Having a few days away after Easter took us to Cambridge which is a fine city with plenty to do. Around the Colleges there are book shops and coffee shops. We could stroll along the river, watch the punts and walk across the wide areas of open space like parkland. The ancient Colleges themselves looked magnificent in the spring sunlight, the ancient stonework reflecting the architectural styles of hundreds of years.
However, the students were (we hope!), at work and the colleges were shut. They are built around courtyards of immaculate grass, their privacy protected by high walls and gate houses, and gate keepers. It was tantalising to glimpse the inner sanctums through gateways and have that feeling of ‘being on the outside’, and that the real heart of Cambridge was not accessible to us mere mortals!
That is until 6.30, when we turned up at the grand gatehouse of St John’s College and asked the gate keeper if we might attend Evensong in the College Chapel. “Of course,” we were told, “go straight in.” And so we were free to walk through the gate, around the private quadrangle and into the glorious chapel. Here the college choir sang Evensong superbly and we all sang the hymn ‘Thine be the Glory’. What might have been the most difficult place in Cambridge to get into, became the easiest when God was involved!
As we have recently remembered at Easter, Jesus is unique and deserves the highest honour. He changes the future of the world and of us through His awesome, cosmic sacrifice and resurrection. Such events as the Transfiguration and the Ascension show us His glory. He is indeed the Lord of Heaven and Earth. It is perfectly reasonable to expect that He is not easy to access. Ancient temples and even some ancient churches have lots of gates to make sure ordinary people don’t get into the holy of holies. But on the first Easter Day, the curtain of the temple was torn in two; God gave us access to Himself.
As in Cambridge, there are lots of places closed to us in the world today, and people don’t really let us in to their inner feelings, but amazingly Jesus says “Knock and the door will be opened to you”. And it is, and He welcomes us. Let us not think it unlikely that Jesus makes Himself available to us, and so neglect to ask. Let us organise our churches and their worship so as to make it clear Jesus has made Himself accessible to everyone.
Mark 2:1-12 & 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:15
The gospel has more than one speed in its effective impact. “Immediately” is a favourite term of the Gospel of Mark. In this text we are told that Jesus counters his critics; “immediately” he heals the paralyzed man. The man “immediately” went out, healed. There is an instantaneous effect of Jesus’ ministry, according to Mark. No waiting, no delay, no indecision!
The German pastor Johann Christoph Blumhardt famously counselled his companions in faith to “hasten and wait.” The phrase catches both the urgency of the Gospel lesson and the slow process of the imagery of Paul. There is a time of urgency for faith when action must be taken, and there is a time for watching and waiting until the time is right.
Lent is a time to reflect on our several inclinations about hurrying and waiting. Some of us are impatient all the time. Others of us are inclined to watch and wait all the time. Faith requires us to have more than one speed and to know when context and circumstance require speeding up or slowing down.
God in whose hand are all our times, give us a proper sense of your speed so that we know when it is wise to hurry and when prudent to wait. In his name. Amen.
God’s blessing be yours,
“For to us a child is born … and he will be called … Mighty God …” Isaiah 9:6 KJV
Wow, here we are! It is already time for the Preaching Plan of the second quarter of the new Circuit.
It is also the quarter that we remember God’s Son entering our world and embracing humanity. Christmas is a special time! It is a time to be generous, a time to think of others, a time to show hospitality and a time to thank God for His humbleness.
Christmas is a time to stop our everyday activities and “take stock” of our life. It is a time to remember that the truth of Christmas is still relevant for us as humanity in the 21st century. The above verse is a remarkable revelation. Jesus sets aside the glory and splendour of Heaven to take on the form of human life; and yet remains the Mighty God. One of God’s names is “Immanuel”, which means “God with us”. I find it so amazing to consider that the very God who has the power to create chooses to be with His creation in human form.
Let us not lose sight of this awesome truth amidst all the turkey, tinsel and present wrappings; and may we in this quarter continue our journey of discovering more of the Mighty God.
May Mighty God bless you and yours over the Christmas and New Year celebrations,
When this preaching plan begins, the new West Cornwall Circuit will come into being; 18 churches and over 30 preachers all together from merging the West Penwith Circuit and the St Ives Circuit. Some of your services will be led by preachers new to you, and some of you preachers will be discovering fresh chapels. So, there will be a degree of unfamiliarity and it will take time to adjust. But newness is stimulating and we need not hasten to settle down.
Already the Circuit Leadership Team have worked hard to merge the administration and to prepare for the arrival of our two new staff whom we welcome at this time. Edwin, Sue and Daniel Myers and are joining us from Cannock in Staffordshire, whilst Stephen and Gillian Richardson have come from Treharris in South Wales. They are very welcome and very much needed. As the Myers are settling into our newly acquired manse in Carbis Bay, we are trying as quickly as possible to make the Newlyn manse ready for Stephen and Gillian. In the meantime, they are living in a rented house.
Amidst all of this, I am taking over the superintendency from Steve Wild and Julyan Drew. We thank them both for all their work amongst us in these past years. We pray particularly for Julyan as he retires on health grounds, that God will restore him to a blessed retirement.
As we begin this new phase of Methodist mission in West Cornwall the prospects are exciting, but only potentially so. Circuit mergers too often result in ‘Together we are bigger’, rather than ‘Together we are stronger’. We must not settle for administrative success nor smooth integration, because if we do the merger will be nothing more than retrenchment and the decline that most of our churches have been experiencing will continue.
I am hopeful that we can turn things round and start making and maturing more disciples of Jesus Christ, and thus growing His Kingdom around here. My hope is not in the new circuit, nor in Methodism; my hope is in Jesus. ‘Together we are stronger in Him’. Let us not pray vaguely about the circuit but rather that we should be open to the Holy Spirt renewing all our worship services and devotional meetings. People in our area need to meet with Jesus Christ and to be confronted with the supernatural reality of God. Our business is to make our circuit and our churches useful to God as He reaches out to meet those who do not yet know His love. We are in that business or we are out of business.
With warm regards to you all,