Sunday, May 20, 2012

Living Stones and the Living Stone

The Aquatic Centre and the Velodrome met with full marks when a group of architects toured the now-finished Olympic venues for the first time.  Not quite so keen on the main stadium.  But on the whole they lived up to the expectations of Pierre De Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics when he said they should be ‘steeped in a sort of gravity that need not necessarily be austere and need not exclude joy.”  He wanted them to attract visitors “on a pilgrimage” and “inspire in them a respect due to places consecrated to noble memories and to potent hopes”.  [Robert Booth, writing in the Guardian, 17th May 2012]

80 years ago on Friday, it was raining.  But many had gathered to lay the foundation stone for this building.  I visited one of those who was present on Friday afternoon.  Eileen Hodgkins of Salem Baptist Church, whose husband Charles, a minister, died just before we arrived in Cheltenham was a girl of about 12 and was present at the laying of the foundation stone.

The measure of this building as of those Olympic venues is whether it works.  When you see the range of activities that have taken place here in the past week I think you can say with a resounding yes that this building does work.  We have gathered together here for worship and in a very special service we gave thanks for Joan Barnes her faith in God and her commitment to love and service of other people.  Hy-Spirit were practising this morning, the choir on Friday evening.  Toddlers have been making wonderful crafts,  and we have been working with children through Bubbles, Splash, X-Stream and Transformers, with young people through M:Ocean and Hy-Tec, and had them all together for a Sunday Special.   Cubs and Scouts have met in the last week, though it wasn’t a week for Beavers, and the Guides met too.  There was even an impromptu meeting of Hy-Speed who have gone to a national meeting today, will b e meeting next Saturday and who are having a special awards service on Father’s Day we can all join in.  We have hosted Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, the Glos and Worcs 4 x 4 response group, an upholstery class, a bridge class, a couple of heart-to-heart exercise classes, a community café, an Orchestra and a Rock School and yesterday a coffee morning for Maggies Cancer Care Centre.

There were some impressive buildings around in Jesus’ day.  When Peter made his great confession of faith and said to Jesus, You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, Jesus responded by saying to him You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.

Peter took that saying of Jesus very much to heart …  it wasn’t just that a statement of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ and the Son of the living God was the rock on which the church was built … Peter recognised that the Church needs to be built on nothing less than Jesus Christ.

“Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by people, yet chosen and precious in God’s sight.”

He spoke of Jesus as ‘the cornerstone’ the ‘headstone’, he might have thought of Jesus as the foundation stone.  He is the one that holds everything together.

“Come to him, a living stone, and like living stones let yourselves be built into a spiritual house”

What a thing to challenge us to be.

Are we prepared to see ourselves as living stones, and are we prepared to ‘let ourselves’ be built into a spiritual house.

Just look at the brickwork in this place.  It has its own beauty.  It was great shortly after arriving at Highbury to meet someone who had been a bricklayer who had worked on this building.  He used to sit part way down the side there – and had been a life-long official linked with a football team in the local leagues.  The bricks all fit together, and rise to make a building that can be put to such good use.

But it’s the people who make the church.  And we need to let ourselves be fitted together into the whole building for the good of other people.

What does it take to do that?

We each of us need to be prepared to channel God’s presence and God’s love into people’s lives.  That’s what Peter means when he says we are to be a holy priesthood.

You cannot set one person aside to do the job of channelling God’s love as a priest, no, says Peter, we all of us are priests – our task is to channel God’s love.  We don’t offer up sacrfices, but we offer ourselves in the service of others.

How do we let God’s love flow through us?  What is the sacrificial service we are called to share?

Peter is extravagant in what he has to say.

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,  God’s own people and as such we have a task to do.  We are to proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.

It’s the way we live our lives … it’s the little things that count and make all the difference.  Actions speak louder than words.  But … Peter goes on to suggest that it is important that we be ready to give an account of the faith that is in us.  Why do you hold those values?  Why do you do those things?  Can we give an account of the faith that is in us, of the hope we share.  Peter insists we do it in the gentlest of ways.

Christian Aid week is a tangible way of expressing our concern for the wider world.  Our support for justice and for change in the wider world is important too.

An opportunity coming up in a fortnight – to invite people to our Big Jubilee Lunch – it should be a great gathering and an opportunity just to share with people around us too.

What opportunities do you reckon there will be in this coming week to share the light of God’s presence?

Our thoughts and prayers are very much with Sharon and the team out in Bolivia – good to have some news and updates from them.

We have been thinking of Elaine and the medical work she has been doing with PRIME, a Christian partnership in international medical education in the Middle East

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christo" (sic)

Greetings from Bolivia!

We arrived in Cochabamba to a welcome party which included Suzanne, Sabia (The Pastor´s wife and Director of the nursery where we are working), Janet, a local woman who does a great deal and Hugo, the nursery caretaker. We felt like royalty!

Friday was spent at Suzanne´s house doing orientation which included a traditional Bolivian meal in town. Our accommodation is a comfortable room in the nursery, sharing a bathroom with the caretaker´s family and, during the day, all the children. Suzanne and staff have made our room very comfortable. The teachers had made a beautiful poster for the wall containing the scripture verse quoted above.

Use of the bathroom is interesting, a choice of two: upstairs or downstairs. First we made several visits back to the room for something we´d forgotten....!

Yesterday we were treated to royal treatment again, when we were presented to all the nursery children. Every class sang a song for us and we sang for them too!

In the evening, we were presented to the women´s group, who were wonderfully welcoming. We were asked to say something about ourselves and there was a particular ripple of appreciation around the group when we told them we brought greetings and prayers from our churches. Over the weekend we attended a retreat for Latin Link Bolivia's members and families - 22 in all - on the theme of "Who am I and where am I going?" We were glad to start getting stuck into the decorating on Monday, which will be our main task but look forward to supporting some literacy work at the church and enjoying the children. Suzanne is hoping to take us to see some of the Freehands work later in the week. Work on the outside of the nursery will follow when tarmac on the road outside is finished, allowing the necessary equipment to be delivered. At the moment, we are concentrating on the downstairs toilets, working around the children. More details next time.....

Every morning, we wake to the sound of water being pumped to the rooftop tank and eat our breakfast to the sound of children arriving!

Much Love,

Sharon, Sue, Sue and Christine.

And that brings us back to where we started and the approach of the Olympics and the Paralympics.

It’s arriving in town on Wednesday – the Scout Group are going to be gathering from 5-00 in Pittville Park near the café ready to watch the flame as it passes by.

A praise bus – an idea of a chain of prayer.  As you watch the flame and follow it going round the country – it passes through so many different communities.  Within 5 miles of practically the whole country.  Let’s uphold the people of those communities in our prayers.

This week we have prepared car stickers that people in lots of churches will be putting on their cars – the churches of Cheltenham – with more than Gold – and Jesus who says, I am the light of the World.

Maybe just a statement from the churches of the town.

We have a message of good news to share that brings light into the darkness of our world and of people’s lives and makes all the difference.

As we come to Jesus Christ, the living stone, and let ourselves be built into a spiritual house, then maybe it’s not just the building that has some use but we who come together in this place can make all the difference.

It is not jus that we are consecrated to noble memories and to potent hopes.  But we have something to share that can make all the difference.

This week thoughts inspired by the Olympic buildings, next week, thoughts inspired by Wembley!

No comments:

So much to pass on at Highbury

If you give a little love you can get a little love of your own

A blessing shared at Highbury

Now and the Future at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions

Darkness into Light