Today’s readings are
Over the last few weeks as we moved through Lent towards the great celebration of resurrection at Easter we were together reflecting on some of the key themes in the life of our church. These themes grew out of a vision process with the PCC – and this whole process is intended to inform how we move forward as a community of faith here in Huddersfield. The purpose has been and is to ask what are we doing here? And to find an answer which reflects God’s desire for our faith and service.
In the last week we have been compiling the feedback from those Sundays when we have looked at communication, worship and how we use our building. Later today I will be sitting down with the wardens to integrate that feedback into the message I will deliver to you at next week’s Annual Church Meeting.
The theme that we did not cover in our previous Sundays of chat and feedback was mission – and today as we think about the Damascene moment of Saul, and a breakfast of fish on the sea shore – I wanted to reflect just a little on our mission – and how it is a mission not to be something that we are not – but it is a mission to be liberated to be fully ourselves as Jesus calls us to be. How the simple things we are able to offer can and will be transformed in God’s service – by God’s power and not by ours.
Firstly in Acts – I want you to reflect on what God asks of those who already believe. Saul is full of threats and violence. He is consumed by hate. And it is God who intervenes – the Damascene moment – the vision – the experience – that is all of God. But God sends the blinded Saul to meet with those who already believe. Ananias is open to God’s prompting. Ananias is not without intelligent and sensible questions. Ananias does what God asks – he prays with Saul – that’s all it is. He overcomes his own fear, puts his trust in what God’s asking him to do, and prays for another human being. It is not just Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road that transforms his life. It is his encounter with one who already believes, with the simple ministry and obedient faith of Ananias. Mission in action. Paying attention to God’s prompting – doing the simple thing we can do in response to that prompting.
Then in our Gospel – more examples of being a disciple as we consider our own mission here. The guys have reverted back to the things they used to do. It’s interesting isn’t it – Jesus called them away from the nets and boats – but there are multiple occasions in the Gospel when this setting – the waters of the sea of Galilee, form an important part of how we understand Jesus and what it means to follow Jesus. Context matters in how God works with us.
The disciples are back on familiar territory, doing the thing they always used to do – perhaps needing some stability and normality between the amazement of Jesus appearances. They don’t immediately recognise Jesus, and perhaps neither do we as we seek to follow. Nevertheless they respond to what Jesus asks. And he doesn’t ask them to do something wild and unfamiliar – he asks them to do things they know well, and in doing those things for Jesus he is revealed as their risen Lord. The Jesus who brings abundance and transformation, the Jesus who calms the sea and has been at one with creation since its dawn. They fish – and God’s power transforms the simple act of fishing. They sit down to eat breakfast and Jesus breaks bread – the simplest thing – and he is revealed to them.
And then in the simplest words we see God’s power to transform our greatest pain into redemption. Do you love me, Jesus asks. Not just once – but as many times as it takes to wash away the memory of Peter’s denial. Three times he denies – three times given the chance to put it right with a declaration of love. And set free from the guilt and shame of that denial, with the barrier that that denial put between Peter and Jesus destroyed by love – Peter is ready for the next thing – which is sharing the faith with others – feeding the sheep.
God meets his followers and those who he is calling where they are – in familiar places and on life’s journeys. God asks those who are prayerful and open to God’s prompting to do simple things that reflect their relationship with God that others might see. God shows them that they might show others a love that will surpass denial and betrayal and offer forgiveness, wholeness and purpose.
I didn’t feel I needed to ask you again about mission today – because when you fed back about communication, about worship and about how we use our building, your responses were full of our mission here. To communicate with who? everyone, basically – you said everyone. But in the specifics were the businesses and organisations of our town centre, our Council, other churches, other faiths, to communicate better with those who are already members and with those people who live in our parish but who we don’t yet know.
How? via all media – old and new – from chats with our neighbours to TV radio and internet.
To communicate what? God’s love for all people, God’s inclusion, to break down the barriers that mean the world sees us as something other than mirrors of God’s love.
There will be more next week as we share with you at the Annual Church Meeting a clear summary of the vision that will give us drive and purpose as a community of faith in the next few years. Between now and then I ask you to reflect on the small and familiar ways in which Jesus is revealing himself to you, and the simple, natural and familiar ways that your experience of God as a disciple enables you to take your part in feeding God’s sheep.