Two weeks ago I stood on the chancel step here at our All Age Worship to celebrate Harvest Festival with a Farmer, Miller, Baker, Shop Keeper, a Mother and…..God or various of your children dressed up as such.
We were retelling the Story of the Slice how that slice of bread gets in your toaster at breakfast and why we should be very grateful to God for it.
And we went through the stages of harvest from sowing, reaping, milling, baking and we saw how if it wasn’t for God’s constant loving support of the planet, if it wasn’t for him sustaining the world, we would not have anything to eat at all.
But the point was that harvest is just so amazing and God is so generous that we need to be very thankful. And we concluded by looking at the ways in which we can SHOW our thankfulness to God for all he provides to us.
I mentioned that we show God we are grateful:
by giving our Worship
by giving our Time, and
by giving our Money
So it’s really important that we are able to worship God to thank him for what he does for us.
So this evening we are worshipping him and thanking him, but also thanking those who keep St Mary’s Easton going and enable all of us to worship here on Sundays: and so many of you are here – THANK YOU and Vanessa will say something about that later….
But, in particular, I want to say something this evening about one of the other ways in which we can show God that we are grateful for what he does for us.
I think we have said enough over the last few weeks about money…
Rather, I want to speak about something much more exciting, something THRILLING
I want to talk about giving our time.
Over the course of the next few months the Ministry Team will be drawing your attention to different ways in which we might feel called by God to love our neighbours.
Now, of course, I include in this, the important pastoral work that many of you do
for people in the villages the visiting in hospital, the listening over a cup of tea, perhaps at the wonderful Brew with a View, on Wednesdays in the Easton Village Hall.
But I particularly want to suggest to you, that there are others in our community and beyond whom we could and should be helping in a practical way and I believe that we are ALL being called to do this….
Now I know that you are probably thinking: ‘I am too busy’;‘Alex don’t you know I have work to do’ – just to get here this evening has been a struggle: ‘I am too old, too young,
‘I have children/grandchildren to look after’.
But at the end of the day, if you anything like me, we do what we want to do really!
Even really busy people, and I want to show you a way where you will actually want to do this, in fact how you will find it, the most exciting and rewarding thing in your life.
Because there is no point at all in spending our time doing something we don’t want to do,
or are not good at, for people we don’t like or are embarrassed by…
I am not asking you to do that!
I am asking you to follow out what God is calling YOU as an individual to do!
As I am convinced that he is calling each of us in the Valley to do something, but we may not yet recognise that it is him who is doing the calling….and when he calls us if we step even slightly down the path that he is suggesting, this becomes incredibly exciting, even though it may be daunting at the same time.
You see as we read the newspapers, or watch the news every day, we may feel a special sort of anguish about a particular sort of situation. We may feel (and may say) ‘something has got to be done’; ‘why don’t our politicians DO something?’ or ‘why doesn’t the church do something?’
it could be about the Syrian refugees
it could be about modern slavery
it could be about the homeless, who seem stuck in the streets
it could be about alcohol or drug addicts, who never seem to get free of their addiction
it could be about those with mental health challenges
It could be about those with learning difficulties
it could be about those who cannot manage their money properly
it could be about the disabled or the old
it could be about those who cannot afford to eat
it could be about prisoners, who never seem to reform
it could be about the environment
it could be about marriage and divorce
it could be about those struggling with parenting
it could be about blended families and stepfamilies
Whatever it is,
that feeling of anguish of pain on behalf of others may be God calling you to help change the situation, to be his hands and feet.
Even though you may think ‘I couldn’t possibly’, ‘what can I do?’ However inadequate you feel…
You may know the story of the little boy on the beach, the beach is covered with star fish, washed up by a freak tide, and he is throwing them back into the sea, one by one.
Some middle aged man, comes onto the beach, sees the hundreds of star fish on the beach
and says to the little boy ‘what are you doing, you can’t possibly make any difference’.
So the little boy threw another star fish into the sea and then he said ‘I made a difference to that one…’
However inadequate we feel; however monumental the task, we can make a difference, we can transform lives. It doesn’t have to be hundreds of lives. It could only be one or two
Tonight I would ask you to take a RISK, in a moment of silence, which we will have soon, I promise you….I want you to ask God in your heart, what he is calling you to do.
Then whatever comes into your head, please write down on the piece of paper that you were given at the door, then put it in your pocket and take it home and then let me or one of the other clergy KNOW, by an email or a telephone call or a conversation walking the dogs.
And we can talk about HOW the church can help you and support you in doing whatever God is calling you to do, however impossible the task seems, however old or weak or unable or unsuitable you may think you are, however busy your schedule.
Because if it is God calling you and you respond, you will find that you are able to do it you will find the time; you will find the money; you will find the will; you will find the energy to do it, because God will give them to you.
St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits said that in our life decisions, we should move from ‘desolation’ to ‘consolation’.
And my experience is that, as you answer a call, there is a progressive feeling of excitement, as you start down this new path.
It was for me, as I set the course for ordination.
When you think of whatever it is God has called you to, you don’t think: ‘How gloomy, depressing or upsetting to do that!’. You think how ‘exciting, how wonderful, how fulfilling!’ even though your knees may shake with the fear of it and you may think
‘i cannot possibly do it…’
Some months ago, I gave a sermon based on the passage we have just had read about Jesus walking on water and St Peter getting out of the boat and walking on water towards Jesus, doing the impossible, because Jesus called him to do so.
My catchphrase, which I repeated several times was: ‘it’s time to get out of the boat!’
Sometimes, you think that a talk has gone totally flat, the tension in the air can be palpable and at the Taize service, where I delivered this talk the third time that day, I felt that tension. I felt embarrassed, ashamed even, as if I had just talked nonsense for 20 minutes.
But then Elaine Labram came up to me afterwards and said ‘can we have a chat
because I do feel that I am being called to do something’.
When we met, we talked it over and I asked her what she felt God was
calling her to do ‘something for the Bereaved’ she said.
This November Elaine and Mark Godson will be leading the Bereavement Journey
a course to help Bereaved people created and filmed by Jane Oundjan who has run this course in London for over 20 years. We launched the course at the Parish Communion
This is a series of evenings which enable the bereaved to travel their own journey of grief accompanied by those who understand and are there to listen. Its a practical course – there is an optional sixth session putting bereavement in its Christian context, so it is suitable even for those, who would not call themselves Christians.
If you know of anyone who is bereaved, or if you are yourself please do speak to Elaine (please stand up Elaine) or Mark and ask them about this course or speak to one of the clergy after this service.
I am confident that this will be an outworking of Elaine’s calling, that those who attend this course will be blessed by God in doing it.
Now the opportunity for you to listen to God, just after I pray
Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, open our ears, open our minds, open our hearts to your call on our lives.