Two photographs which stand in sharp contrast to each other. The first is from a friend who suffered the loss of her garden shed in the recent gales. The next door neighbours fence panel blew over and took out her shed, thankfully whilst sparing the greenhouse which would have been next in line !! By contrast the second picture was taken this morning outside Skegby Methodist Chapel as they opened their premises for their monthly community coffee morning, which was quite full of people and was raising money for `Action for Children` a Methodist children’s charity. Each month they choose a different charity to send the proceeds to.
Why am I highlighting these two occasions ? I think that in their own way they show the contrasts in the world. Some will go through life reaping havoc wherever they go by their selfishness, self-centredness, egotistical hedonism or by their careless and thoughtless lifestyles. The media shows all too graphically for us what happens on weekends in many of our towns and cities where young men and women seek an alcohol fuelled temporary experience only to wake up later to discover broken relationships, unwanted pregnancies, ill-health and so on. Of course this is a sweeping generalisation but to many people this is a normal experience which they would describe as `enjoyment` but there is no thought to the potential consequences on other people, let alone themselves. We find the same with speeding car drivers, drug users, and the list goes on.
By contrast the people of Skegby, and many other places, show us the benefits of a lifestyle lived for other people. This morning there was laughter, fun, good conversation and `gossip`. I spent some of the time talking to a gentleman who was visiting for the first time and was seeking companionship, and an elderly couple who were considering joining the Church as they had received a lovely warm welcome. Peoples lives were enriched by simply dropping in for a coffee and a bacon butty ! All because of the desire of the Chapel folk to serve the community in some way and raise funds for a much-needed charity at the same time.
Today their desire to serve their community will have resulted in many folk feeling good about themselves and also many children who have little or who live in situations of abuse and violence will feel the benefits through the money raised.
Which camp do I want to be in ? Without a shadow of a doubt I want my life to be one lived FOR other people and not one lived IN SPITE OF other people ! In tomorrows worship we will make the annual Methodist Covenant, which is our annual renewing of our promise to serve God in our lives and in this world. It contains many challenging phrases and when people take it seriously it is quite hard to live up to, and so it should be. It demands quite exacting standards of the followers of Jesus. The central part of the service contains the following promise …………………….
‘I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.’
That opening line “I am no longer my own, but yours………..” sums up the choice we have between living for ourselves which is almost inevitably hedonistic or living under Gods direction which will always be to put Him and others first.
I fail often to keep that promise but tomorrow I`ll be saying it again, meaning it again, endeavouring to live it again, but thankful in the knowledge that we have a loving, forgiving God who picks us up from the gutters of life when we get things wrong, restores us and gently says “now let’s have another go, shall we ?”