Monday, 6 July 2015

Sent Out For Service

And so a new chapter opens up amongst us today. And what an exciting day - a day in which we begin to see the fulfilment of a vocational journey that began in another place at another time amongst different people.

I know Jairo you have found being here amongst us, serving and helping us serve the four communities of West Hyde, Maple Cross, Mill End and Heronsgate challenging at times - not least of all in that you have been thrown rather in at the deep end in terms of our worshipping style and the number of services - but as you now have the authority from Christ through His church to bless in His name, I want to tell you how much we have been blessed by you already in your developing gifts and skills in ministry.

I know also that as wear your stole in the priestly position now, you have already in these last weeks been aware of the burden of priestly responsibility that you now carry - but remember this ministry is Jesus’ which with us you are called to share, and as He said in Matthew 11 - ‘His yoke is easy and His burden is light’ because we bear it together.  All us know what learning a new skill is like whether that’s riding a bike, solving algebra, driving a car, or some new skill to enable us to carry out a task at work.  We are aware of the new skills that you are exercising for the first time today - and we are seeking to support you in encouraging you and continuing to pray for you.

Jesus has just made two trips across Lake Galilee to the eastern shore, to a strongly Gentile area, to what today is the city of Jerash, north of the Jordan. These territories would be places of suspicion for faithful Jews as they were regions of multiple languages, cultures and religions. Whilst there he heals a man posessed by demons who he into a large heard of swine who then kill themselves and someone’s life and livelihood. Then on a second trip Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter and the woman suffering from continuous haemorrhages. He then returns home.

‘…He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority…’ Jesus sends out the disciples to experience and exercise everything he has taught them.

I heard recently that in Japan, many schools don’t employ cleaners in the same way that our schools do. In many places the children are given the responsibility to clean their classroom and one other place in school. At the end of term there is a bigger spring clean for which students have responsibility. In some cases, once a year, a school will also have a ‘community clean’ which takes the same ideas out into the local neighbourhood. The thinking is that it helps teach a sense of corporate responsibility and teamwork.

Jesus wanted to teach his disciples that their ministry is an extension of His. To enable that He gave them corporate responsibility for it. The priestly ministry which you begin to exercise today Jairo is only worth anything if you begin to exercise it. But take heart because your ministry is not yours or even mine or the Bishop’s but one that Christ extends to you and us - and he sends us out into our communities to exercise it together to His praise and glory.

‘…He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics…’ Take few things with you to clutter your life and to have your hands and your heart free to serve God and others says Jesus.

Fr Phil Sumner who is a parish priest in Oldham has taken up fasting during the Muslim festival of Ramadan for the 10th year. It might seem odd for a Roman Catholic to observe a Muslim fast but as he said recently - fasting for him highlights our culture's obsession with consumption and struggles with obesity, it offers and identification and understanding of other faith traditions, but it also points to a long tradition of fasting within Christianity which reminds us of our ultimate reliance on God.

Jesus sends His disciples out with very little.  The resources for ministry for them are meagre but they are more than enough.  I know Jairo in many ways you feel underprepared for the task that Christ calls us to - but Christ sends us because we have all that we need. As we travel light together we, like those first disciples, are called to rely on each other and God for the task He calls us together to.

’… As you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them…’  The offer of the ministry of blessing that Jairo begins exercising today can be accepted but it can also be rejected.

Rob recently gave in to his children’s pleading and bought them a kitten. They were delighted with Theodore as you can imagine. But the family have now acquired another pet as Theodore brought in a tiny bedraggled baby House Martin one day, so the family have decided to hand rear that too. Advice that the family received was they should have left the bird outside again because often adult birds are not far away - but they didn't want to leave it on the ground in case Theodore finished the job next time!

The disciples are sent out to a ministry of teaching and healing by Jesus, as together with Jairo we are still - but it’s a message and ministry that people are free to accept or reject.  It’s easy to get discouraged when people chose not to listen to the good things of Jesus, they did it to Him and His disciples, they will do it to us. Jesus encourages us still to just keep going, to persevere, keep loving, encouraging, and praying for the people we live and work and learn amongst because people do ultimately want to be fed by what God offers us all still.

What is Jesus saying to us this morning? Whilst Jairo’s ministry changes today - the priestly ministry of the whole church remains the same - we are called to work and worship together, to make known the kindgom’s nearness together. We might feel underprepared, under equipped, unworthy, but Christ sends us anyway, as we are called to rely on each other and on God for the resources we need. When the disciples did that, scripture tell us elsewhere, they returned rejoicing seeing God at work in people’s lives - we should expect to see the same thing.

How do we respond? Do we heave a sigh of relief - we have two priests now, the church no longer needs me - or do we heed the call of Christ to be sent with Jairo, our Readers, indeed the whole church back into our communities to make know together the love of God in Christ? Do we rely on the theologically articulate to tell others of the works of God - or do we trust that the knowledge and experience we each have of what God is doing in our lives will be enough? Will we sit back and leave all of this 'church stuff' to the professionals - priests and readers - or will we allow God to use even us to persevere in sharing His love with those whom we encounter?