Jesus said “I am the Light of the world“
I`ve just returned from the annual District Superintendents retreat at Holthorpe Hall, near Market Harborough; a time when the District Superintendents can get together, relax in each others company, dream dreams, share and often resolve issues, study together and support each other. This year was no different but with the added addition of a sense of togetherness and with that came the feeling of old wounds being healed. It was a God-given couple of days.
One of the things that strikes me is how often God is silent. C.S.Lewis spoke of the long silence of God, in his book “A Grief Observed” and its so true. It sometimes seems that at our times of crisis, uncertainty, doubt even, it is then that we could do with hearing the voice of God but so often we don`t.
Just as the board reminds us we would still choose to believe in the sun, even at night, so should we continue to believe in God even in his silence (apparent). Why ? Because of past experience. We look back at those times when we`ve felt particularly close to God and draw strength from them, trusting that if the truth of God was there in our past then that truth will not change. The God of the past is also the God of the present and the God of the tomorrow.
We`ve been led superbly well by Rev Michael Mitton, an Anglican colleague with whom I share the MSM work but on one occasion as he spoke this quote came back to my mind, “Hope is hearing the music of the future; faith is dancing to it today” (Bishop Bill Frey).
Even in the silence of God let us dance to the music he has given in the past, for that is our hope and our faith.
I went home at the weekend and it turned into a memorable trip for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the purpose of the trip was to fulfil an appointment made 18 months ago to preach at the 75th anniversary of The Grove Methodist Chapel. Previously I`ve preached on their 50th and their 60th so I feel as though I`m in a pattern! I challenged them to invite me back for their Centenary when I`ll be 80! We`ll see what happens. The Grove is the small village next door to where I grew up and en-route to my school, so much of my childhood was spent there. Nana also lived in the Grove as did other relatives; it was where I played my first football match for the Boys Brigade, in mud (and my first Boys Brigade officer, Harold Binks, was in the congregation); where I cut through the woods to get home and they seemed much bigger then. The memories came flooding back.
The photograph is of my home town of Consett taken from the hill above my Dads house. If you know where to look you can spot The Grove Chapel as well as Consett town centre where my home Chapel lies. Consett is, and always will be, a very special place for me. Its unlikely that I`ll ever return to live there (simply because so much of my life is now in the East Midlands) but it will always be dear to me; I`m a Consett lad through and through and although many address me as a Geordie the truth is I`m a Consettonian. Consett, a small ex-steel town, and its residents has forged me into the person I am today. The Chapel had its Christmas Fayre while we were there and, apart from stopping for the bacon butty, I spent the entire morning catching up with friends who have been a part of my life and an influence upon it.
The second special thing about the weekend was the opportunity to catch up with someone who I haven’t seen in many years. She has always been in my prayers and thanks to the miracle of FaceBook we were able to get in touch earlier this year, but the weekend was the first chance to actually speak face to face. It was a wonderful, special moment. FaceBook may have its critics, and often rightly so, but it also raises the opportunities for relationship building. Like everything else in life if its used properly its a powerful social tool.
Thirdly, we travelled with our good friends Alison and Stuart, so it was an opportunity to `show off` the town. We also went to Durham Cathedral where a replica of the Cathedral is being built in Lego bricks. Anyone who truly knows me knows of my love of Lego, so I simply had to go and see it. Sadly, at the moment my blog won`t allow me to insert the photograph of the Lego Cathedral, but if I get the chance later I`ll add it. The whole project is to raise money for the work of the Cathedral. I wonder “does this now mean I can put `Cathedral builder` onto my CV?”
Fourthly, and most importantly of all it gave me a chance to have the weekend with my hero, Dad. Those who know me well will be fully aware of how much I love him and admire him, so it was a special bonus to be able to take him with us to Durham, for a drink on the evening and for lunch the following day. A wicked sense of humour, a sparkle in his eye and thats all I need to know he`s well. I hope I`m that good when I`m his age.
Wow! What a privilege it is to belong to people in Christs family, Christans.
There were 19 people gathered representing at least 10 Churches ranging from a small community Church to a couple of very large and thriving Churches, and no difference was made between people. I was warmly welcomed even though my current ear infection meant I could hear very little (only the occasional word) and made to feel at home. During a break from the discussions three people prayed for my hearing (a Pentecostal church lady, a Baptist church lady and an Asian Community church lady- now that's ecumenism for you). After the break my hearing began to improve so that by the end of the business meeting I was able hold comfortable one to one chats ! Praise the Lord.
Afterwards six of us were able to go for a meal together, where the conversation ranged from Anglican lady Bishops, through the current crisis of the Co-op bank chairman to whether or not some hymns can be played on a ukulele !! Incredibly good fellowship.
Not once this morning was there any hint of competition, of animosity or jealousy; just genuine family care. And that's just how it should be………me family, brothers, sisters, cousins genuinely rejoicing in their shared love of Jesus. After all we aren't called by God to promote our own particular denomination, but we are called to proclaim the one who came out of the glory of Heaven, who mixed with outcasts, who went to the cross to die and who was raised from the tomb to glory, the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In a FB entry and also on the Nottingham and Derby District website on Thursday morning was a quotation by Pastor Rick Warren who said that Pastors are either risk-takers, caretakers or undertakers.This has dominated my thinking since, but as I've been poorly, I haven't had the chance to put anything down.Whilst the quotation seems to imply that Pastors are one of the three, in those multi-pastoral denominations like the Methodist Church where most Ministers will have 3 or 4 churches it is possible to be all three of the named tasks! Sometimes it is even possible to move between the tasks within a single church as we find ourselves at the mercy of the circumstances around us.I suspect that most Ministers want to be risk-takers but end up as caretakers (simply maintaining that which is in existence already) or undertakers (watching over a dying church): why? Often because of the age old attitudes which refuse to budge. The statement “we like things the way they are” or “this will see us out” or “we can't do that, we tried it fifty years ago and it didn't work then”.I came to the conclusion several years ago that doorstops can serve two purposes………
If we are looking to our Ministers to be risk takers for Jesus then we need to ensure that we are not doorstops who prevent the door to riskiness being opened; instead we need to be doorstops who prevent the door to opportunities (risky or otherwise) ever being shut.
We too must learn to take risks.
And yet that's what many Christians say; as if it makes everything alright again and sadly when it doesn't, there is still the cry from some quarters that a persons faith is obviously not strong enough.
In a word “rubbish”
I would have liked to have used a stronger word but thought better of it.
However, that's what it amounts to for I believe in a God who does love us but expects us to get off our backsides and show his love. It's not just about saying it, it's about doing it.
That's why I give thanks that I belong to two of the biggest providers of care at a time like this. Rotary International have once again mobilised its volunteers, organised and despatched shelter boxes, and arranged for financial assistance. The Methodist Church (and I dare say other Churches) met under its Methodist Relief and Development (MRDF) banner yesterday and launched a scheme to raise and send monies (more below).
If we're going to talk about the love of God then we need to show it sacrificially in terms of finance, time, energy, prayers etc. we need to let the victims of such tragedies see our action. God does love people but he has given us the means to show that and he expects us to do so.
Oh, and by the way that means your neighbour next door as well!!
If you feel you can contribute in any way to the MRDF appeal the details are below……..