Sunday, March 3, 2013

Each one of us a purpose

I do hope as many people as possible will come to our Church Meeting on Thursday evening – yes, it’s an agm, yes there are reports to receive and decisions to take.

But our Church Meeting is much more than that.

We have a vision for the church here at Highbury that it can be a place where people share Christian friendship, explore Christian faith and enter into Christian mission with Christ at the centre and open to all.

I for one believe that’s an exciting vision to share and an exciting church to be part of.  It’s great that this is a place to have friends, make friends and be friends.  It’s a place not just to receive a package – this is the Christian faith – with all the loose ends tied up, but a plae where it’s OK to ask questions to push out the boundaries, to explore what faith means and the difference it makes.  It’s not just a meeting place, a thinking place .. it’s a doing place too.  And that means that reaching out to other people, entering into mission is right at the heart of what we are about.  So that the love of God in Christ can make a difference in the lives of other people.

Putting Christ at the centre means so many things – it’s recognising that all we do is centred on Christ - that counts for each of us individually and for us all together as a church that we are ‘Jesus shaped’ as people and as a church.

And open to all.  Reaching out to everyone – and welcoming of all.

It think all that’s exiting.

And on Thursday evening the deacons are going to bring a proposal that will share that vision and then suggest that in order to realise it we have come up with a set of structures that can help us move forward together most effectively.

It’s exciting  in itself that our Church Meeting is the place where we can shape the life of the church and set the direction we need to take.  We ask that those who share in making that decision share a simple statement of faith in God and in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour – and then we come together to seek out the mind of Christ for us.  Sensing what it is that Christ wants us to do.

Maybe we will take this structure forward, maybe we will decide to seek another structure … whatever we do will not be the end of our planning, but it will mark the beginning of us seeking to work together to really take our church foreword as the body of Christ where we can share Christian friendship, explore Christian faith and enter into Christian mission with Christ at the centre and open to all.

Whichever way we take there will be work to do over the next six months to set things up more effectively, taking into account all that people have shared.

And it is for each of us to think through – am I in the right place in what I am doing?   Is there more I could do?  Are my gifts being fully used?  Could they be used better?   Where can I take forward my faith as part of the body of Christ here in this place.

The wonderful thing is that God has given all of us gifts to help build up the body of Christ here on earth.  And the wonderful thing is that we all know the rich variety of gifts that everyone here has.

I want to have a look over the next few weeks at some of the people of the early church, some well known, some not so well known and reflect on the gifts they had and the way they used them.   Alongside that I hope we can all be thinking about our gifts and the way we can use them.

What better place to start than with Thomas, not least because this is a day important for us in our church family as we welcome Swithin, Swi, to the church family from one of our partner churches in the Council for World Mission, the Church of South India.  Belonging to Dan’s and Sulo’s and Andrea’s family.  Thomas is the great hero of the Christian church in that part of south India with a very strong tradition that suggests the apostle Thomas set out to the East and took the Gospel over the silk roads and down to the Indian sub-continent where a number of churches look to him as the one who brought the faith to that part of the world.

It was in prayer that Jesus came to the point of calling Thomas as an apostle.

One of the things I cannot help but reflect on as I read of those who took the faith into all parts of the world at the very beginning was that they were a motley bunch, an unexpected mix of people.  And they didn’t really score highly on tests they might have had.  They included a couple of brothers who  were for ever arguing about being the greatest, a couple of freedom fighters who took some persuading about Jesus’s way of love, and not only who as we will be remembering in Holy Week betrayed Jesus, but another who denied ever even knowing him.

And Thomas?  He was the one who was full of questioning and full of doubts.

Jesus appeared to the other disciples in that Upper Room,  but Thomas was not there.  He doubted.  And he has been known as  Doubting Thomas ever since.

Unless I see, unless I touch, unless I know … I cannot believe.

See and hear and touch and feel and know, said Jesus.  And he did.  And he made basically that basic confession of faith we ask of people to this day .. and he said, My Lord and my God.

Jesus worked with Thomas inspite of his being a doubter.

He can work with us even when we are full of questions and doubts.

What he said to Thomas reminds us that being part of this body does not mean we have to have every loose end tied up, every doubt removed – we need to believe – and be prepared to put our faith in this Jesus

Have you believed because you have seen?   Said Jesus to Thomas.

Blessed are those who  have not seen and yet have come to believe.

That’s us.  Rich blessings.

If it began with prayer it continued with prayer too.

Thomas joined the others in that upper room – deep in prayer.

And he couldn’t do it in his own strength.

He needed a power, a strength from beyond himself.  And that was the strength that came up on him and the others at Pentecost in the presence of the Spirit.  It is the strength that is with us to enable us to rise above our doubts and uncertainties and venture to use the gifts God has given us to share with othes this wonderful, life-changing love of God in Christ Jesus.


Asking? Railing? Talking? Listening?
Or simply being?
Being in the Presence
And then a job to be done.
A message to share
Healing to bring
A friend to support
And then something happens
It’s all gone wrong, everything has collapsed
Or has it?
Seeing is believing
How much more blessing
In believing when it’s not possible to see
And then being in the presence
There’s a new job to be done!

Thomas: Lk 6:12-16, 9:1-6, Jn 11:16, 20:24-31, Ac 1:12-14, 

It was great to welcome Swithun to our service.  Nephew to one of our members, Dan, Swithun belongs to the CSI San Thoma English Church in Chenai and is involved in youth ministry and mission work.  Belonging to one church is to belong to the one church worldwide: we have links with the Church of South India through our mission partnership, the Council for World Mission.

Swi had shared a lovely song with the children in the first part of the service, and shared another song in the second part of the service which had been written by a friend of his who was quadraplegic - it was all about the way God has a purpose for every one of us no matter what our circumstances may be - his promise of life in all its abundance is something for us all to take to heart.

Swi went on to speak movingly of three things.

God has a purpose and a plan for each one of us.  No one need feel they are outside of God's purposes, each us can be sure that God has a plan and a purpose for us.

Then as we follow Jesus we each need to put our faith into practice and practise what we believe without giving up - how important it is for each of us to persevere, Swi suggested.

The one thing that is so important for us all to do is to share in prayer, for whatever it is we are called to do can only be done with prayer.

It was one of those moving occasions when, without planning, all things came together in our service to speak into all we are sharing at the moment as we are exploring the possibility of re-shaping the life of our church.

We were all invited to pray for the life of the church in anticipation of our Church Meeting.

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