Clergy Message for September & October 2019

Dear Friends,


Many people reading this will have travelled on a boat or ship at some time or other. How was your experience? Life is sometimes compared to an ocean. If we take that idea, how is the ocean of life for you? Calm? Stormy? Unpredictable? Foggy? Crowded with other shipping?


What kind of boat do you feel you are in? A dinghy? ...or something similarly small and vulnerable? There is a prayer, attributed to a Breton fisherman, which goes “Lord God, help me! The sea is so big, and my boat is so small.” Psalm 107 verses 23-31 speaks of those caught up in a storm on the sea, and crying out to God in their trouble…”and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” If the sea of life is stormy, let us pray, and let us help each other, as ships do out on the high seas - not forgetting of course the example of the coastguards and RNLI and their work of rescuing “those in peril on the sea”. Many people I meet are actively caring for, helping and rescuing others in distress.


Or do we feel that we are on a ferry? In transit; not here for long; heading for a destination which we have never visited before and may be longing for or perhaps unsure about or even fearful of? The Bible is full of people on journeys, seeking an “abiding city”, somewhere to find peace and belonging (see Hebrews 11:13-16, John 14:6).


The journey however is still very important, the “ship of life” we share is still our home; our fellow “sailors” are people we are called to love, care for and work with now; how we live this journey now will prepare us for the future.


Or are we on a cruise ship - sitting back; being served; lots of options available; little effort required? Do we realise how much we owe to others whose hard work sustains us? Are we grateful? Do we find ways to share our plenty with others? As St. Paul wrote to a young church leader Timothy over 1960 years ago - “command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain but in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:17-18).


Perhaps however, and particularly if we are followers of Jesus Christ, we may feel we are on a battleship, on a peace-keeping mission - everyone on board with a role to play, aware of needing to be a mutually supportive team, looking to one commander, aware of being in hostile waters and yet flying the flag and taking appropriate action to defeat evil and injustice and bring liberation, justice and peace to the oppressed and suffering.


Jesus described his mission in these terms “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:16-21 and Isaiah 61:1,2). That mission is ongoing - are we on board with that?


How is the “sea of life” for you and me? What kind of “boat” are we on? Where are you headed? Who is in charge? What is your role?


Bon voyage!

With very best wishes,


Jonathan


A prayer: “Lord God, your Son left the riches of heaven and became poor for our sake: when we prosper save us from pride, when we are needy save us from despair, that we may trust in you alone; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.