Until this evening I didn’t realise that there is a beautiful stain glass window depicting St John the Evangelist in our church because it is set so high in the wall of the Gethsemane Chapel. As I sat in that prayerful chapel a glorious light tracked across the altar
I’ve bought one of these along this morning. Our house is littered with them. No it isn’t the yellow jumper from the Tour de France cycle race This is a high visibility jacket. As you will soon find out my husband is a bit keen on cycling. He gets his spiritual high from cycling miles on a Sunday morning and in September he is off the alps to cycle a bit more of the tour de France route. Of course I want him to be seen especially when he whizzes around the country lanes on his bike. I really don’t want him to be hit by a car or a deer jumping over the hedge. The bright yellow means that he can be seen.
• Beeing seen…..
• it’s made me think about being a high visibility Christian. How do we do that? In our baptism we put on Christ , a bit like wearing a high visibility jacket. Putting on Christ is very symbolic. In the early days of the church when folks decided that they wanted to follow Jesus they spent a period of time learning about him before they were baptised. On the day of their baptism they stripped off their old clothes to signify leaving behind an old way of life and then they went down into the baptismal waters to signify dying with Christ and when they came up out of the otherside they put on new clothes to signify putting on Christ. The new way of life that they were embracing. It’s a bit like putting on high visibility jacket.
• So my thought for us today is how can we be high visibility
Christians in this place. What is it that we do that everyone around us can see and know that we are Christians. How will people know that we are followers of Christ?
• Since Easter season in church we hear readings from the acts of the apostles and the epistles about the early Christians as they began to learn about this new thing, new ways of doing things. they were learning about what it meant to put on high visibility jackets
• Well, Jesus gave us the answer. We are known by how we love each other. Jesus said that this was a new way of doing things, we put on new clothes, and what we do is we love.
Now hold that thought for a moment –being high visibility Christians by how we love while we have a little think about the gospel story.
The parable of the sower and remember that parables are stories that need to be chewed over. If they are not surprising us as they would have the original hearers then they are not doing their work. We have heard the parable of the sower before. Many, many times. You’ll have heard sermons about if we are to be good high visibility Christians we need to be planted in good soil if we are to flourish. We need to read our bibles and pray everyday otherwise we will end up like the seed that has fallen on the rocky ground or amongst the thistles. That’s all good stuff but hearer’s in Jesus day would have heard this differently. As they heard Jesus telling the story they would have thought that the farmer was absolutely bonkers and at worse wasteful.
It’s not at all surprising that most of the seed didn’t grow. What’s surprising is that the farmer chose to sow it there. This isn’t a rich man we’re talking about here: this is a poor farmer, a tenant farmer who can only eke out a living for himself and his family. Good seed is hard to come by, in times of famine some families have been forced to eat the seed rather than starve; (Mike you will know more about this than I do having been in Africa). If seed is so precious then you want to make sure it gets into the best soil and you don’t waste any.
In short, this farmer behaves as though that which were most precious was available in unlimited supply. He could just throw it anywhere. What on earth is he thinking?
Lot’s of it everywhere. Lot’s of God’s love thrown everywhere.
indiscriminatingly, not carefully placed. Overflowing In abundance.
What would it take us to be a church like that? A church that threw out the abundance of god’s love everywhere. A church that didn’t hoard out of fear saying we have got to keep this to ourselves or only give to those who deserve God’s love or will do something with it. Or worse only give it to those who come on sunday
Listen to the best bit of Jesus parable: God does not say to the farmer, you idiot, or don’t be wasteful. God blesses a farmer like this beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. In Jesus time. Normally, the farmer who reaps a twofold harvest would be considered fortunate. A fivefold harvest would be a cause for celebration throughout the village, there would be much thanking god for his blessing. But this foolish farmer who, in a world of scarcity, casts his seed on soil everyone knows is worthless is blessed by God in shocking abundance: a harvest of thirty, sixty, and a hundred times what he sowed.
We think we live in a world of scarcity. Sometimes it is easy for us to get worried in church about money being tight, or our lack of resources and people to do things. Even when we’re looking at other qualities like, love and blessing, there’s sometimes a sense that the good things God has for us are in such limited supply that the only kind of good and sensible thing to guard it very carefully and keep it to ourselves and only give it to those we’re sure are worthy. That’s not the Good News God has for us:
The kingdom of God has come among us. The kingdom of love, justice and blessing. God has blessed us richly, and God’s people have been entrusted with that which is most precious in the world. But ironically, these priceless commodities only gain value God’s people scatter it absolutely heedless of who is worthy to receive it.
Listen! We are called to treat God’s love, God’s justice, and God’s blessing, precious as these are, as if they were absolutely limitless in supply for one simple reason:
They are. They really are.
So back to the high visibility jackets. We become high visibility Christians, people see that we are followers when we are abundant with God’s love and justice. Please God that they see it here.
At the end of the Pentecost liturgy when the Easter candle has made its journey to the font the congregation is sent out with these commissioning words.
For fifty days we have celebrated the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over the
powers of sin and death. We have proclaimed God’s mighty acts and we have prayed
that the power that was at work when God raised Jesus from the dead might be at
work in us. As part of God’s Church here in N, I call upon you to live out what you proclaim.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, will you dare to walk into God’s future, trusting him to be your guide? By the Spirit’s power, we will.
Will you dare to embrace each other and grow together in love? We will.
Will you dare to share your riches in common and minister to each other in need? We will.
Will you dare to pray for each other until your hearts beat with the longings of God? We will.
Will you dare to carry the light of Christ into the world’s dark places? We will.
WILL YOU DARE?
I think that this is such an awesome thing to promise that we can only do so with the help of God.
Daring to walk into God’s future is both exciting and terrifying. Too often in the church we play things safe choosing not to rock the boat so we don’t really dare to do anything.
I am still in the inbetween times so am using the opportunity to worship in other places on Sundays. For Pentecost Sunday I decided to join the congregation at St Mary’s Dorchester for their Sung Eucharist. As I sat in church waiting for the service to begin, it suddenly struck me that I had come full circle. Nine years ago I deaconed here for the first time. It was the day after my ordination. That was an inbetween time too! I was licensed as a curate to another benefice but was unable start there for a few months. It was a lonely time when I didn’t really belong anywhere. It was this lovely congregation that welcomed me to worship with them. I remember walking out of the vestry in a church I didn’t know, holding the Gospel high, never having handled a thurible before and hearing the parish priest whisper, ‘You do realise we sing the acclamation’. Not quite a baptism of fire but near enough for someone who already felt weak kneed and not up to the task. Hmmm. Not much has changed there then!
Today, we had the full Pentecost liturgy from Common Worship. I was struck by the prayer as the Easter candle was processed to the font. I love how inclusive it is; that it includes the young and the old, the strong and the weak, women and men. We all proclaim God’s love. No-one is excluded from this task. We all take God’s light out into the world.
Blessed are you, sovereign God, overflowing in love.
With Pentecost dawns the age of the Spirit.
Now the flame of heaven rests on every believer.
Strong and weak, women and men tell out your word;
the young receive visions, the old receive dreams.
With the new wine of the Spirit
they proclaim your reign of love.
Amid the birth pangs of the new creation
the way of light is made known.
Source of freedom, giver of life,
blessed are you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.
This morning I joined the congregation here in Piddlehinton as we celebrated Ascension Day together with a holy and gentle communion service.
I am feeling very much in the ‘in between time’. My last service in the benefice was on Low Sunday and I am not installed as Rector in the new place until July. It is a real gift to be able to take a few months off before I start but it has left me feeling a bit in limbo. There is a long period of waiting and it will spread a way after Pentecost. I can’t worship with the community I have left and I can’t yet be seen in the new Parish. At least I know the end date, which is more than the disciples did when Jesus ascended into heaven. They had no idea what they were waiting for or how long they would need to wait. Then there were the all the decisions they needed to make. What should they do in the waiting time? I guess they did a lot of praying, got on with life, appointed a new disciple…..
Me? I’m enjoying the opportunity to worship in different places
Do the little things well
A very rough translation of the last sermon St David gave to his followers before he died.
But a glorious motto to use for a new ministry in a new place. I may stick it on the back of the front door of the vicarage to remind me each day