Russell’s Monthly Newsletter – May 2019

Russell’s Monthly Newsletter

Dear Friends,

The Manse, over Easter, was the focus of intensive revision.  Cam was revising for his university finals and
Ross for his A levels.  I, too, was in
the business of revision – but not in the same sense as Cam and Ross who were
swatting for exams.  But their revision
helped shape my revision.  Let me
explain.

A university website gives advice to students about how to revise.  It says: “Revising effectively means much more than simply trying to memorise
information to regurgitate in the exam: it involves practise in recalling
information in a flexible and ‘useable’ way; it involves practise in
understanding and answering exam questions in an appropriate manner; it
involves practise in assessing the quality of an answer. As such, revision
needs to be an active and varied process that addresses the above three
elements.” 

Cam and Ross were busy revising ancient Greek and modern Arabic, drama,
history and religious studies.  My time
was more accurately described as re-visioning. 
This was sparked by two books I had read recently.  The first was Stephen Fry’s ‘Mythos’ where he
retells the myths of ancient Greece as only Stephen Fry can.  He does so with great humour and with all the
craft of great story tellers down the centuries.  Throughout I sensed the impact these great
and ancient stories had had on story tellers ever since, including those who were
telling the story of God’s activity as understood in the Jewish and Christian
traditions.  Our faith did not develop in
a vacuum.  It was deeply entrenched in
the culture of its day and there was unquestionably an inevitable and profitable
dialogue between what had gone before and what was new.  Faith has always been going through a process
of ‘re-formation’ in order for it to be ‘flexible’ and ‘useable’.

The second book which helped me ‘re-vision’ faith was Richard Holloway’s ‘A
Short History of Religion’.  His brief but
stimulating journey through the story of all the great faiths asks as many questions
as it answers.  Not least: ‘why so many
different faiths?’  One important answer
to that question is that at different times and different places, people were
asking different questions.  For Jesus
the basic question he seems to answer is not the one Christian tradition has suggested.  For many faith is about where you go when you
die: are you destined for heaven or hell? or, if we are being honest, the
question is: why am I going to heaven and people who don’t agree with me going
to eternal damnation?’  For Jesus, and
presumably for those who seek to follow him’ the question is actually: ‘what
would life on earth look like if people followed God’s way rather than their
own way or the way the rulers of the world tell us we must follow?’  After all, his stories were all about the
reign (or Kingdom) of God and he taught his followers to pray: thy kingdom
come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

I believe we get an important re-visioning of our world this month as we
celebrate Christian Aid Week.  This gives
us a vision of God’s world where our time and energy are spent in helping the
most vulnerable and needy.  Our wealth is
re-distributed – even if only in a very minor way – from those who have to
support those who have virtually nothing. 
People in need are given the resources and support to help lift
themselves out of poverty.  All because,
like Christian Aid, God believes in life before death, rather than worrying
about life after death. 

Good luck to all those who are sitting exams.  I hope your revision has gone well and reaps
its own reward.  May God be with all of
us in our re-visioning.  May it be active
and varied in producing understanding which is appropriate for our world today.  We owe it to God and to our world.    

With love and prayers, Russell.

Russell Furley-Smith

Author: Russell Furley-Smith

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