Rector's Ramblings: April 25th 2021



Alleluia! Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed. Alleluia!     

       Today is Good Shepherd Sunday (read the gospel for today and you’ll see why). A reminder that Jesus is the Good Shepherd for us and the whole world.  Jesus is with us always on our journey through life from cradle to grave and beyond, a journey that will at times be delightful and at others the opposite. He is there. It is a good day for us to remember and trust this Good Shepherd for reasons I will explain later.

   We need to remember Jesus’ love for us – unconditional and undeserved – a love that he shows in his life, death and resurrection. A love that was costly to Jesus in so many ways but he would have paid an even higher price had it been necessary.  A love that had a purpose – to bring the whole world, human and animal and plant, together – living God’s way, in His love. One flock with the Good Shepherd leading.

    In turn, we beloved sheep are called to live lives of love, love which will be costly and love that has a purpose – to make known the love and forgiveness of God; to bring all those not yet in Jesus’ flock to know the Good Shepherd.

   Why do I say it is a good time to be reminded of Christ as our Good Shepherd? Well, On Tuesday night, Bishop Martyn and his team presented to the deanery where they have reached in the Shaped by God Together process. For the first time, we were made aware of the sort of models that are being looked at for the future. It was a difficult evening for all: unfamiliar language was being used; more questions than answers; and too much to take in in a short space of time, let alone process it.

    What I know  is that the future life of the church will look different. Despite the years of saying that the Church of England faces huge issues with finances, too many ancient buildings to care for and fewer clergy, for the first time it sunk in that the rubber is about to hit the road now and not in some distant future.  Do look at Bishop Martyn’s address setting out 3 possible models for the future. It’s here   or you can download the transcript here  /content/pages/documents/sbg-min-models-martyn.pdf

    And the flock is up in the air! I understand that. Fear of the future, anger, despair. I recognise it is hard to see a way through it to a possible good future. Too much will change, and that is always tricky for us. I know we all have a picture in our heads of what church should look like and be. The problem is that probably no two of us have the same picture which then causes disagreement.

      I’m reminded of the old hymn: “Souls of men, why will ye scatter like a crowd of frightened sheep? Foolish hearts, why will ye wander from a love so true and deep?” The good shepherd is with us in this; he has not abandoned us or his church. He is walking with us, and we need to be in prayer so that we hear his voice and dare to follow his leading , which might not be where we want to go. We do have to live with the reality of circumstances as they are. How can we live well as God’s sheep? Not despairing – but living that life of love, that reaches out beyond ourselves as we receive that love from Christ himself.

   This change that lies ahead is a real challenge as to how we go on faithfully in our individual walk of faith, and not react in the way of the world which takes to words of hatred and vitriol. How do we show to the world that Christians can sort out their differences showing forgiveness and care and love? It is a real challenge as to how to stay together as the flock of Christ, a flock which is there to go out from the sheepfold and not just huddle inside; how do we live together well as a church (local and diocesan and national) demonstrating that Jesus’ is the way of love and different?

    Are we up to explore that challenge (this isn’t taking Jesus by surprise even if it does us)? And to discern what Jesus would have us do? To feed back in the process our concerns, and questions (which we are invited to do). Or give up and take our ball home? For the past year, we have worked hard to keep all involved and feeling cared for and that has been a challenge. We have managed it in part but not totally. It won’t be easy as we take part in the process but we were never promised that following Christ would be easy. Life wasn’t easy for Him. What is he asking of us now?       

    There is much more to ponder about the way ahead and the Shaped by God Together process. Can I encourage you to engage with it? Let’s not put heads in the sand. I will be putting more up on the website. Do read it and think about it and pray about it.