Friday, March 7, 2014

The Vicar's Two Penn'orth for the Month: Our Vision Project

For my Two Penn’orth this month I am publishing
an edited version of my sermon from last
Sunday, March 2, for the launch of our Vision 2020

It feels the right time for to me to stand here this morning, and speak to you about vision, a vision to develop our parish, moving us forward in many different ways. It is exciting for everyone.

When a church stands still it inevitably means one thing in the end, and that is decline. Around the diocese many parishes are losing full-time ministers or sharing their priest with other churches. Not so here, thank goodness, but we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball. 

Our mission must always be to move forward and outward. We must fully heed the warning of Jeremiah ‘Where there is no vision the people perish’. In recent times it's fair to say that the parish has been blessed and many good things have happened. New initiatives have been started; more people have been attending our services on a regular basis – all good, encouraging signs of the kingdom. However we have some way yet to go and we are very much at the beginning of a journey.

Clearly we must be proactive. The away-day for our Parochial Church Council was the beginning of working out the parish vision for the future. We are now following this up with a short question­naire which will be found at the back of church for everyone to take away and return. It is vitally important that we all pull together in one direction communicating and collaborating to plan for the future. We are not always going to agree but we must be willing to pray for a vision that is always joining in with what God is doing rather than what we want.

Change is inevitable but I can’t stress enough that, as a church and as the body of Christ, we must work together for the growing of God’s Kingdom in this place. It is essential that we work together and communicate well to build a strong church which will reach out into the community and not be an isolated group worshipping in this building because that is what we have always done.

We are the body of Christ, we are born of the one Spirit, Our duty is to be disciples, taking his word out and showing the love of Christ in our community.

It is one thing to have vision, but without clear commun­ication, vision will never become reality. Until we have understood our vision well enough to articulate it for our­selves, we cannot be expected to pursue it with any passion and that is my intention, to challenge everyone to pursue this vision with a passion that will grow this church and reach out wider encompassing new people and new areas of mission.

That has got to be exciting for all of us. We are reminded by scripture in Matthew 18:19 where it says, “Again I tell you, that if two of you on Earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in Heaven.”

We need to work together as one pulling in the same direction to achieve our aims and our initiatives, trusting in God by offering our prayers of thanksgiving and love for all in our church and community.

Our first reading this morning, from Acts, says, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which we are overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God which he bought with his own blood.”

It can’t be much clearer than that when Paul was saying his farewells to the elders of the early church in Ephesus. He was empowering them to stay focused on Jesus the saviour, to stay true, and not wander from their responsibilities of growing the church of Christ.

God does give us directions for everything relating to our spiritual lives. Whether that is evangelism, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, tithing, witnessing or worshipping, God has given us a plan. We are called to follow his plan and have success. Ignore it and we can’t help but fail.

He has also made available to us all that we need in this life, food, shelter, inward peace, power for service, whatever, it’s all available to us. How do we obtain these things? It has to be through faith and trust. Faith is looking to God for help and not doing it in our own strength.

It is for our hands to reach out to receive God’s gifts and provisions. Faith is resting on the Lord for the fulfilment of his promises. I am reminded of the funeral this week of Kin. His faith was immeasurable. He had total trust in his Saviour. I am asking you and me to have that same faith in our vision to look outside the box to trust.

Our Gospel reading relates Jesus speaking to Peter about faith and using the fig tree as an example. It is one of the most difficult passages of the Bible and many commentators have different views. But we today can maybe see the fig tree as a warning that if we don’t follow the path that God has set before us then we will never bear fruit.

The only way we can do that is let go of any bitterness and understand that what God really wants more than anything else is for us to stand before him with a willing heart ready to be nourished by his word; and that our lives reflect the fruits of faith.

So for now we must take an upward path with our whole focus on the working out of a vision that is not ours alone but the vision that God has ordained for us. We must join in with him, whatever the cost, even if it means taking on a new role, even if it means taking more of our time and energy, because, when we honour God, it will realise our vision. God demands much. Let me finish with the final lines from a much-loved hymn:

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Your friend,
Rev’d Paul
Sunday before Lent 2014