SUNDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2016 – Lent 2
Genesis 15.1-12, 17-18
In today’s readings there is a broad stretch of history, from God’s promise to Abram (soon to be Abraham) that he would receive a son and that his Hebrew descendants would inherit a dedicated land, right through to the person of Jesus Christ who bewails the way in which those descendants have disappointed and betrayed God. In between the Old Testament reading and the Gospel we have an excerpt from Paul’s letter to the people of Philippi in Greece, encouraging them to observe the example shown by Jesus “who will transform the body of our humiliation” and to imitate that example. Well, as we all know, the body of Christ in the world today remains humiliated, in that it is far from perfect, and those who do not recognise Christ are still bent on destruction, filling their bellies and wallets, setting their minds on earthly things. So what is to do ?
The Ministry Team here at St Mary’s, including Sunny our Administrator and Tyrone our Director of Music, spent most of last Thursday on a Team Development workshop, with a facilitator. In advance of it we had all been asked to complete an exercise in which we answered questions about how we thought we would behave in various circumstances described as “calm” and “storm” (similar to Meyers-Briggs if you are familiar with that). This produced a personal profile card which we were asked to hang around our necks so that everyone could see them. Needless to say we were all different, which is not a bad thing at all and actually enabled us all to get to know each other in a way we had not experienced before.
The main theme underlying the workshop can be described as self-awareness. This doesn’t mean just an awareness that we exist, but an extended awareness of who we are and how we come across in our relationships with other human beings. We are all made in the image and likeness of God, so we all have the capacity for being transformed into the example of Jesus Christ, who reminded us that the two most important Commandments are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. The operative words here are “as ourselves”.
But we can only know and come to love ourselves in interaction and relationship with others. It is one thing to decide on a particular course of action, and quite another to work out how it is to be done by taking into account the views and reactions of others. So for example there are people who say they believe in God and say their prayers every night, but don’t think it is necessary to come to church; they are fulfilling one part of that commandment but neglecting the other.
It is through this self-knowledge and self-love, in the sense that we are comfortable with who we are, that we come more fully to our Christian calling and are enabled to reach out in service to others. Remember Jesus’s saying in John’s Gospel “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”, and this applies to both those who are reaching out as well as to those who are being reached out to. This is the background behind Alison’s appeal just now for help with the services at Meadbank every fortnight: this is rewarding and fulfilling work for both volunteers and residents. Of course there are many other ways of reaching out to others, both within the church family and beyond. Some of the opportunities here in St Mary’s are listed in item 7 of the notices on page 15 of the service sheet: please have a good look at these – they too are rewarding and fulfilling in their different ways, if you think they would fit your particular capabilities, and in any case training will be given.
In this way, and out in the world around us where we spend the majority of our time, we all move intentionally towards that new Jerusalem, towards being transformed from the “body of our humiliation” (as Paul puts it to the Philippians) towards being conformed to or more like the “body of Christ’s glory” by the power of the Holy Spirit who is God himself.
PBW – 19.2.2016