I thought I would write a few lines about transition and growth. Most of you will have heard that I will be finishing as vicar of Burley in September and that our family will move from the village to start a new chapter of work, life and ministry in Keighley.
Summer is often a time of transition. Children finish school years and start new ones, often moving schools or going onto College or University. Summer is also a time to take stock so that the new academic year can be fresh and dynamic. However, it is often the case that the wealthier we become the more we try and control life so that we are not confronted with the challenge that change brings. Change for some is terrifying because the old ‘usual’ ways of doing things are challenged and our fragility is exposed. For many in our world that sort of change is merely ‘normal’ and other coping mechanisms are in place instead. Jesus calls his friends into a life that is far more dynamic than most of us realise or are willing to entertain. Jesus challenges us not to put our trust in earthly things, worldly systems, and even questions us about the priorities we have for our nuclear families. In Church over the last few weeks we have been delving a little deeper into the life of the fledgeling Church and reading about how they shared extravagantly, lived constantly on a limb, relying on the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit as they sought to continue to follow Jesus into the unknown.
Abraham of course is established as the exemplar for the early Church. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “By faith Abraham made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents…For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11.9-10.
The life of faith, unlike the life of control that we are seduced into yearning for in the west, is the willingness to step out and go and be different.
For my family, moving from Wharfedale to Airedale feels a big and sometimes scary step; very different multi-cultural communities and significant deprivation. We are not unfamiliar to deprivation having started ministry on the challenging urban estate of Holme Wood in Bradford. Living amongst people of other cultural background was my daily experience when working in the Middle East and South Asia. Nevertheless, life will be different and we won’t be able to rely solely on our experiences of life in Burley. We will be confronted with many whose life is anything but comfortable.
A number of parishioners have asked, “do you have to move house?” Few professionals working in deprived areas choose to live in the area they work in, but for the Christian Church it is an important aspect of mission to have her clergy in the place they serve. It is the incarnation principle that seeks to imitate Jesus. As Paul succinctly puts it, “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8.9). We are very fortunate to be moving to a very nice house overlooking Keighley, just down the road from our good friend from Burley, Gail Boole!
As we step out in faith as a family I know we will be met with Jesus, who says to each of us, ‘my grace is sufficient for you.’ That doesn’t mean we won’t have turbulent times ahead; moving always has stressful aspects and it pushes our love and patience to the limit. However, I have a firm conviction that when God makes it clear that it is time to move on, then he opens the door to the next chapter of life. God is no one’s debtor, a missionary couple once said to me. God uses the challenges of life to grow us up and to help us to rely on his daily bread rather than our superficial abundance. Do pray for me, Sara, Barnaby, Benji and Charlie, that God will protect our hearts and give us courage as we embrace the transition that is ahead.
God bless you, especially if you are also encountering change and transformation.
We will be celebrating the coming of the holy spirit at Pentecost next weekend – it follows ten days after Ascension. In Luke’s gospel we read that just before His Ascension Jesus said to his disciples “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” After the very first Ascension Day the disciples were gathered with others in Jerusalem. There they were devoting themselves to prayer while they waited for the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit, before they carried out Jesus’ instructions to spread the gospel throughout the world. They recognised their reliance on the gift of the Holy Spirit.
During the time between Ascension and Pentecost the Archbishops ask us to join the global wave of prayer ‘Thy Kingdom Come‘ calling all Christians to pray for more people to come to know the love and peace of Jesus Christ. Just as the disciples were reliant on the Holy Spirit so too are we – we are powerless in our own strength, but John reminds us in his gospel (John 14:16) “the Father…will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth”
On the 5th June we will also be celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at a service in church followed by a BBQ and party afterwards, giving thanks for her 70 years of faithful service. Like the disciples, God is calling us to open our hearts and open our doors and to spread the gospel. We all have lots of opportunities to do this in our lives and by our prayers. The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations offer us another opportunity to extend a radical invitation to everyone in our village and beyond to join us that morning. It gives us the chance to build relationships and be bold in our faith-sharing.
Though the Queen does not frequently publically refer to her faith in many of her Christmas messages she does talk of her personal relationship with Jesus and its importance in her life. Two such examples are: ‘Billions of people now follow Christ’s teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.’ and “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace…is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”
The Queen is an example to us all, she has led a life of faithful service in this country and beyond. Let us pray that our faith is reflected in our lives of service, love and care for others and for our world.
We also have the chance to get involved later this month in refugee week (20th-26th June)- Refugee Week’s vision is “for refugees and asylum seekers to be able to live safely within inclusive and resilient communities, where they can continue to make a valuable contribution.”
The theme being explored this year is ‘Healing’. “Healing means recovering from a painful experience or situation, so that we can continue to live. No-one understands this better than those who have lost their homes and had to build new lives from scratch. We have much to learn from refugees about holding onto hope when going on seems impossible…Those going through the asylum system also know that healing is an ongoing process, made harder by poverty, housing difficulties and the threat of being detained or deported.“
There are many ways we can get involved, there are local organisations we can support. The new Nationality and Borders Bill is cruel legislation that will undoubtedly cause harm. Most of us want an asylum system that is fair, orderly and humane – there has been an outpouring of welcome shown to people fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan. We can advocate for changes, that show refugees they can truly feel safe in our country. We need to act with care and compassion – as Christians we are reminded in the Letter to the Hebrews (13:1-3) to “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
May we who know the blessings God pours upon us, seek to be a blessing in the lives of others through love and service.