Recently I travelled to Canterbury for our son Jonathan’s graduation. It was a grand affair which took place in the Cathedral. All the students were dressed up in robes and mortar boards, and the University staff were in their finest for the occasion. I think the person reading out the names of all the graduates must have practiced hard at their pronunciation, as some of them seemed decidedly tricky!
An honorary degree was also awarded at the ceremony to an alumnus, Iva Daadler, who gave an interesting talk following the result of the EU referendum. He described the generation which the graduates represent as one which, instead of choosing left or right wing politics, will make the choice of being ‘open’ or ‘closed’.
I’ve been reading the book of Acts where the apostles found that Holy Spirit was given by God not only to the Jewish nations, but to the Gentiles too – people from other nations apart from the Jews – people like us. That must have been quite a change of understanding for the Jews to move from thinking of themselves alone as God’s chosen people to accepting that salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit were being offered to people of all nations.
I’m glad that I don’t have to make the decisions about who should or shouldn’t be allowed residence in our country. But I guess we can all choose how we treat people of other nations who we meet. We can choose to be ‘open’ or ‘closed’ to new people. I think Jesus wants us to be open to people of other cultures and backgrounds. To learn from them and to tell them about our views and beliefs too. Differences of culture or ethnicity are not a barrier to Jesus. As Paul say in Galatians 3 In Christ ‘there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’. The good news is good news for everyone, regardless of background, and so we needn’t be afraid of trying to show and to tell that good news to people of other nations whom we meet.
Rev Chris Stebbing