As a child, I spent many hours, at weekends, rock-climbing with my father in the Peak District. Apart from the large number of sheep that we used to see (some of them dead!), the most striking things I remember are the millstones, which were just lying around, as if they had been abandoned there long ago. Shaped like enormous Polos, they were sizeable, extremely heavy and impossible to move, so the image of having a millstone round one’s neck is a very vivid one for me.
Jesus says that what we do matters. Our choices and decisions rarely affect us alone; the way we behave impacts on other people. We only have to look at what is happening in the world to see that.
In Syria, Kiev, parts of Africa and elsewhere, the actions of one person, or group of people, has had a profound – often disastrous – effect on the lives of thousands of others. On the bright side, the morale of Team GB was raised immeasurably each time one of the team did well.
We are made in God’s image, to live in community, as he does. We are not meant to be independent, but inter-dependent. We are called to live in harmony and to care for one another.
Even more amazingly, we are invited to be part of the divine community of the Trinity and to share in their life of prayer:
In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, we pray to the Father …
“Who is my neighbour?” an expert in ‘the Law’ asked Jesus. Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Of course it was the Samaritan who helped the man left for dead by robbers who recognised that anyone we can show love to is our neighbour.
During half term I had an idea watching the floods in Staines on TV. With Simon Taylor’s “OK” I phoned the council there and offered temporary accommodation in our empty Youth Director’s house for a flooded out family . Two hours later they ‘gave’ us a family with 4 (adorable) children including a baby. Church members created a basic home in the space of 20 hours. Special thanks to Ed & Chris Payne, Maggie Jagger, Karen Klair, Heather Clarkson, Mark Williams, Lorna Sherwin, Holly Marshall and Juliet Gilbert who came to play with the children.
When the family arrived they were exhausted after 3 nights on someone’s floor. One of the girls told me the next day that she had thought her dad was ‘stealing your house’! They stayed for ten days and received visits and gifts from many lovely neighbours in Phillips Close – Jo , Heike, Margaret to mention some. Now in a hotel near the girls’ school they hope to use our house at weekends until the council rehome them. We have a fund going to help them with furniture etc in their new home as they had no contents insurance – cheques to Busbridge PCC!
When I lived in Bradford, centuries ago, there was a church with catchy posters eg. ‘Life is fragile – handle with prayer’ and ‘Seven days without prayer makes one weak’. It is interesting that recent surveys have shown ¾ of the population of sceptical, secular Britain admit to praying at least once a week.
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus said ‘This situation needs prayer’.
It is vital that we come to prayer as we are. Feeling we are sinful, unworthy, angry, bitter, lacking in faith may all be true, but it is no barrier to prayer. The Bible is full of people who brought all these emotions to God as part of their prayer experience. Look again at the disciples. Did they pray enough or at all? After all ‘why pray when you can worry?’ Jesus makes it clear that the essence of prayer is not a set of rituals, but the sharing of our lives with our heavenly Father.
Are you convinced that only long praying is good? Of course there are specific times we set aside for longer prayer, but beware of feeling that if you are short of time you cannot pray. As has been said ‘Pray as you can, not as you can’t.’
In prayer God wants us to be honest. Polite rhetoric or speech-making isn’t necessary. God knows what is in your heart. One last quote from a poster; ‘If the Church is ever to get on its feet – it has to get on its knees’.
A few years ago there was the most memorable TV advert aimed at recruiting people into teaching. It centred on the point that we never forget our most inspiring childhood teachers. And it’s true, isn’t it? I can recall quite vividly their names, faces, quirks and smiles. And I’ll bet you can too.
Pondering on this led me to think about other things that become firmly etched upon our memories. People, places, events, experiences. Stop for a moment and gather a couple of your most precious memories.
Amongst mine is Porthpean CYFA camp in August 1981 where – sitting on a wooden bench at the front of a large marquee to the smell of paraffin lamps – I first “got it”: that Jesus died for me. Not because my family went to church, nor because I had been baptised and went to Explorers. I realised that He loves me and loves me so much that He was prepared to endure so much just for me and that He has a plan for my life. Sure, there have been ups and downs along the way but that time and place is a precious moment.
As a buzzing, vibrant church where lots of amazing things are going on it’s easy to believe that others will be the teachers that get remembered. But being a part of someone’s precious moment may be just a prayer and a conversation away.
I seriously resisted going into ordained ministry. Over the years, whenever the subject came up, my reaction was always the same. No way!
I’m not sure exactly when things started to change. After doing some Alpha talks at my church in London I found my way onto the preaching rota occasionally. One evening I remember sitting at my dining room table, preparing a talk and for one moment it was suddenly as if I was looking down at myself sitting there and I suddenly realised that I was really enjoying this – and I mean really enjoying it. I could almost physically feel the buzz I was getting. It felt like every fibre of my body was….alive. And I remember thinking ‘…oh no… is this what I’m supposed to be doing?!’
It was several more months before God finally got his way. When I eventually gave in the relief I felt was palpable. It felt as if I had spent years swimming against a very strong current and when I finally said, ’OK Lord. You win. Let’s do this’, it was as if I had relaxed and let the current take me where it would. I realised just how much mental, emotional and even physical energy I had wasted in trying to head away from the direction God wanted me to go in and his purpose for me. It was scary, but at the same time, it felt absolutely right. And I don’t regret it for a moment.
Have you discovered your God-given purpose yet, whatever that might be?