‘Clear lots of ground for your tents’
Make your tents large. Spread out!
Think Big – Use plenty of rope, drive the tent pegs deep.
You are going to need lots of elbow room for your growing family.
You are going to take over whole nations; you are going to resettle abandoned cities.’
(Isaiah 54. Vv 2-3 from the Message)
I wonder which season is your favourite? Of course, they are all different, all are necessary, and each one speaks of God’s awesome creation. Though with extraordinary changes to our climate, the seasons are not always quite so distinguishable. However, in the autumn, which is not my personal favourite, the clocks always go back, the days draw in, the temperature drops, many trees change colour, and some lose their leaves. Autumn for me is a season of withdrawing, change, and loss, but all in preparation of the new birth that we celebrate at Christmas.
In the past 4 days my travel plans have been disrupted; heavy rain causing floods which affected parts of the rail network, also a fatality on the line, both events resulting in delays and consequently impacting on my evening plans. Of course, my thoughts were with the person’s family, who have lost a loved one, but If I am honest there was a little bit of irritation, and a bubble going on in my head saying ‘oh what next is going to happen to disrupt my travel plans’. Then I was reminded how many times Jesus’ plans were interrupted and disturbed by storms on the Sea of Galilee; by the physical and emotional needs of others; by the hatred of fellow Jews, Romans and Gentiles; and by the confusion and misunderstanding of his own friends and disciples. It is one of the things that Chris Lane said at our parish weekend, that we need to be a people of God, church, who are ready to be interrupted and disturbed.
Jesus’ life represented all the seasons, as do ours, new birth, new shoots, deeper growth, sun, joy, warmth, sadness, loss, darkness and death. This last year for many of us there has been a sense of great loss, manifested in many different ways, and yet I enter into this season of autumn with a very thankful heart.
please turn over
I want to thank God for our parish weekend away – entitled ‘Come to the Table’. Feeling thirsty for more? Hungry for God? Tired and weary? Jesus invites us to come to him, into his presence to experience all he has for us, to feast at his table. Chris Lane, our guest speaker, was inspirational as he spoke on hospitality, healing, holiness and hope. He reminded us that the good news of Jesus is around meals and mess, and the miracles happen out of the very ordinariness of our lives, lived out in the presence of God.
He also had the same word that God gave me 8 years ago from Isaiah 54. vv 2 & 3 which was certainly a light bulb moment, or perhaps better described by Simon Chesters as a ‘Meerkat’ moment, for those of us who had been in that same room 8 years ago. I believe we need to take this word very seriously as we discern what God is saying to us in 2019/20, especially I think the words ‘Don’t hold back’ (NRSV). I have been praying and seeking God’s will since the parish weekend, crying out for clarity and confirmation.
I want to give you these thoughts to reflect on and pray into:
Do not hold back on your welcome and hospitality
Do not hold back in growing disciples
Do not hold back from taking the good news of Jesus out into your local community, and on to your frontlines in word and action
Do not hold back any longer on your faith building project – it is not for St. Mark’s but for those who do not yet know Jesus
‘lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes for you will spread out to the right and to the left’.
As we move from autumn into winter, and into the Christmas season, there will be many opportunities for us to invite friends and families of all ages to come and hear the Christmas story at St. Mark’s – the birth of Jesus Christ – God incarnate – Immanuel – God with us.
Let us not hold back with our invitations both verbally, and in distribution of Christmas flyers; may our welcome and hospitality be one of extravagant generosity at every possibility, and at every service; and let us not hold back from sharing our stories as we witness the love of Jesus to others. And in so doing we will ‘Enlarge the site of our tent, and let the curtains of our habitation (that in which we inhabit – Jesus Christ) be stretched out.
May I take this opportunity to wish you an autumn of thankfulness and gratitude; and a rather early winter/Christmas blessing of hope, joy and peace.