Please pray for Carole and David as David comes to the end of his chemo. Please pray that the cancer has gone
I`ve just been watching the start of the vigil in Lichfield Cathedral, for Stephen Sutton who raised over 4 million pounds for the Teenage Cancer Trust and passed away recently at only 19 years of age.
Powerful and emotional scenes; wise words; inspiring thoughts are all ways of describing the opening part of the vigil as the Dean of Lichfield Cathedral led a short time of worship. Certain quotes and requests jumped out at me as a challenge to myself and my lifestyle.
“Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” is a powerful proclamation of the way Stephen took on his cancer and made the most of his life. Do we do the same ?
“It’s not about how long a life is lived but about what is achieved in that life” What are we striving to achieve ?
We are all invited to give a thumbs up for Stephen tomorrow at 11.00 and try to create a social media `thunderclap` (messages posted simultaneously on Facebook and Twitter. Over and above that magnificent gesture, do we give a thumbs up to life itself at other times; to generosity, graciousness, love, laughter and all the other things that make life so special ?
As well as raising so much money and awareness of teenage cancer, I feel that Stephen has taught the world something about having a zest for life and thinking about others above self. Whilst recognising that like the rest of us Stephen had faults and failings I do believe that this world has been a better place for Stephen having been a part of it and a poorer place without him. Surely his greatest legacy would be for us all to strive to have the same values and determination to make it a better place.
I`ve had a different few days. I spent part of Tuesday at an extra Ministerial Synod when Rev Gareth Powell came to speak to the District Ministers. Gareth is the Assistant Secretary to Conference and he spoke about the challenges to the Connexional team, the issue of allowances, the role of Methodist Council, disciplinary procedures he`s had to deal with this year in the light of high-profile cases. Gareth gave an insight into the difficult work of `them up there` and showed how the Connexional team genuinely try to further the work of Christ through the Methodist Church. He was gracious enough to admit they sometimes get it wrong but also disappointed that they don`t always get the credit or support they deserve when things go right.
On The evening I went with two of our Circuit Stewards to the District stationing meeting to see what is happening on the stationing of Ministers in 2015. As always it is a process completely enveloped in prayer.
On Thursday I attended the Queens Foundation where on the morning I met with Angela Pothecary our incoming student Presbyter to put some of the final touches to her training programme ready for June 1st. On the afternoon I met with Lew Greaves, our incoming probationer Presbyter on a training day looking at the nature of the relationship that Lew and I will need to have in order to draw the best from him and give him and Carly the best from the Circuit. It’s exciting and fearsome realising the responsibility for `birthing` a new Ministry
It all means that I’ve seen a wide spectrum of Methodism and it`s been a good reminder of the Connexionalism that we all share. So often we forget that we are a part of a world-wide Communion of Methodists. Often we think that we are in decline but when you meet at all the different levels of Methodism you begin to realise that there is still so much to give thanks for.
In about four weeks’ time Methodist Conference will gather to debate some major issues in the life of our Church, but primarily will meet to offer praise and worship to the one whose name we carry, Jesus Christ, Lord and saviour. Please pray for those attending Conference.
Further to my previous posting I`ve been reminded of this piece of writing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Pastor and theologian who was hung for his opposition to Hitler. It comes from the letters he wrote whilst in prison.
For copyright reasons I`m not reproducing it but I invite you to follow the link and be inspired by the honesty of the man and his inspirational faith when facing death.
Its been a real inspiration to me
How do we see other people ? Do we simply see them as a series of black and white lines, easily definable and with no grey areas that make us stop and think ? or do we see others as a multi-coloured array of different dimensions ?
I think that too often its easy to simply categorise people into little compartments that suit our thinking or our way of life. It helps us if we can organise our thoughts on other people according to our own pre-set way of thinking rather than examining the whole person in front of us.
This came to mind in a casual FaceBook conversation last week with a young man I`m just getting to know. We discovered a mutual liking for the 1960`s television programme “The Prisoner”. If you`re not familiar with the concept of the programme or if it wasn’t to your taste I won`t dwell on it but suffice to say the great cry of defiance from the prisoner was “I AM NOT A NUMBER !” and that should be the cry of all of us when talking/sharing with others “I am not a number” but we also need to remember that neither are they just numbers. No, they are real human beings, with feelings, thoughts, opinions (just as valid as mine). They too have times of joy and despair, clarity and confusion, worry and anxiety just as I do. They too are products of their generation with that generations understanding and prejudices to be worked through and grown out of.
In short when we look at someone we shouldn`t just be aware of what we see, but we need to spend time with them, share with them and learn from them rather than the spontaneous judgementalism that we`re so often afflicted with and which ruins our potential relationships, and consequently our possibility of showing them Jesus.
In my time (and that sounds as though I`m moving towards old age) I`ve seen changes in attitude towards colour, religion, women Priests, same-sex relationships, people living together and so often I`ve had to stop and reassess what I really think. In some cases I`ve been deeply challenged and in others its reaffirmed what I already believed, but the point is that it can never be a simple black and white, non grey picture as real, God-created, human beings are involved.
I like the following two stories……………………….. Two apples up in a tree were looking down on the world. The first apple said, “Look at all those people fighting, robbing, rioting — no one seems willing to get along with his fellow-man. Someday we apples will be the only ones left. Then we’ll rule the world.”
Replied the second apple, “Which of us — the reds or the greens?”
General Robert E. Lee was a devout follower of Jesus Christ. It is said that soon after the end of the American Civil War, he visited a church in Washington, D.C. During the communion service he knelt beside a black man. An onlooker said to him later, “How could you do that?” Lee replied, “My friend, all ground is level beneath the cross.”
In the eyes of Jesus all people are to be loved (doesn`t mean that all will acknowledge him as Lord and Saviour), and respected. Look again at the picture at the tope of the screen (assuming you`ve studied it already and worked out who the handsome hunk is), but this time notice the word on the t-shirt: LOVE
Let us endeavour to be people of love rather than of judgemental prejudice.
Following on from last weeks blog message when I reflected on making the preaching plan out (down to last 7 gaps), I`v e been reflecting on my Ministry and why it is that some days I`m on an absolute high whilst at other times I feel lethargic and frustrated.
Since last week I`ve been on a few days `holiday` (each quarter Ministers are expected to take three consecutive days away from the work: not many achieve it) and yet because of having to progress the plan, and deal with one or two bits of administration, and attend a meeting this morning its been a bit of a mixture. Last Sunday felt wonderful; Alison and I had a good friend to stay for a few days, a couple more friends joined us for a meal on the Saturday evening and then two good services on the Sunday. Sunday night I travelled up to Dads for a few days and caught up with my brother and his wife while I was there. All in all it was a good time, and yet now that I`ve had a mixture of relaxation time and the preaching plan I feel quite flat.
The more I think about it the more I come to the conclusion that I was called to share the Gospel of Jesus amongst people and that I think is the source of my frustration; meetings are necessary for forward planning and thinking but often they can be unproductive; plan making is necessary for the organised delivery of worship and preaching to those already inside the Church; even Church tea-parties/coffee mornings etc. can be deemed necessary for the fellowship of the Church folk; however none of these fully meet my need to tell others of the one who came to save me and who I desire to follow each and every day.
To put it bluntly “I get my buzz from being among people telling them about Jesus; teaching them discipleship; seeing someone draw closer to Jesus and the Kingdom”
This is why I love preaching more than plan making; why I enjoy taking risks for the Kingdom rather than holding a meeting to talk about it; why I enjoy sitting with someone who wouldn’t dream of entering a Church and chewing the fat with them.
None of this is to deny my love of my Church people and nor is it to deny the skills and gifts of colleagues right across the Connexion for whom the pastoral side of Ministry is important, but it is to explain that for me the work of an evangelist tugs at my heart far more than anything else. I long to be among my Church folk again sharing what I know, believe and exploring with them how we can be more Kingdom orientated. In short “I`m a people person”
I`ve always known this and at the same time always lived with the tension of a desk based Ministry versus a people centred Ministry. So often its about balancing the two, but, boy, do I find it hard when the former begins to dominate the latter. That’s when things are out of kilter as it were.
I hope you enjoy the pictures. They are of a sculpture based in the Chapel at the National Memorial Arboretum, which always appeals to me. Its title is “The Storyteller” and its designed to depict the children listening to the storyteller (Jesus) each having the potential to become apostles of the Lord.
“Lord, help me to tell your story so that others will follow you”