Apr 01

Deacon Richard BeckettHave we lost the adventurous spirit of the journey with Jesus?

On a retreat last year, I read J.R.Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’. Actually it was the second time I had read it, the first being in my early teens (Just a few years ago!)
It seems an odd choice of book to read on retreat but it fitted my mood at the time.
If you don’t know the story, Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his Hobbit hole. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep to whisk him away on an adventure which draws the simple creature into a journey of danger, risk, vulnerability, courage, and companionship, a journey on which he discovers his own resourcefulness and skills.

Probably because I read the story on retreat I recognised the obvious parallels between my own my own journey with Jesus which has also at times involved all those things which Bilbo experienced on his journey.

Basically I am that ‘home-loving creature’ too but so often a phone call, or an email or a conversation draws me into unknown territory where I can be vulnerable, need courage and experience a whole new array of emotions. But this is nothing to be afraid of if we are truly journeying with Jesus indeed it is often part of the journey he calls us to.

We are in the season of Lent, traditionally a time to focus on prayer, repentance and perhaps self-denial. A season ending with the events of Holy week and Jesus’ crucifixion but then the real adventure begins. Have a look at the end of Mark’s Gospel for the description of the adventure which Jesus calls us to be a part of:

….Then Jesus said, “Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all. Whoever believes and is baptized is saved; whoever refuses to believe is damned.

“These are some of the signs that will accompany believers: They will throw out demons in my name, they will speak in new tongues, they will take snakes in their hands, they will drink poison and not be hurt, they will lay hands on the sick and make them well.” (Mark 16:14-18 The Message version)

Not an easy command to obey but that is an adventure we are a part of too so when the Holy Spirit knocks on the door and disturbs our comfortableness don’t be afraid to open it and venture out into new territory. And don’t forget that we travel with others in Christian companionship too.

Don’t be like Bilbo who said initially “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.”

Deacon Richard Beckett

written by Park Avenue Methodist Church

Mar 07

martinswanJesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

—Matthew 22:37–39

Some years ago, three hundred whales were found marooned on a beach. Scientists speculated that the whales had been chasing sardines and became trapped in shallow water when the tide went out.

Now, I think that’s an amazing thing. By chasing little sardines, these gigantic creatures were ultimately led to their doom.

I think too many of us waste our lives chasing sardines, so to speak. If we are not careful individuals and of course our circuit can major on the minors and have no clear focus or objective in mind for the bigger picture. However, for all of us, God tells us clearly what should be the primary goal of every Christian.

If we can get our priorities straight in this area, everything else will come together. In fact, if we can get these two principles clear in our lives, then all the commandments of God will become a natural outflow of our commitment to Him

What are these principles? One, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NLT), and two, “Love your neighbour as yourself “(verse 39, NLT).

When Jesus spoke these words, He was identifying what should be the focus of every person. Essentially, He was saying that love is the basis for all obedience. If we really love God, then we will naturally want to do the things that please Him and not ourselves.

It has been said that if you aim at nothing, you are bound to hit it. So the questions for our Circuit life together. What is our highest priority? What are our goals?

Reverend Martin Swan

written by Park Avenue Methodist Church