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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 27.04.2023

Video for 27th April, 2023

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.

I’m filming this from the Intercontinental Church Societies Chaplains conference where I’m one of the speakers.  Its one of my out of Diocese hats.  I’m the Chair of the Council.  ICS is 200 years old this year and has been planting churches to English speakers in Europe all that time. The is actually the most environmentally friendly place to hold this.  Its more or less central for the church leaders who are all in mainland Europe. We’re in an amazing seminary in Beatenberg just above Interlaken.  As you would expect from the Swiss, it’s a very efficient building with a very low carbon footprint.  When one starts on the ministerial journey, one never knows where one is going to end up.

This coming Sunday, April 30th is designated in many churches as vocations Sunday. Its an opportunity in our worship to consider God’s call on our lives. It challenges us to think into the paradox at the heart of a lived out faith.  God has a call, we might even say a plan, for our lives, and yet we have a choice. We can choose to respond or not.  If we choose to respond, we step into something that has potential to build the kingdom of God. If we choose not to, God’s unfolding sovereign plan will not be derailed. It would be delusional to think we had such power. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1 talks about, “having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. But predestined is not the same as predetermined.  A destiny, is more about stepping into a sphere of life that will bring blessing, to others as well as ourselves, as it is specific actions or career plans. For much of history the idea of a vocation that specific would have been a pipedream in any case. Most people, for most of time, have been too busy with the struggle for subsistence to worry about self-actualisation and reaching their full potential.

There is a fundamental vocation for all Christians to pursue holiness.  This is both a moral purity and a conscious availability to God to do his work in the world. It is to model our lives on Jesus. Out of that core vocation come specific callings that may reflect the particular gifts and passions God has given us.  Who we are is a unique combination of genetic endowment, experiences of our family of origin, life circumstances, and our own personal choices.  All of these are imperfect in many ways, but as followers of Jesus we are also becoming someone.  This ‘becoming’ isn’t just the growth that takes place as we get older, but the working of the Holy Spirit: healing, challenging and forming Christ’s image in us. In every Christian soul there is a sort of spiritual battle going on between who we are as fallen human beings, and who God is making us if we work with the Holy Spirit in his task of transformation. The spiritual disciplines, fellowship and experiences of stretching ourselves beyond our comfort zone in God’s service facilitate that process.

In His pastoral Epistles Paul ties the work of discerning vocation, particularly to vocations to church leadership to this character development.  He is keen that the work of choosing leaders is not subjective, but subject to scrutiny. The sort of people who ought to be leading churches, both lay and ordained, are likely to be those who are self-effacing, often reluctant to put themselves forward as they are more conscious of their failings than their gifts.

On vocations Sunday, for that reason, it would be good if we made a conscious decision to encourage those in whom we see gifts, to exercise those gifts in the service of Church and community. It is very affirming to have someone come up to you and say, “I think you could do that!” There are many opportunities to serve in our churches today.  Lay worship leading, pastoral work and even teaching to name but a few. Could the Lord be calling you to offer for one of those, or even for ordained ministry?

Our friends in the Methodist Church have an annual Covenant Service, often at the New Year.  It is an opportunity for worshippers to offer themselves afresh to God.  It contains a prayer which is both wonderfully biblical, and almost impossible to say with sincerity.  I have used it myself on several occasions and each time it makes me feel acutely vulnerable.  But who knows what the Lord might be able to do with the 7000 or so adults and children who make up our congregations were each of us to pray this and mean it as best we can.

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.'

+ Richard

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