2017 February

February 2017

Dear Friends,

By the time that you read this, our churches will have presented the findings of their review on Sunday 21st January. It is a very fitting way to start the New Year. As we look backwards to the years that have been, we have an opportunity to decide whether we want anything to be different in the future. New Year resolutions are the traditional form of this exercise, and often don’t make past the end of January!

It might be appropriate to bring the wisdom of Jesus’ parable of the sower to bear on our resolutions.

The worst resolutions are the ones that we don’t make.  It’s too hard, too difficult, too far outside our comfort zone, and too easy to never start. Jon Ortberg in his book with the short title, “If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat,” points out that the real failures were not Peter who tried to walk on water, but those who stayed in the boat and tried nothing.  The resolutions that we don’t make are like the seed on the pathway. They never started to grow, and amounted to nothing.

There are those resolutions that we manage to keep going for a short time – the one and only visit to the gym, the healthy eating diet that lasts one week, or the prayer time that never really takes off. These are like the seed on the rocky ground. Yes, the aspiration is there, but there is not enough soil to sustain the effort, and the seedlings shrivel and die.

Some resolutions we keep going for some time until the pressures of work, health, commitments squeeze them out. They are like the seeds that grow into healthy seedlings, only for them to be squeezed out by weeds.

Finally, some seed fell on good ground, grew and produced a harvest of 30, 60 and 100-fold.  What is it that provides us with the good ground that nourishes and feeds our resolutions? Firstly, there is the preparation of the soil. We have started that with the review of our churches. If we do nothing else and stop there, we are back on the pathway where nothing happens.

The review is, if you like, the analysis of the soil. We need to tend it, plough it, till it, nourish it and prepare it for the planting of seeds. The rocky places need to be cleared of their rocks and dug up. Ploughing may involve breaking up clumps of soil so that new life can flourish. The furrows that have existed since the last time a plough came by may need to be re-ploughed to provide fresh furrows. We will need the wisdom to recognise when the ground is ready and the humility to ask God to plough us to provide space for his seed to grow. The nourishment comes through prayer, reading God’s Word, individually and together, and providing fellowship for one another, as we work together for God’s kingdom.

The fellowship that we find in church is not the harvest that God is looking for, but rather the means of providing support for the harvest. I find that as I seek to change myself, I need support from others to encourage me and help me. I am sure that is true for all of us.

The exercise that we, as a circuit, have embarked on is one where we aim to provide a harvest to our Lord – a growing church, lives changed and transformed, people finding Christ as their Lord and Saviour. As we go through the process of being reshaped, based on what we have found in our review, it will be essential that we support one another and encourage one another, keeping to the fore our hope and our trust that God is with us. We look to the day when we will see that harvest grow. I invite you to join with us in our exploration of what it means to be a church in a Methodist circuit today as we seek to be faithful to our Lord.



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