Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas 2008

I have come across the following and found them thought provoking as I prepared for Christmas - the poem is used at the beginning of the Thomas Merton piece (the whole of Merton's 'The Time of No Room' is well worth a read but be prepared to be challenged).

Happy Christmas to you!

"He who has come to men dwells where we cannot tell
nor sight reveal him,
until the hour has struck
when the small heart does break
with hunger for him;
those who do merit least,
those whom no tongue does praise
the first to know him,
and on the face of the earth
the poorest village street
blossoming for him."
Jane Tyson Clement

"The Time of No Room," Thomas Merton.
"Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world."

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Ambitious for what?

I have had 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 on my mind recently:
"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. "
It is an intriguing thing to be instructed to be ambitious for a quiet life as opposed to the amplified lives of visible activity, that announce busyness to a world that is obsessed by outward manifestations of work. Another bible translation talks about living a calm life, indeed, a calm life is exactly what is necessary in this disturbed and shaken world. What an uncertain and troubled
world needs are communities of disciples living unflappable, calm and quiet lives of faith and love. We need to ask ourselves whether we are contributing to the disturbance by trying to work our way out of difficult circumstances by frantic activity and our own endeavour or are we living the calm life of faith.
Minding your own business is also a big challenge to us! Too often we look over our shoulders at others like Peter did at John (John 21) and we need to hear Jesus saying to us, as he did to Peter "You must follow me." Minding your own business is about simply following - not sitting in judgement on others and making their business yours. Of course we should be allowing the principles of Matthew 18:15-17 to guide us so that we live accountable lives as Christ-like community but there is a difference between that and being busy-bodies!
The thing is that we all have work to do. There is a purpose to our lives - we are to get on with pursuing that which God has called us to do - getting on with it not for our own benefit but because what we do has an effect on those looking on. This is one of the things that we value as a church - everyone getting on with the work the Lord has given them rather than just the chosen few. You no doubt will have noticed that the church doesn't get very much respect. I think this may be because we haven't earned it by getting on with following Jesus in our daily lives, we have put too much focus on the church and not enough on Jesus.
We are called to be 'plantings of the Lord for the display of his splendour' (Isaiah 61:3) - sometimes I think we take our eyes off this truth and forget that the work of God in our lives will always be about enabling us to become something that shows his glory. I hope and pray that this Christmas and into the New Year we will be able to focus on becoming plantings of the Lord for his splendour.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Where we are up to....

A little while ago I wrote this for our first e-bulletin and thought I ought to include it on this blog....

Dear Friends,
I thought it was about time I shared some of my reflections regarding where we are up to at SMC especially in the light of our entry into a new pattern of gathering (consistent with) the direction we feel called to go as a church. The 9am Parish Communion service continues to develop on 3 Sunday’s per month – a traditional service with a warm and welcoming atmosphere. At 10.30am twice a month our central gatherings occur drawing together a larger group of people of all ages worshipping, encountering Jesus and responding to his word. Rachel Turner is beginning to get the measure of her task as Pioneer Children’s Leader and her creativity, openness to the Spirit and teaching gift is sure to be of great benefit to us. We have created exploration space for the development of a more significant change in the way we do church in MSC Sundays. These Sundays are the opportunity to search out the ways in which we can gather in groupings that are shaped by mission. Steadily things are taking shape for us; I expect we are going to learn an enormous amount over the months ahead.
Well done to all of you who are contributing to the process of MSC development already, to those who have ‘stepped up’ at central gatherings and have ‘stayed with’ SMC in the process of the closure of All Saints.
As we develop a new leadership structure for our new season, the leadership team has ceased to meet in favour of the creation of new structures. All those who have been involved in the leadership team will continue to serve as key leaders in this church. We all owe this group of people a big thank you for the way in which they have served and continue to serve.
One of the images I have worked with in thinking about SMC has been of this church as a tent community. Our recent and significant history as a church has been of the removal of ‘sacred’ buildings from our possession and the entry into a new way of being church that has a temporary, flexible and simple approach; a tent mentality. The way in which God’s people were organized and released to travel from Egypt to the Promised Land is of particular inspiration as well as the way in which the early church worked. Recently I have been struck by the need to make sure we have a ‘base camp’ that fulfills the purpose of supporting the missionary vision of the church. I believe that some of you will feel a call to the base to resource, pray for and support the work of those who are called to establish missional communities. Base camp, of course, is vital for the success of any expedition.
I think this is a really amazing place to live and serve and I am grateful for being with people who genuinely want to see God’s kingdom come in Harrogate. God has called us to something distinctive and special and I am looking forward to seeing what he will do in the coming months and years.
Thanks for your support and prayers,
Mark Carey

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Fishing on the right side - creating new families

At the end of John's gospel we find the account of Jesus directing the disciples who had been fishing all night without success to put their nets over the other side and they will make a catch. They haul in 153 fish.
This passage has occured a number of times recently as groups of us have prayed.
For me it brings to mind that as a church we have been called by God to cast our net over the other side of the boat - the 'right side' for us. The process of moving into missionary communities will at times be uncomfortable if only because we have been so used to a certain style and way of doing and being church. For many of us church in a certain way is ingrained - the neuroscientists talk of the brain circuits we develop - often considered to be very hard, if not impossible, to change. Penny and I went on a day conference recently on adoption and the attachment issues raised for children who have truamatic start to life. One of the speakers gave the following quote;

"What is helpful about recent neuroscientific evidence is that change is certainly possible throughout the life span. We might never erase the old experiences and their related brain circuit but we can build new experiences and their related brain circuits, new expectations, new circuits in the brain" Miriam Steele. Creating New Families.
Our journey is one of building new experiences, new expectations and new circuits - it is about creating new 'families' - communities of disciples in mission. That is our kind of fishing.