So far we have looked in general at how God wants us to live, the rules God gives us to maintain our relationship with him, and answered the question “Is Christianity in decline.” The text of those sermons are on the website if you want to refresh your memory or see what we have thought about on a Sunday you weren’t here.
Today we start to think about “Being God’s people in this parish.” [And on the day when we at St. Matthew’s remember our patron saint we are mindful of how Matthew, an apostle of Christ, did that, and of how this church over the last 150 years has been faithful in its mission and worship.]
So, what does being God’s people in this parish mean? Well, I guess it’s about our mission in the world, and it’s about our life together.
Right from the beginning of God’s relationship with creation we see something about the mission of all God’s people. In creation there is much about relationship – relationship between God and his people and relationship between all the lives and breaths on the earth. In Abraham we see how God’s chosen people are to be a blessing to the nations – to enable others to come into relationship with God. This is something that becomes ever more clear as we progress through the Bible. Ultimately this is seen and experienced in Christ, progresses through the work of the apostles and the early church and continues in us.
We have a responsibility to continue God’s mission in the world, to be a blessing to the world, to proclaim the Good News of Christ. This mission is not something that only a select few are called to be engaged with, but it is a task we all share in.
Being a Christian makes a difference in our lives – we are transformed by the love of God; and because God is at work in our lives we will be seen to be different by those we meet in our daily lives. You may not automatically think that because you show love and care and compassion to those around you that you doing anything that could be considered as special or different. But you are. You are showing the love and compassion that God has for this broken world. Recently a friend of ours was involved in a car accident. She said she was amazed at how many people drove off without stopping to help. Only one person stopped and sat with her until help arrived. We live in a world that is often selfish and uncaring. So, in ordinary everyday things we can be and are involved in God’s mission.
There are also more formal and planned ways in which we live out our mission to be a blessing to the world. Through our church schools; through our support of charities, through the ministry of the church, through special events and occasions that draw more people into contact with God. These and so many other things are an important part of God’s mission in the world; initiatives that help us reach out to those in our community who are lost, hurting, and in need of knowing in their lives the reality of God’s loving action and purpose. We have received the greatest gift of all – knowledge and love of God – it is a gift we don’t keep to ourselves, it is a gift to share in the ordinary things of life and in special ways too.
The other part of Being God’s people in this parish that I want to touch on briefly today is our life together, and in particular how we can grow in faith. As I mentioned last week there are two forms of growth that we as a church can influence – numerical growth and spiritual growth. The two are very much interwoven, I think, because when we look at churches that are growing numerically there is always space in the life of that church for spiritual growth.
In recent years we often here about the journey of life and the journey of faith. The idea of journeying is a good analogy, and is one that many people find helpful. A journey has a starting point (birth or as in faith rebirth) and has an end point (death and resurrection). But throughout the journey there is movement, there is change, there is growth, and there are times of rest and refreshment. As a church we have a responsibility to enable one another to grow, to change and find rest and refreshment in Christ and so move forward in God and with God.
St. Luke’s: (On our PCC residential I hope we can spend some time on this matter – for as important as the fabric of the building is, so is our spiritual life) St. Matthew’s: [The PCC has started to think about this and] during Lent next year we will be starting some discussion, or bible study groups. I know from my own journey of faith thus far, and from seeing others grow, how important such opportunities are; as groups such as these enable us to ask questions about the faith and to discover new things about God in a way that isn’t possible through just listening to sermons. Another thing I would like to develop further is Christian basics courses. At the moment this only happens in a small way through the confirmation course, so it would be good to look at that in more detail and see how it can be improved and widened. (My apologies for those who are waiting for the next round of confirmation – we took the decision to move our confirmation date to later in the year, so we are having a gap of 18 months this time between confirmations). One of the things that the Tampere trip taught me was how little time we often give to confirmation preparation. In Finland, with our young people, we had all day for a week, and still there didn’t seem to be enough time to do all we wanted to do. There was always more to discuss, more to explore, more to learn. But I guess that’s also a good thing. There is always more for us to learn about the love and graciousness of God; there is always more to learn about presence and activity in the world and the part he would have us play in it. It is a life’s work of walking with him; but we have to enable that to happen. For when we walk with our Lord, following his ways we can be a real blessing to the world.
I leave you with this story. Following World War II some German students volunteered to help with rebuilding things effected by Luftwaffe bombings. As the work progressed, they weren't sure how to best restore a large statue of Jesus with has arms outstretched and bearing the familiar inscription, "Come unto Me." They were able to repair all the damage to the statue except for Christ's hands which had been completely destroyed. Should they even attempt to rebuild these? Finally, the workers reached a decision that still stands today. They decided to leave the hands off and changed the inscription to read: "Christ has no hands but ours."
The phrase "Christ has no hands but ours" is also found in a prayer by St. Teresa of Avila. Let it be our prayer:
You have no body on earth but ours,
No hands but ours,
No feet but ours.
Ours are the eyes through which your compassion
Must look out on the world.
Ours are the feet by which you may still
Go about doing good.
Ours are the hands with which
You bless people now.
Bless our minds and bodies,
That we may be a blessing to others.
Creation date : 25/09/2007 - 20:44
Last update : 25/09/2007 - 20:44
Category : Sermon's
Page read 7719 times
Print the page