Thoughts from the Vicar
Sunday 20 May
Yesterday, Wednesday was the Pentecost lunch for our mid-week communion congregation. Building on the success of the Christmas lunch it was decided to mark two of the other festivals – Pentecost and Harvest. At Christmas there is an obvious menu associated with the celebration of Jesus’ birth. For Pentecost the menu would need to reflect both the Old Testament theme of harvest and the New Testament theme of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit brings life and is the same word as breath, so there was prosecco instead of red wine, spring veg, light chocolate pudding.
As vicar, cooking for this lovely group of faithful worshippers is a privilege and a great way to bless them and show how much the church values and appreciates them.
Meals might seem like a strange thing to write about during the week of Thy Kingdom come but when we look at Jesus’ ministry, meals form a central part of what he does and through them he teaches us important things about the Kingdom. Think for a moment of the number of meals in the gospels…
The wedding at Cana: the new wine of the Kingdom is the best and Jesus brings it in abundance.
The meal with Mary and Martha: the Kingdom doesn’t conform to cultural expectations.
The meal at Simon the Pharisee: those holding power and prestige, even when it’s religious, can be missing what the Kingdom is all about.
The meal at Zacchaeus the tax collector: the Kingdom welcomes sinners.
The feeding of the 5000: the Kingdom is concerned for the hungry and those in need and meets their needs.
The last supper: the Kingdom is like a new Exodus – leaving the captivity of sin and love of the world for the freedom of grace and God’s eternal love.
The meal on the Emmaus Road: in Kingdom meals eyes are opened and Jesus recognised in unusual places.
The meal by the lakeside: even those who have let Jesus down are welcomed back to the table of grace.
All these meal themes of grace, and celebration, and new world breaking in and God’s abundant generosity all get gathered together into the Holy Communion celebration. They are in a way starter, foretastes of the heavenly banquet that awaits when the Kingdom that is, and is also not yet, has been fulfilled.
Why not invite some or all of those you are praying for round for food, and invite God, by his Spirit, to make it a time where Thy Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven and see what happens.
Sunday 13 May
Sunday after Ascension Day
Today on grandparent duty we visited Tatton Park Farm. Much had changed as part of the field to fork project that is taking place and we enjoyed, looking round the mill, the piggeries, seeing the traction engine work, the lambs being fed, and there was particular interest by a small person in the shire horses.
As we were looking one of the staff whose role is to play the farm characters came over to chat about the horses and about the impact of the second world war on the farm. One of the things he said got me thinking: “the government instructed farms to switch from pastoral to arable farming”. At first thought this makes no sense, as arable farming needs much higher levels of input of labour and machinery compared with pastoral. But the government realised that it produced far more food and it was a necessary change to feed the population.
You may wonder what this has to do with Church. Church has used the pastoral model for years, flocks are shepherded, faith is expected to just naturally grow, one generation passing on faith to another. I remember when we moved here a congregation member saying it would be lovely to see a vicar cycling round in their cassock! Apart from the risk to life and limb, it is as bizarre as asking the manager of Tesco’s to weigh out sultanas into brown paper bags for customers, those days have gone and only exist in fictional recreations like at Tatton Farm.
But the good news of King Jesus we are called to spread is not an interesting history or nostalgia experience, but the life food that people are in desperate need of. In the face of this need church is changing, the old pastoral models are being replaced, not by new ones, but by the original shape of Church, the one we see in the New Testament, where all are labourers in the field, where everybody’s gifts are used to build up the kingdom. All pray, all share their faith, there is an intentionality in all that we do to bring the life-giving food of the Gospel to all our community. We are doing that now in these days of Thy Kingdom come and will continue until that day when the kingdom has come and the labourers are invited in to share the feast.
Sunday 6 May 2018
6th Sunday of Easter
If you’ve seen the invitation to pledge2pray as part of Thy Kingdom come you may be wondering what it is. Thy Kingdom come is simply inviting all of us to pray between Ascension and Pentecost for the Kingdom to come. So what does that mean?
Praying for the Kingdom to come means praying for the world that God planned for it to be, rather than what we’ve made of it. Praying for the power of God to transform us, to transform society, to transform the world… praying for God’s Kingdom.
That is where we come in. From 10 – 20 May everyone is invited to pray for the Kingdom to come and for five individuals to become disciples. Why the word ‘disciple’? Firstly because Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples, and secondly because the word ‘Christian’ has multiple meanings, many unconnected from being a follower of Jesus. Being a disciple is a process, not an event, so how do we know if someone is a disciple of Jesus? It shows in four areas in our lives.
1 Personal devotion. A disciple is someone who spends time in regular worship, prayer and reading the Bible, it involves giving priority to seeking to be in God’s presence both corporately on a Sunday and individually through the week.
2 Significant service. A disciple uses their gifts and talents in God’s service in all areas of their lives. By what they do in their work, in their homes, and what they do in church. All are vital. Significant service involves both living out faith in the work world and giving time to lead and participate in activities in the local church.
3 Faith sharing. A disciple shares their faith, it is important that we model the compassion, care and social concern that Jesus did, but as disciples we need also to verbalise the faith that underpins such action. We undertake social action because God created everyone in his image and each one is precious and unique, we care for creation because we are called by God to do so. A disciple shares their story of what knowing Jesus means to them.
4 Transformational obedience. A disciple recognises the need to change and be transformed and allows God to change and transform him/her. This shows in how we live, in priorities becoming more God focussed and less worldly. Perhaps the best measure of where we are in our discipleship is when we want to do one thing and God calls us to do something different and we say ‘yes’ to God and ‘no’ to our wants.
Choose who you are going to pray for and look out for Thy Kingdom come services and events.