Friday, 13 June 2014

Winter Newsletter 2014: Article

Dear Friends

Appointed and Sent

Today, as I write, we remember St Barnabas. The Gospel reading for the day reminds us that God has "... appointed [us] to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last" (John 20:16). In this Pentecost season we are reminded of the nature of this fruit: "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). In preparation for Pentecost I became aware, in the Lectionary's immersion of us in John's Gospel, that for John everything revolves around the gift of love: it is the touchstone from which all else evolves. In linking this to Paul's teaching in Galatians, it is possible to realise that love becomes tangible as we allow the other fruits of the Spirit to grow in our lives. Joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all instruments through which God's love may flow into our lives and communities. It becomes even more powerful when we remember that John goes further: "... God is love" (1 John 4:8). It is not just God's love, but God's very being, that is manifested in this way.

On Pentecost Sunday we were reminded that on the evening of the resurrection the risen Jesus meets with the disciples, saying, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). This begs the question, of course, as to what it is that Jesus had been commissioned to do? Again for John it is all about love: Jesus was sent by the Father to live God's love, God's very being, in our world; and we are similarly called. Richard Rohr, in his book The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, makes this same point: "Jesus became the Human One who believed the divine image in himself, who trusted it, followed it, and told us to do the same" (page 48). This begs a further question: what is the nature of the divine image? Key to this is that having commissioned the disciples Jesus "... breathed [into] them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit"" (John 20:22). The Holy Spirit is the divine image and the source of life: present at Creation; active throughout the millennia; present in Jesus; and as we participate in the body of Christ and the wider family of God, present in you and me.

It becomes possible to draw this conclusion: we are appointed to participate in a mission; we are commissioned to bring a vision to fruition. Are we, personally and corporately, aware? What do we understand our appointment and commission to be, to encompass? What are we being sent to do? And if we are aware, are we being faithful to our appointment and obedient to our commission?

Mission and Vision

At St Andrew's we do have a strong sense of purpose, enshrined in our mission statement:

St Andrew's aims to be a loving, worshipping, Christian community which encourages everyone to follow Christ as disciples through being obedient to his Word and Spirit, and as a result taking God's love to the local community, to the poor, the needy and the world.

We are committed to seeing this statement move from words into action, and it drives our commitment to reach out beyond ourselves in good and meaningful ways, chief among them our Ministry to the Needy. Additionally, I was encouraged by the attendance at the Lent course, which spoke to our commitment to follow Christ as disciples (people committed to growing in their faith). We worship well, we care, and we share God's love. This is a hallmark of who we are as Andreans.

Being obedient to Christ in Word and Spirit is to be continually immersing ourselves in Scripture, searching out the principles that have given life to God's people throughout the ages and seeking ways to make these live in our own context; it is also to be listening for what God is doing in the world today, to be aware of the Spirit's presence in the currents flowing around us, being ready to respond as we hear the call to serve.

We have lived at St Andrew's with our mission statement for some time, and time changes things. The foundation of our mission - Scripture - remains constant, although interpretation may adapt to our ongoing experience. The foundation of our vision - context - is less constant, making it important that we review both our sense of mission and vision from time to time. It is important that we find time to review where we are heading as a community, to ascertain how faithful we are being to that to which God calls us, and to make any necessary course corrections. Parish Council has agreed that we consciously take time as a Christian community to reflect again on who God is calling us to be, what God is calling us to do, and where God is calling us to go. This process will include such further questions as: what is intrinsic to who we are at St Andrew's that we never want to lose; what new things do we want to put in place that will add to our sense of being abundantly where God wants us to be; what do we need to stop doing, get rid of, in order that we may have space to build for the future; and what are those things that may destroy who we are, destroy the legacy that has been built in our midst over a century and more, and that we wish never to include in our activities and community?

It is likely that we will engage as a Church in this process of consultation, reflection and review after the July holidays. In the meantime please, in preparation, begin to engage prayerfully and thoughtfully with the questions I have raised above.

Personal

Thank you from Dawn and myself to all who contributed so generously to our Easter gift. It has contributed to one of my dreams: a mountain bike with which I can confidently tackle the off-road beauty of the Cape. Scotty, a black and red Scott Spark 960, has recently joined the family. It is going to need some training, as I discovered on my second ride out that it has a tendency to run away on muddy downhills, buck wildly on steep uphill paths, and generally not always behave as expected. Tar surfaced roads do seem to have a largely calming effect on us both, but the great outdoors beckons, and we will doubtless train each other as time goes on!

Blessings to you all as we enter the cold and wet of Winter, which has already given fair warning of things to come: may the fire of this Pentecost season be warming to your souls!

With love
Mark

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