New Shoes & Messy Encounters
‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10)
As I sit at my desk and look out of the window with the rain pouring down, I wonder what has happened to our seasons! I am then reminded of a prayer earlier this morning when we gathered to pray at 7 am giving thanks for ‘Love Lache’ - that the rain is a symbol of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon our community to water the seeds that were sown on Sunday on Sycamore Field.
There is so much to give thanks to God for over these past few weeks especially as we joined in with the global prayer movement ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ starting on Ascension Day and finishing on Pentecost. I want to thank God for Pippa who transformed St. Mark’s into a special space of prayer for 24 hrs, enabling us to spend time with God, and encouraged to make two journeys. One thinking about our own personal relationship with God, and the other committing to pray for 5 friends or family members, that they might have an encounter with Jesus Christ, and to ask Him into their lives. I found praying every day for the five people who God had put on my heart, and using the set daily prayers for them, very challenging and humbling, especially as one of them I have not had an easy relationship with over the years. And yet each day I felt my heart softening towards them, and that I know is the Holy Spirit working in me.
As I was praying at the last prayer station where it was suggested to think about what shoes we were wearing, and whether they may be a hindrance or a help in sharing the good news of Jesus – I again was greatly challenged. Earlier in my time of prayer I was asking God what the Spirit was saying to me, and to the church, and I felt strongly He was saying ‘get out of the boat’ – ‘move out of your comfort zones’. This led me to ask what sort of shoes do we need to wear to do this - and the response was clearly ‘new shoes’! New shoes which will make us ready to move out of our comfort zones and proclaim the gospel of peace, ‘as shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace’. (Ephesians 6.v.15) Are we aware of the urgency there is to share our faith with others?
Last week I watched a DVD clip of people shopping in Preston who were asked the question ‘What do you know about the Church of England’? The responses were heart breaking as not one person mentioned God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. Do our hearts ache for these people to come to know Jesus, and ask Him into their lives? Jesus’ heart aches and so should ours. We need to buy new shoes for our feet ready to go out and share God’s love with others. And we need the Holy Spirit to empower and energise us to do so.
That same Holy Spirit that came upon all people at Pentecost, and whom we celebrated with on Sunday, as we went out into the local community, and on to Sycamore Field with ‘Love Lache’.
On that first Sunday of Pentecost thousands of lives were touched and transformed, as they witnessed the work of the Holy Spirit and heard the good news of Jesus in their own language. We have now been tasked with the same job as those first disciples to be God’s ambassadors, and to tell people about Jesus in a language they will understand. I believe we did that on Sunday as we offered them a free family day full of fun, packed with different activities, music, some loudly proclaiming the name of Jesus and the glory of God, refreshments, listening ears, prayer and the miracle of three dry hours!
As I have been reflecting on this beautiful peaceful three hours when we took Christ out into the community and had such rich conversations; what would happen if the reverse happened and those 300 plus people all came into church one Sunday morning – most of them with no experience of Sunday worship whatsoever?
Another word that was shared amongst some clergy in Chester yesterday, and again this morning at our prayer meeting was the need for the church (as one), to embrace ‘messy’ – and I don’t mean ‘Messy Church’! I mean the mess of other people’s, and our own, messy lives. Jesus’ manifesto was ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed to go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’. (Luke 4. V.18).
The number of people attending church in the Diocese of Chester is declining rapidly, and for people to hear about God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, it needs us to put on new shoes to share the gospel of peace, hope, and new life in all it’s fullness; and to seriously welcome the ‘mess and brokenness of other people’s lives’ just as Jesus did.
We exist to be a church where anyone and everyone can belong; where lives are transformed by Jesus from the inside out; where we outrageously celebrate our relationship with God; and where we share and reveal Jesus Christ to those in our community.
We give thanks for all that the Holy Spirit is doing in the life of St. Mark’s, in our community, and further afield on our front-lines, and ‘beyond our parish’. We continue to pray for ‘God’s Kingdom to come here on Lache, Saltney, and Saltney Ferry – and for new shoes and messy encounters!
Summer and wet blessings
P.S. apologies for the length but it is covering June/July/ August. So we look forward to the September blog, and together and united, pray for all that is going on in these coming months.