There's a saying in these parts that you aren't part of a village until you've 'wintered and summered yer' - actually some would say there's a belief that you aren't part part of these communities until you've been born, lived and died here, but that's a discussion for another time! In the Church I think there's a feeling that as a new minister you've earned your place when you've 'Christmassed and Eastered' there. I think that's true, until you've celebrated the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ then there's something missing from your part in the Christian community. For those of us in ministry this time of year, even more than Christmas, is a reminder of the pains and joys of our journey of faith, and of the humility and privilege of ministry... but more about Maundy Thursday in a few days.
We have services every day for the next eight days starting tomorrow. I have put a service in each one of these Churches at some time over the coming week or so, and services in every one on Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Day. Some might say that I have created a 'rod for my own back' but for me the observance of Holy Week leads more fully into the joy and power of Easter Day, in fact I will publish my monthly magazine reflection on New Kid Deep Stuff which talks on this theme, find it here...
My concern with making sure this next week has services which are inspiring, enlightening and good quality - allowing space for worship and for some encounter with God - has meant that I've had to leave some other things aside for a week or two, just as the time it took to prepare the talks for Thursday evenings means that I haven't done all of the other things I have wanted to. It is one of the frustrations of being in ministry that the work never stops, or, more accurately, never comes to an end - it can lead to feeling frustrated and unfulfilled. Part of dealing with such feelings is looking at what has been achieved and those things which have been valuable and worthwhile, as well as learning from the things which haven't worked so well. There are more formal, structural, ways of setting goals and working to standards and there may be a time to go through that - but on a day to day basis I look at what has happened and reflect on what has been done, asking always the question 'where is God in all this?' in the hope that the work we do has a sense of meaning and achievement.
There is always more to do, but I take heart from the example of Jesus, and from a theology that stems from what some call the 'scandal of particularity' - that Jesus wasn't everywhere at once, nor did he meet everyone in the world, nor did he heal everyone in Israel, or preach to everyone. He also took time out to pray and to be with God. Recognising that God choose in Christ to be in one place and one time, and didn't try to do everything, and focussed his ministry and activity reminds me that we must do the same. God meets us where we are, and meets us as who we are - we should continue to be focussed in the now of what we are called to be, and to do the work we are called to do, not always anxious about what we can't do, be or what we cannot achieve. Sometimes we all need a reminder that the now is the gift God has given us....as one wise cheesemeister once said 'that's why it's called the present'.
I will post last Sunday's sermon and the final part of the Creed sessions later on today, maybe soon if I can get things together.