Tag Archives: disciple

All Aboard – session 3

Having considered the foundations and building blocks of ‘church’, we changed tack (to maintain the nautical theme) and looked at interior decoration – how we might inhabit the (spiritual) building and make it our own.

Clare told us of her experience of a ‘Ministry Enablers’ conference which she attended last summer in the Diocese of Auckland, New Zealand. There, stipendiary (paid) ministers do not have particular parish responsibilities but are mentors/consultants to those who have been called out of their local communities to be priests, deacons, pastors, evangelists, catechists and administrators. If a church community cannot find 6 people within the local community to fulfil each of these roles, then they are considered not to be a church but a mission field.

Our God is an enabling God. He gives us the tools and resources we need to be His Church but we have to recognise His call and be generous in our use of our gifts and talents.

We spent some time individually considering how we are uniquely gifted and called by God and how He has shaped our lives. God shapes each one of us (through Scripture) into his likeness and we pray that this course will shape our future ministry. All are made in the image of God but our ‘shape’ is not fixed, nor is it a product of chance. Rather we can choose to work with God in shaping our lives through

Spiritual gifts – everyone has gifts
Heart’s desire – what motivates, excites me
Abilities – talents, gifts, skills; God given and to be used
Personality – unique
Experience – life throws lots of different experiences at me

Everyone is commissioned for ministry at their baptism, just as Jesus was. Each is commissioned to ‘Shine as a light in the world’

I am called to prayer and worship – ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart….’

I am called to service – ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’

When I identify where God ties in with my personal story and share it with someone else, that is evangelism.

Looking at Scripture helps us to discern our shape and we looked at eight short passages from the New Testament and tried to summarise them from our own point of view. The table below shows the verses on the left and a suggested summary on the right. The ‘I’ statements make particularly powerful reading and emphasise how each individual Christian is called to ministry and service.

Ephesians 2.10
“For we are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
I’ve been created to serve God.
Galatians 1.15“But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace..” I’ve been uniquely chosen
1 Peter 4.10“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” I’ve been given a gift to use in serving others
Matthew 28.18-19“And Jesus came and said to them ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Jesus commissions me as his disciple
Ephesians 4.11-12“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” My gifts are to equip myself and others for ministry
1 Corinthians 12.17,18,27“If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose… Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it…” God has placed me here for a purpose and the Church needs me. Everyone’s ministry is equally important.
Romans 14.10, 12“Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we all stand before the judgement seat of God.. So then, each of us will be accountable to God.” I’m accountable to God for how I use my life (and must not judge others)
Colossians 3.23-24“Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.” I do it for Christ and not to impress other people.

 

 

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All Aboard – session 2

In our first All Aboard session we looked at the values – the foundations, if you like – that underpin our church communities – thinking in general rather than specifically of the churches of the Wilford Peninsula.

In our second session we considered what the building blocks of church might be and with a bible study of Acts 2.42-end and asking ‘What do you notice in this passage’ about the life of the early church? Continue reading All Aboard – session 2

“Come as you are”

Come as you are

Today we continue to consider where God might be calling us to by looking at what it might mean to be a church – a Christian community rooted in a particular place, on the Wilford Peninsula. The ‘modern’ parlance encourages us to ‘be church’ and talks about ‘being church’ but that is an awkward and unattractive phrase. If we can speak of being a church or being part of the church, it is clear we are not talking about the physical building – stone and mortar. We are familiar with speaking of ‘the worldwide church’ or the ‘Church of England’ without getting confused about whether we mean an actual building. So why, when we talk about ‘our’ church, or even the church in our village  – do our minds – and those of other people – immediately form a picture of a familiar and much-loved building? Perhaps because it is easier for us to identify with and feel a sense of belonging to something which is real, which is located in time and place. We are physical beings; time and space and place are important to us; that is how God created us; that is why He came to join us here in time and space in the person of Jesus Christ; that’s why Jesus instructed his followers to remember him and to draw close to him by eating physical things – bread and wine. The church – whether it’s the church on the Wilford Peninsula, in Suffolk, or the Church of England – cannot survive without expressing itself in time and place.

Even in the early church – the church, the community of Christians, in Corinth, the community of Christians that Matthew wrote his gospel for – even before church buildings were built, Christians struggled with how to live out the gospel, how to be true and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

In today’s first reading from Paul’s letter to the Christians at Corinth, we find that all is not well – even though in the first 9 verses of the letter Paul mentions their faith and the gifts that they have been given by God. But there is division amongst the Christians of Corinth as we discover as we read further into the letter. Being human, they are forming allegiances to different leaders and forgetting their primary allegiance to Jesus Christ. Of course we will find some ministers and preachers more inspiring than others – that is human nature – but we must still remember that all are servants of Christ and, like John the Baptist last week, are (hopefully!) pointing away from themselves and towards Jesus and saying – there, there is the Lamb of God, He’s the one you should be following. And so Paul brings the Corinthians back to the central purpose which is to make known the Good News, the gospel. Part of the intercessions from last week’s worship resources asked that God would enable us to be ‘good news’ in our community; to embody the gospel. How can you do that – be good news?

St Francis is alleged to have instructed his followers to ‘preach the gospel – use words if you have to’ – implying that it isn’t just what we say; not just a case of telling people the good news – whether it’s standing on a street corner, in a pulpit or in a one-to-one conversation. Actually, that’s the easy bit. And probably the least effective. We are called to BE good news. How might we do that – as individuals in our daily lives? as the body of the church on this peninsula

‘What do you do?’ is often the first question people ask when meeting someone new. It can be difficult or even painful to answer, for example, if your role is difficult to explain to outsiders, if you’re unhappy with your work or life, or especially if you are unemployed. But more often than not, it’s a convenient way in towards finding out about someone’s day-to-day life, as long as you meet the answer with compassion.

In the media this past week there have been a number of stories touching on how people end up in the jobs and roles that they do – and what keeps them out of others. I caught part of a discussion on the radio about prostitution and whether it was a ‘choice’ for women or whether they were forced into it by circumstance. Both National Service and the royal family have also been in the news in the context of the advantages and disadvantage of freedom of choice when it comes to employment.

In the passage from Matthew’s gospel, we are introduced to four men – Simon and Andrew, James and John – for whom the answer to the question, ‘And what do you do?’, would have been simple. They were fishermen. We don’t know whether the profession suited them or what they thought of it, but when it comes to the question of what led them to it, we can guess that James and John had followed their father Zebedee into the family business. The story was probably similar for the other brothers too. For some of us, our future seems mapped out from the start. Prince Charles is expected to follow his mother into full royal duties at some point, while at the other end of the spectrum those growing up in jobless households may expect the same fate to befall them. Breaking free of such expectations can be enormously difficult. When the kingdom of heaven is near, however, things can change unexpectedly, as it did for those four men in Galilee.

‘Galilee of the Gentiles’ wasn’t the place you would expect the Son of God to go to choose people to help him bring in the reign of the kingdom. It was a place ‘in darkness’ (Matthew 4.16) and held in ‘contempt’ (Isaiah 9.1). Jesus opts to base the first stage of his ministry among despised and marginalised folk. A fisherman’s son from Galilee was unlikely to have had the networks or privileged education to get a glittering career in government or the priesthood, just as a child growing up on an estate or in a jobless household might find the odds stacked against them entering many professions today.

Sadly, opportunity isn’t equally distributed in the world. But Jesus chose men from Galilee. And in the kingdom of heaven, all of us are called to come, just as we are, fisherman or prince. The opportunity of the gospel is for everyone. We don’t need special qualifications; we don’t have to change before we come – but we do have to be prepared to be changed.

Jesus begins his ministry not at the centre, but on the margins- the Jews of Galilee weren’t considered “proper Jews”. We see him healing those who are ill – illness was often considered as punishment by God. Again Jesus is on the edge and the margins. How do we minister to the people on the edge and margins of our villages?

But we are told large crowds followed him, and these people came from the centre of faith and the margins – Jesus unites them. How does our church act as a centre of unity, of bringing people together?

James, John, Simon and Andrew may have enjoyed being fishermen. But on the other hand it may just have been what they were obliged to do to make a living. We don’t always get to have as much control over our lives as we would like. But whatever our circumstances, we can choose how we react and respond to those circumstances. Indeed, it is often through faithful perseverance in difficult circumstances that we grow (see also Romans 5.3-5).

Whether it was by obligation or choice that they had become fishermen, Jesus recognised something in those four men that equipped them to do something else too, to ‘fish for people’. Sometimes, even if we cannot see it yet, the things we are called or obliged to do today are helping us to get ready for what God will call us to do in future. Whether that is a high-profile task like leading our people, as faced by Catherine Samba-Panza in the Central African Republic, or just the everyday challenge of trying to treat those around us with grace, trying to be good news, we can all pray to hear and obey the call to follow Jesus, right now, today, as we are, no excuses.

We are called to ‘Come as we are’ as a church community too. ‘As we are’ with the resources – both in terms of buildings and skills and people – that we already have. No wishful thinking, ‘if only…. the church didn’t need repairing/we had more money/more people came to church/we had a full-time vicar/etc. etc. A wise archdeacon who is now a bishop used to say ‘God has given you all the resources you need for the work He wants you to do’. Come as you are and join in Jesus’ ministry to proclaim the good news of God’s love and bring His healing to those around us.

Come and see

I wonder what would come to your minds if I asked about the call of Jesus’ first disciples.  I wouldn’t be surprised if most people mentioned Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John, all fishermen, being called by Jesus to leave off mending their nets and go with him to ‘fish for people’. But here in John’s gospel there is no mention of them being fishermen. Instead, they are disciples of John the Baptist. John points to Jesus and tells his – John’s – followers that Jesus is the one he’s been telling them about. He is the one they should follow. Jesus doesn’t call them at all. John the Baptist encourages Andrew and ? – the other disciple is not named – to follow Jesus instead of him. That’s not always an easy thing to do. It’s all too easy for us as ministers in God’s church – and, as we heard last week, we are all ministers; we were commissioned as disciples and ministers at our baptism – it’s all too tempting to want people to take notice of us, to like us, to follow us – whether on Twitter or not. The idea of accumulating ‘followers’ and being ‘liked’ has taken on a whole new meaning in recent years. So do we secretly yearn for people to follow us, to listen to us, to admire us for our knowledge, our good deeds? Or are we able, like John, to point willingly to Jesus and say ‘There’s the man; he’s the one you should be following’.

I found an inspiring presentation of this passage on YouTube

And Andrew and the other disciple change tack immediately, no argument, no encouragement from Jesus, they just leave John and follow Jesus. Why? was it something that John said or did they recognise something in Jesus? They make the first move. We’re not told who the other disciple was but it wasn’t Simon Peter.

‘What are you looking for?’ asks Jesus. What were they looking for – signs and wonders? answers to life’s big questions? A diversion – something different, something to liven things up a bit? Some action? After all, if Jesus was the promised Messiah, surely he was going to set them free from political oppression.

What would our answer be? What are you looking for in your life of faith? What are we looking for as a community of faith? What is on our ‘wish-list’?

Andrew and his companion dodge the question, or so it seems. Surely they’re not simply interested in viewing Jesus’ accommodation!? Are they playing for time? Do they not want to commit themselves too far at this stage. They want to see a bit more, find out what’s involved. They ask where Jesus is staying. If he gives them an address or some sort of contact details, then they can look him up at a later date. ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’

And while Jesus doesn’t force the issue, he doesn’t let them off the hook. Instead he issues an invitation – come and see. Come and see for yourselves. Later in this first chapter of John’s gospel, Philip issues the same invitation to the sceptical Nathaniel. Come and see. Come and see what we’ve found. Meet him for yourself. This is Jesus our companion – the one who invites, who accompanies us, the one with whom we break bread because that is what companion literally means – to share bread with. We too accompany others on our journey of faith together; nurturing one another, inviting those who are looking for something to ‘come and see’ – not pointing out the way and then leaving them to it but walking alongside them, being patient, not forcing the pace. And so we say Come, come with me to a service, to pudding club, to a meal, come and see what we’re about as a church, as people who follow Jesus Christ.

We invite others to ‘come and see’, but what do we see for ourselves? Jesus invites us to come and see but have we got our eyes and our ears and our minds open when we respond to that invitation. Whatever Andrew saw convinced him – convinced him enough to go and tell his brother that he had found what he was looking for. Like those 1st century disciples, we need to see and believe and get to know Jesus through seeing not just physically but discerning what God is like and what Jesus wants to teach us. We happily use the word disciple to describe those who responded to Jesus in the 1st century – but the word ‘disciple’ equally belongs to each of us – we are all disciples – all learners – all followers – people who have responded to the invitation to “come and see”.

Part of our task, our calling as a Church is to be a Learning Church – it doesn’t stop at Confirmation – it is lifelong learning. We should never stop learning more about God until we finally see face to face – in the life that lies beyond the grave. As St Paul writes ‘now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.’

Over the past three weeks, we’ve looked at some of the aspects of what we, as a church, are called to. First, we looked at our call to ‘wonder’ – or to worship, not just as individuals but together as the body of Christ. Then, last week, we considered how, as baptised Christians, we are baptised into Jesus’ ministry as well as his death and resurrection. All are called to be ministers and ministry takes many and varied forms – teaching, evangelism, pastoral care, administration, leading worship – all these are forms of ministry; it certainly isn’t the case that one size fits all or that every minister has to be good at everything. See 1 Cor 12.16-20 where St Paul compares the church to a body made up of many different organs, each with their own vital function.

A worshipping church, a ministering church and now a learning church. How can we be a learning church? How can we make the most of the learning opportunities that are available and prioritise them? We already have Café Sundae and Pudding Club, Lent groups. Is there something else that you are looking for? How might we learn together? In USA many churches meet for Sunday School – for everyone – not just children – for an hour before worship on a Sunday morning. Would that work for us – or perhaps a discussion about the readings or sermon over coffee afterwards, or later in the week. All food for thought as we consider together and prayerfully, the sort of church that God might be calling us to be in the future.

Lord, Jesus asked Andrew and his companion
‘What are you looking for?’
They had so much to ask
that their questions required space, a place of meeting.
That’s why they asked ‘Where are you staying?’
Lord, you know our hearts, our hopes, our fears,
but you delight in hearing our thoughts.
So you say to us, as you said to them,
‘Come. Come and see.
Come and ask. Come and listen.’
Then, Lord, we can leave with joy
at the discovery of finding who and what you truly are.
Amen.