Sunday, 22 April 2012

Come Alive with Jesus!

When Pepsi-Cola was launched in China, its marketing managers wondered why its famous slogan, 'Come alive with Pepsi ' was not achieving the impact that it had achieved elsewhere in the world. It was discovered that the translator had rendered it: 'Pepsi brings your relatives back from the dead.'

This is the shocking claim of this morning’s Gospel - that our brother, Jesus of Nazareth, has come back from the dead. All of us like a happy ending. The girl gets the guy. The guy gets the girl. The bad guys get got and everyone walks off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Yet the implications of the resurrection of Jesus are shocking...  For the man who was once dead now lives - he eats fish and understand the will and purposes of God! But the Easter message is not just one of resuscitation, of a dead man to life again, because then nothing would have changed - only the corpse.  Instead, this morning we hear and experience the power of the Resurrection - what God is up to in a world already changed by the Incarnation.

I have been priest in charge in the parish for some 285 days or so.  In that time I have have seen some very clear signs of what God is up to in this part of His world, already being changed by His presence here among us.

Over the last year there have been 28 baptisms, 10 weddings and 28 funerals, 8 of which were in the churches of the parish.  These are some of the most significant ways through which the Risen Christ is present in the lives of many within the wider community and I expect these numbers to rise as together we engage more with the wider community. We have already held a service of Thanksgiving for Marriage, which sits alongside the In Touch service and a soon to be launched Thanksgiving for Holy Baptism service, and these are crucial as ways to welcome back and to continue to support many within the parish.

These last months have been very much about me learning the lie of the land if you will, getting to know you and beginning to settle into a pattern of working and worshipping life together. You will remember that in the early days of my time in the parish I met around 90 of you in your homes in small groups. This was an opportunity for God to set the agenda of the next few years of ministry here. Out of those meetings three broad brush stroke themes - to renew and review our worship, to provide opportunities for study and spiritual growth, to communicate more effectively. In response to the desire to grow and learn we have run a Lent and Advent study course, both of which have been well attended and well received.  The communications work is a work in progress, but some of the fruit of that is a new parish website which for now is available here.  These 3 themes have become the basis of our Mission Action Plan - a version of which will be available to you in a few weeks - helping us to prioritize the work of God that we are doing together with Him.

These last months haven’t been about us standing still though either. Growing out of the God-given priorities you set in the parish profile, with others, I have been fostering our ecumenical links and have met the local Christian leaders. We worked together with MEB at their Light Party in October and they supported our very successful Good Friday Workshop.  I am hoping to be preaching at MEB later on in the Summer, and together we are working on the opening of a Community cafĂ© and Food Bank based at the Community Centre here in Mill End.

Another key priority from the parish profile was to continue the growth of work with children, young people, their schools and organisations. We welcomed 4 Baptized Children to receive Holy Communion earlier this year.  I have been leading worship at Maple Cross and St Peter’s schools on a weekly basis for much of the last months, resourcing lessons at Maple X school and welcoming children to worship in our learn about the faith through visiting our church buildings. Behind the scenes my work continues as a governor and proving support and for especially the Heads of both schools.  I am now part of Diocesan team providing support to schools in this Archdeaconary working with schools that need help with bereavement and collective worship.  These school relationships matter as we seek to engage with the wider communities in which we are set.  And in Maple Cross especially those links are key as we begin talking with both the Church Urban Fund and the ASCEND Project based in South Oxhey about partnerships that will engage with the community in very practical ways and see St Thomas’ building used to the benefit of all.

Worship is the heart of what God’s church is called to. A little new liturgy has been introduced to help mark some of the seasons.  I am delighted that Richard Hickson has taken up responsibility as Organist and we are working closely together.  I am also delighted, as I am sure you are, at the growing skill and confidence of all who make music in the parish.  As you all know, we are in the process of discussing prayerfully our pattern of worship, following a parish-wide consultation. Some good progress has been made latterly and the PCC will discuss this again in May.  I was especially pleased that we took part in Back to Church Sunday this last year and will do so again. We have introduced a weekly Wednesday Eucharist at St Peter’s

The growing importance of pastoral care highlighted again this year and the church is indebted to ongoing and invaluable work of the In Touch group and the LMT especially in their ministry to the care and residential homes but also in supporting and caring for particular individuals.

These are only the headlines, for ahead of us with God lies so much more - growing churches, the setting up of a dedicated pastoral care team, new opportunities to deepen our faith through 2 specific things - This Is Our Faith and a Mission Weekend in the late Autumn, the opportunity to receive the ministry of healing for you and others, the launching of new church based toddler groups, a trainee Lay Reader, a new Curate. I could go on.  But, all of this is all only possible with your continued prayer and support and some of these things will only happen if we do them together - I need, the church needs, Christ needs you to give a little of your time and your talent.

The Risen Jesus appeared to those frightened disciples. They knew it was Him as he ate with them and as He opened the scriptures to them to reveal the plans and purposes of God finding fulfillment in Him.

Jesus calls us sometimes frightened disciples to continue bear witness to Him. We know that the Risen Jesus is with us as we see God’s plans and purposes unfolding around us and as we together meet to eat with Him at the Eucharist.  But to be a witness is not just to experience an event, to hear good things in church, but to willingly tell others about it.  Our call friends together is to continue to proclaim the Resurrection, to make known what God is up to in our communities, to help people within them to answer God’s call and to see their lives transformed by Him. Amen

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