The question that many of you appear to be asking is: So what’s the new vicar going to do? Quite right, too; good question. If you find, do let me know.
Perhaps a story will help give an answer to that question.
A number of years ago I was persuaded to join a five-a-side football charity championship – I think they played it pretty loose and fast with the word ‘championship’. When you get to know me better, you’ll know how very funny it was that i was asked to play football. Really.
I joined a group of nearly-retired businessmen, and together we made a pretty comical team. Our uselessness was further highlighted when we played our first match against the Royal Marines. In case you think this is going to be a story about the underdogs-done-good, let me assure you that we were humiliated.
About half way through the match I started to get frustrated that my team was unable to do anything. So, having conceded yet another goal, I took the ball from the goalkeeper and decided i would take it up the pitch myself and put it in the back of the net. What I haven’t told you is that this championship was being played in Singapore, in the midday heat. So, in the midday sun and humidity, I charged up the pitch, taking past bemused Marine after bemused Marine. It was quite a sight, and as I approached the goal I knew I was ready for glory. Sadly, my legs didn’t, as they collapsed beneath me and sank to the ground like a sack of potatoes.
It was a moment that reminded me of my sporting uselessness, as well as in the importance of playing your position, not chasing the ball all over the pitch. If different people do not occupy different positions, and instead put all responsibility upon one player, then that person will fail in spectacular fashion. As with that silly game of football, so with the church.
The quality of a Church should be judged not on how sensational are the priests at the front, but how servant-hearted is the whole community.
Our Lord gathered others and ministered with them – he did not come on earth to perform a one-man magic show and wow people in their seats, but to empower people out of their seats to join in with the kingdom of God.
He also encouraged and challenged people to look inside themselves to see that God had made them in such a way that they already had all they needed to participate and flourish in the kingdom. Leave your purse, your coat, leave your bag!
It’s not that those things don’t matter – they do – what we do with our money and possessions matters a great deal. Your worth in the kingdom, though, is not derived from those things, it is derived from God, and his overwhelming love for you. The source of all that you are, all that you can be, all that the church is to be, all that we are to be and do together, is found in God’s overflowing life that creates and draws us to love.
As a Parish, we may not have all of the resources that we think we need – and maybe we can work on that; the ministry to which we’re all called, though, does not come out of the richness of buildings, nor the richness of bank accounts, but principally out of the richness of God’s love for those he has made.
The way of life that is needed by our neighbours comes out of encountering God’s love for us in such a transformative way that we cannot but get out of our seats, our homes, our everyday lives, and give ourselves in love to this extraordinary miracle which is life, and glorious good news in Christ that shows that life is sacred, eternally held in God.
Getting a new vicar is a funny time – there is a sense of hope, sense of excitement, sense of concern, sense of fear – and those things will hang around until we get to know one another better. The central question, though, the one that really matters, the one that will really make a difference, is not what the new vicar may or may not do, but how deeply each one of us will continue to respond to the God who made us, and will not let us go, the God who meets with us in bread and wine, so that the whole church – all of us – would overflow with the life and love of God.