May 2017

Dear Friends,

“You’re joking. Not another election!” Brenda from Bristol’s reaction to the prospect of having to endure over a month of non-stop electioneering will have been echoed by many. However important it is that we should all have our say, we can still suffer from election fatigue.

When the apostles elected a successor to the traitor Judas they simply drew lots, no doubt believing that by doing so they were placing the decision in God’s hands. The college of cardinals, when they meet in secret conclave to elect a new pope, expect the result of their ballots to reflect God’s choice. After his election Pope John Paul 1 was acclaimed by Cardinal Basil Hume as “God’s candidate.” Thirty-three days later he was dead. That doesn’t necessarily mean John Paul1 was not God’s candidate, but it does remind us of the truth of an old saying – “man proposes but God disposes.” Judas’s successor, Matthias, survived longer than Pope John Paul1, though he was still martyred, as were all the other apostles with the exception of John. But despite that, the apostles had a greater influence on the world’s history than any UK government - a fact that might help us to see our present turmoils in a longer and broader perspective.

Election features prominently the Judeo-Christian tradition, both in the choices we have to make (life or death, blessing or curse) but also, and even more fundamentally, in the choices God has made. The people of Israel are described as his chosen people; the Church as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, God’s elect. It’s a notion which can all too easily lead to exclusiveness:

“We are the chosen few,
All others will be damned.
There’s isn’t room for more,
We can’t have heaven crammed!

That’s a grotesque misrepresentation of what the scriptures mean by election. Its purpose, far from being exclusive, is to spread the love of God as widely as possible. On May 21st we expect around thirty people to be confirmed in Wentworth church. They will affirm declare their allegiance to Christ. It will be their own choice. But behind their choice lies God’s choice. Shortly before his crucifixion our Lord spoke these words to his disciples: “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15.16). He continues to say it to us. It’s the one kind of election talk we can’t afford to ignore.