As we return from our summer break I hope and pray that you have had some time to relax and rest with family, friends, or perhaps on one’s own; and also been fed and refreshed through summer camps and conferences; or perhaps finding space to engage with a particular hobby, or read a particular book?
As I have been reflecting over this summer period I feel God has been saying to look at this forthcoming term as a new season, which of course it is, Autumn. All seasons are one of transition moving from one season to another, and Autumn is when gardeners remove leaves, cut and chop back herbaceous perennials, tidy borders, and generally prepare their gardens for the next season of Winter! A time of pruning if you like. (John 15)
A season spiritually of transition blessing Gary and his family on to new pastures, and welcoming new people on to the leadership team. I write this the day after many of us were able to personally bless Gary and Lucy as we attended his licensing last night as the new vicar of Holy Trinity, Stalybridge, and what an amazing service it was. We keep them in our prayers.
A new season too where I believe the Holy Spirit is longing to bring us into an ever more deeper relationship with Jesus, with one another, and with our community. Nothing new - I am always going on about going deeper with God. However, I think this new season is about having the courage to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and where He is taking us, rather than fixing our eyes on the past and seeing where we have come from – that can be both scary and exciting. Bishop Libby said last night ‘the further Jesus calls us out, the closer we draw near to Him’.
I was challenged at New Wine when we were reminded every morning in the teaching venue I chose to attend that God takes ordinary people, you and me, created in His image, and gives us an extraordinary mission to go out into the world carrying His image and glorifying His name. So how do we respond to this invitation of Jesus, who came so that all may live life in all its fullness?
Paul writes in Romans chapter 12 v.6, when he is describing what life in Christ should look like he says ‘live in harmony with one another’, and in chapter 15 v.5 he goes on to say that we are to please others, our neighbours, our community by ‘living in harmony with one another, as modelled by Jesus, so that together, we may have one voice which will glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ to these very people who do not yet know Jesus!
I have spent time reflecting on harmony and I had a magnificent picture of an orchestra playing in harmony and making beautiful music together.
What is harmony?
Harmony is a term arising from music and it describes the process of playing or singing two or more different notes at the same time to form chords. Usually this produces sounds which are pleasing to hear and so the term is also used in a non-musical sense to describe people or a system working together in a pleasant and pleasing way.
It is not surprising then knowing where the word originates that I should have this picture, but then I asked God to translate it into the life of the church, and I shared it with a few others.
Firstly, I believe it is so important that as the Body of Christ we strive to live in harmony. Just as an orchestra is made up of a diversity of people playing different instruments, so the church is made up of a diversity of people who have been given different spiritual gifts, skills and talents. And just as members of an orchestra need the discipline to practice alone, as well as together if they are to make a harmonious melody, so does the Body of Christ. We need to spend time alone with God in prayer and scripture if we are to grow and mature, and we need to be ready to play our part as we come together, and with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
An orchestra needs to keep their eyes fixed on the conductor at the same time as being very aware of their fellow musicians, in order to produce this harmonious music. Similarly, the family of God need to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus, as we all play our part so that we too might live in harmony.
Secondly, I share this thought which was given to me when I shared this picture with the leadership team. Quote ‘When you were talking about an orchestra, God said this to me ‘just as you have to practice working together to be in an orchestra, so we have to practice being like Jesus together in church to be beautiful for others to see Him’. In other words, it is not easy to be in harmony with one another, but we have to work at it, and be disciplined in our practice of doing so, so that we can go out and be Jesus to others.
I pray for this new season at St. Mark’s as God uses us ordinary people made in His image, to go out and do extraordinary things for Him. As Gary said in his last blog ‘that is why we meet, why we gather, why we do what we do: so lives will be changed for Jesus.
I pray that we will allow God to conduct/direct us as we practice together to be more like Jesus, so that others will see His beauty in us, and in harmony we will glorify God bringing more of His Kingdom here on earth, in our homes, frontlines, and local community.
As the song goes ‘bring revival and start with me’.