LETTER FROM THE VICAR
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! These are the words of Easter greetings which are joyous because Jesus rising to a new Resurrection life is Good News for everybody. Everybody is invited into the Kingdom of God, whoever they are and whatever their position in life. This was a revolutionary concept for the time of Jesus. Women were considered of no account, purely there to meet the needs of their menfolk and to provide children to inherit. Children were not even considered human beings. Those who were outside of the family of Israel, the Gentiles, were considered to be "dogs" to quote the name Jesus gives to them and which, presumably, was common parlance? The orphans and the widows, if they had no man to provide for them, went hungry and without.
Whatever traditional and widely held attitudes Jesus acquired during his childhood he certainly changed them as he went through life and through the frenetic 3 years of his earthly ministry, following his baptism. The Risen Christ is spoken of, by St Paul, in Galatians chapter 3 in this universal and egalitarian way:
for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.
It is clear that, in belonging to Christ, all divisions between us dissolve away. Jesus' treatment of children as precious and to be cared for was exceptional. Jesus' treatment of women, particularly those who were ritually to be shunned, broke down barriers and offended religious authorities. The first witness of the resurrection in John's Gospel is a woman and the first person to proclaim Jesus as Messiah is Martha (John 11). Jesus is even merciful towards tax collectors and robbers. You didn't need to be wealthy or powerful or have any other designation in order for Jesus' sacrifice to be for you. You just needed to believe and be baptised in the name of Jesus.
It has taken the church 2000 years, but, we have finally got all kinds of declarations which affirm that we believe men, women and children should be treated equally and without violence or abuse. We commit ourselves to care for vulnerable people who come to us and we have just adopted a policy to be aware of and help in cases of domestic abuse. If you look on our Safeguarding Noticeboard in either of our churches you will find all of these commitments and affirmations, that everybody should be treated equally and with love. Sadly, the Church has needed to do all of this because we have failed many times in our history to carry out the commands of Jesus, in these areas.
Domestic violence has gone on throughout time and continues. Our churches both support the Women's Refuge and we have Mothers Union Lent appeals collecting for abused men and women who are trying to start again in a place of safety, away from their abuser. Domestic violence and abuse services for Dudley can be accessed through the single point of contact on 01384 455411. Cases of domestic abuse can be reported using the police non-emergency number 101 or in an emergency dial 999.
The Good News of Jesus Christ at Easter is that everybody is equal in the Kingdom of God and that nobody is permitted to do violence to another or to dominate another from a position of power. Only God has power and he is merciful and gracious in how he exercises it. We are called to be like Him. If you know of anybody who is experiencing domestic violence, whatever their age, then the information above might be helpful.