which depict the darkest aspects of human nature and which are appropriately expressed in sombre reflection and meditative music. Easter Sunday is a complete contrast centring on a garden tomb, a stone rolled away and the presence of angels impelling us to declare with organ and trumpets: ‘Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son: endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.’

It would, however, be very far from the case to suppose that Easter Sunday simply cancels out holy week and Good Friday. It is not as if God somehow switches on a light that turns night into day, so that fortunate Christians can now live in a peaceable world where love, life and grace simply dissolve all the disfigurements of human sin and evil. Instead, what we see in the pages of the New Testament, are the implications of Easter Sunday being progressively and challengingly worked out in the lives of individuals and communities. The church is born as people work out an answer to the question: ‘What does it mean that the Jesus who was deserted and executed is alive with God and also present with us who follow him?’

The gospel writers show in different ways how the resurrection is good news for human beings – precisely including those who were complicit in Jesus’s death. St. Luke especially links the resurrected Christ with the city of Jerusalem – the place where Herod, Pilate, Jews and Gentiles joined forces to kill the messiah (Acts 4:27). In Luke’s gospel, the ‘road to Emmaus’ turns out to be a journey back to Jerusalem (Luke 24:33), Jesus appears to the 11 as they eat a meal together in the city, and the action finishes with the disciples worshipping together in the Jerusalem Temple. Extraordinarily, Peter’s sermon in Solomon’s Collonade suggests that the people of Jerusalem, including their leaders, had acted in ignorance (Acts 3:17) and extends an offer of salvation to any who will repent. Just where you might have expected a message that celebrated Jesus’s victory ‘over’ the Jerusalem set, we see a remarkable attempt to ‘win over’ Jerusalem.

Peter himself, of course, had colluded in Jesus’s death, three times denying his Lord. It is St. John who describes in painful detail Jesus’s reinstatement of the ‘rockman’ – probing deeply into the extent of Peter’s love for his master, before reissuing the summons ‘follow me’. The other ‘pillar’ of the early church, Paul, had persecuted Christian believers, to the point of death, and he too must be challenged and ‘turned around’ in order to be saved (Acts 9:4). For Paul this involves an experience of physical blindness and a deeply humbling re-orientation of his core beliefs and practices.

It is with personal experience that the now ‘Saint’ Paul, tells us that ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.’ This is seen nowhere more clearly than in a crucified Christ who reconciles precisely those who had hurt him. The perfect victim grants absolution to his persecutors. In the face of humanity’s misguided attempt to annihilate the messiah, God overcomes the forces of evil and death in order to reconcile humanity to its creator. And God puts this resurrection power to work in the lives of individuals to bring them back to himself.

I have begun to think in recent years that the gospel does not just contain the message of reconciliation: the gospel is the message of reconciliation. That means the gospel of Easter Sunday is at work in the very earthly and all too human Monday to Friday realities of life persuading us, coaxing us and sometimes dragging us to face those things in our lives which separate us from God and from one another. And it means that all who are involved in the messy, costly and demanding work of reconciling people to each other and to God are doing God’s own work.

We inhabit a world that is deeply marked at the moment by sharp and polarising divisions. The kind of passion, anger and even hatred that was manifest in Holy Week is sadly and increasingly evident in the social media, in newspaper columns and in certain kinds of political and even ecclesiastical discourse. The Bridge Builders conflict resolution consultants talk about ‘level 5’ or ‘holy war’ conflicts where only the annihilation of the other will satisfy.

As we approach Easter, I am thankful that the love of God reaches down to the point of our deepest need. God in Christ takes upon himself the enmity, insults and blows of our sinful humanity and responds with the gracious offer to forgive and to reconcile. On Easter Sunday God demonstrates that he will not be defeated in his efforts to renew and redeem his creation. Each time we overcome the sin that separates people from their creator and from each other we prove the ongoing power of the resurrection.

‘No more we doubt thee; glorious Prince of life.

Life is naught without thee: aid us in our strife.

Make us more than conquerors through they deathless love.

Bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.’

And finally, I give my thanks as ever to all our clergy and lay people who will be involved in the preparation and conduct of worship for Holy Week and Easter. May God powerfully bless the words spoken and sung in our churches.

I wish you a blessed and joyful Easter,

+Robert Gibraltar in Europe

Bishop’s Lent Appeal 2018

2018 Bishop’s Lent Appeal: Please see the attached link for information about this year’s projects.

Bishop Robert says ‘There will be updates on these projects posted regularly on the Diocesan website at Do keep an eye out for these regular updates. And please do consider how you can support my appeal.’

Bishop in Europe’s Christmas Message 2017


The message of Christmas is so much bigger and better than the trappings of Christmastime! As I write these words, the temperature is about 23 degrees. The red hot poker and bird of paradise are in flower and large bunches of bananas are hanging from the trees. I am visiting the island of Madeira – a thousand miles away from the land of Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ and the German Christmas markets which have so conditioned the contemporary northern European Christmastime. So the absence of some familiar trappings (like cold weather!) turns me back to the gospel and to the great mystery of the incarnation recounted by St. John.

‘In the beginning’, says St. John, ‘was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God.’ The good news, with which John’s gospel starts, is that we human beings are not first in the world nor alone in the world. The Word is first and has come to us. He is before us and with us. So, John’s prologue lifts us above history, into a mystery: the glorious world of God’s eternity, glory and saving purposes. John talks about the nature of God. He explains who Jesus is. And he announces who we can become through believing in him.

In John’s Prologue, the most important affirmation about God is the last one: that God is Father. God is in a unique way the Father of Jesus Christ, and he seeks a warm, intimate relationship with all who will receive, believe and abide in him.

Jesus is sent from God bringing light and life. He is like one torch lit from another. But the light is in continual tension with darkness. The darkness doesn’t understand or comprehend the light. But neither can it overcome the light and put it out. There is a blindness in the world which means that people don’t know the light when it comes. So when Jesus comes to his own people they receive him not.

Yet to those who do believe, Jesus gives the power to become children of God, children of the same heavenly father. It has been called a ‘leap of faith’. But that makes belief in Jesus sound weird or irrational. We might better talk about a ‘leap of imagination’. It is about daring to imagine the colours in which our lives could be painted. It is about extending our minds to comprehend a person who embodies goodness and truth and grace.

To put it another way, believing in Jesus is a matter of growing in relationship with the truth. We have dismally learnt to think of ourselves as ‘post-truth’ – a society where truth is simply lost in emotion and clamour and nothing can be believed. Instead, the Christmas gospel invites us to a relationship with the God who is truth where we can find enduring stability and peace.

The final verse of John’s prologue is the climax towards which the passage is building. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” This is the astonishing affirmation that the God who is eternal spirit becomes man in a particular time and a particular place in human history. God becomes flesh – this stuff which is mortal, so fragile, so easily damaged.

Amongst all the Christmas gifts, this is the supreme gift – God’s greatest ever gift to the world. It is the gift of a person full of grace – of loveliness, goodness, graciousness – in contrast to the ungraciousness and ugliness into which he is born. And it is a gift, a person, full of truth – reality, integrity, trustworthiness. In fragile flesh he comes and dwells, or literally ‘pitches his tent’, amongst us. And what a resonant image that is in our current circumstances. God who is outside space and time comes into human reality to transform it from within.

The incarnation is an event which human beings have from time to time realized is of world changing significance. Which is why people were right to reset our Western calendar at zero to mark this birthday. And in our own day and in our Anglican diocese in Europe I meet individual Christians and churches who are inspired by their own encounter with Jesus to do things which make a difference. Building bridges between people of different countries, creating community, reaching out to strangers, helping – those fleeing as refugees to find a new home.

We each of us have a tendency, sometimes called ‘sin’ to turn in on ourselves. Perversely, we often prefer darkness to light and perhaps in this past year the sense of darkness has seemed stronger. But as we prepare for Christmas we recollect again that the light comes into the world in the person of Jesus, that the darkness has not overcome it, and that the inspiration Jesus has provided to his followers continues to ensure that the light shines brightly.

Wherever you live in our vast European diocese, I wish each of you and your families a very happy Christmas. And I hope that during 2018, whatever the year ahead brings, God will irradiate your lives with his presence and peace.

Robert Gibraltar in Europe