Not given much to New Year resolutions but I’ve decided to start a blog in 2014. We have thought for many years of starting a Magazine, Newsletter or something as I do value the opportunity of writing a monthly ‘Rectors Message’ somehow. But we have a good website so from this January I have decided to write a ‘blog’ or whatever you want to call it. I am someone who needs deadlines to focus my mind so not having to do something before ‘going to press’ as this can be uploaded to the web anytime I see the end of January looming so here goes for ‘Rector’s Blog No. 1’.
January begins with the end of the 12 days of Christmas and the beginning of Epiphany. Epiphany is not just one day but is a season ending with Candlemass on 2nd February when we mark when Jesus was presented to God in the Temple and proclaimed by the aged Simeon as ‘The Light of the World’ – ‘a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of Your people Israel’
The message of Epiphany (lit ‘shown’) is that Jesus is for everyone from all nations in the whole world, represented by the Magi coming from distant lands. We do not know how many Magi there were, or even if they were just men, and they may not have been Kings, but we do know that they brought 3 precious gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
During January I have been thinking how these 3 gifts represent 3 challenges and focusses for us as a local church at Great Chart and Singleton and how we seek to be God’s people and serve the Parish and wider community around us.
Gold is beautiful and attractive but not very practical. Apart from a small amount used in the computer and electronics industry, it is known as something decorative and speaks of giving, generosity, love, care, relationship. As a church we have many special and precious things that have lovingly been given to us over the generations. The most obvious ones are our amazing buildings. St Marys Great Chart is a stunning Grade 1 listed large C14th Parish Church. It is beautiful and graceful and very attractive standing proud on top of a hill. Many are drawn to visit its peace and beauty and tranquillity. It is very popular for Weddings and Baptisms and over Christmas once again we have had huge numbers of people coming to the many services where we have celebrated the joy of Christmas together. It isn’t a very practical building – large, cold, fixed hard pews, no toilet, but it is still much loved and treasured. It has huge challenges with vital structural work needed to the tower, windows and churchyard walls. We would love it to be more practical and useable too but that is a big vision. St Mary’s in Singleton has met for 18 of its 21 years in Singleton Village Hall. This too has challenges in its upkeep and a major extension beginning we hope this April.
Our first challenge as a church this year is how we value and care for and use more our ‘Gold’ at both Great Chart and Singleton. The PCC has a ‘Development Group’ that is very small and Singleton needs a new ‘Village Hall Church Rep’ for the Singleton Village Hall Management Group. As we think of the gifts the magi brought to Jesus, what are the gifts we have that we can offer to Him? Do you have a passion for the Gold that we have and can support the work of the church in this way?
The second gift the Magi brought was Frankincense. Frankincense was used in worship as in the ancient world Kings were not just given Gold as the best but were worshipped as deities. How right the magi were in this maybe unwittingly as Jesus is Lord – the Son of God. Worship and praise of God is the most important thing we can do in our lives. In includes prayer, meditating on God’s Word, worshiping God corporately as we come together as a church. We have leadership Teams at both Great Chart and Singleton as we encourage one another in praise and worship. We constantly seek people to share in ministry not just leading and preaching but also reading the Bible readings, leading prayers, singing and playing in our music group and choir. But this is not about volunteers as we want people to seek this prayerfully and in submission to others too. During 2014 we have the additional challenge of finding ways of working more closely with our neighbouring Parish Churches, so that our ministry teams may need to be open to serve and lead beyond just in St Mary’s Great Chart and St Mary’s in Singleton as well as serving and ministering to friends, neighbours, families and at work. Is God calling you to offer yourself more in ministry and service to others?
The third gift of the magi was Myrrh. Myrrh is a balm of healing and anointing properties. It speaks of suffering and death as was used in the embalming of the dead. The magi brought this for a king who would face suffering and death and indeed the suffering and death of Jesus is at the heart of our faith. We also serve in a world in need, facing suffering and death. We are called to reach out in Mission as we share the good news of Jesus’ saving love. Not only do we worship and praise God in our precious places but we reach out to all in need with the hope that Jesus brings even through suffering and death into the hope of eternal life He offers by faith in Him. In 2014 we need to be a church that reaches out to our community in love and service. We do not exist for ourselves but for those around us that they would know Jesus for themselves and become worshipping people too.
So Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Three challenges. For those who like alliteration Materials, Ministry and Mission! Where is God calling you to serve Him in the life of His church? Are your gifts in caring for and furthering the use of our Gold – our precious buildings and things? Are you called to minister to others both within and beyond the life of the church? Are you called to reach out to those in need who have no contact with the church?
This new year and through 2014 these are 3 challenges for us. Seek God’s will and guidance as to where and how He is calling you to respond to at least one of these challenges – Gold, Frankincense or Myrrh?