Sunday, 21 September 2014

Jonah - a sign for our times

Capital vision 2020 was launched last Summer within the Diocese of London. Our bishop of London, Bishop Richard, wrote to all his 400 clergy at the time:

We are continuing to build a church for London that is Confident, Compassionate and Creative. These three words have emerged from nearly 2,000 conversations over the last 18 months and they inform our Capital Vision 2020. As a Diocese we have reflected on the times we live in, listening and responding by identifying areas where we must be more purposeful and more imaginative.
At the same time we must of course maintain our day to day mission and ministry across London. We remain committed to serving the communities where we are already; through prayer, worship and practical service in the name of Jesus Christ.

We have already begun to responded here at both churches

We are being more creative with our churches, removing chairs and pews that are hardly ever used and creating space that can be used throughout the week for work with young people and create space for fellowship
at times when we meet to worship.
The possibility of creating new compassionate space in the form of a GP surgery and more community space on the ground originally designed as a third aisle for St John’s church seems tantalizingly near, just as the possibility of transforming a car park into compassionate housing for elders at St Matthias seems a possibility.
We are using the next four months as a season of invitation, beginning this month with back to Church Sunday - each one of us inviting someone to special services between now and Christmas as we continue with confidence to share out faith with those around us.

But there remains still a great deal more to be done within the community we stand. The needs of our community seem daunting when compared to our meager resources and maybe like Jonah  we would rather run that stay and with creative compassionate confidence engage with the challenges that face those living in or city and sharing the gospel of Gods love revealed through Jesus Christ.

However we can neither run nor hide from the challenge and our shared Vision as a parish and a Diocese. If we try and run away from the challenge that is before us and bury our heads in the sand thinking the issues might go away –Jonah stands as a sign – a warning to us

When Jonah is confronted with the task at hand, to go and convert, to transform, that great city of Nineveh, his response is to run away. He tries to get a boat to Spain – for some sun and sangria no doubt. He convinces himself that he can do something other than fulfill the command of God “to go”. May be like many of us, we hope that someone else will do the job or if we look the other way the challenge, the issues, the task will quietly go away.

We may be masters at deception but of course Jonah learns the hard way that God is not to be deceived. Jonah may have a little break in a health club or detox clinic planned but of course God has something else in mind.

Capital Vision is in part a challenge for us to respond to the call of our Baptism – to be a light in the world, to renounce evil and follow Christ. Capital Vision is not an attempt to make us feel inadequate or even guilty, but to face up honestly to the issues that confront the church in this city.

Once Jonah comes to his senses, and of course it is only when he is faced with a crisis that he does – namely when he finds himself in the belly of a large fish. Once Jonah comes to his senses he is ready to accept the challenge and face with honesty the task that is before him.

When faced with the confusing landscape of the 21st century, when we are part of a church that at times does not seem to be singing the same song, a church in which we are not using the same hymn book, in all this confusion and turmoil it is easy to throw up our hands is panic or even despair. To give up hope and as Jonah did allow ourselves to be thrown to the storm as an act of fear and despair will not thwart the purposes of God.

What the story of Jonah reminds us is that when we are all at sea, not all is lost, purpose and meaning is still found even in the depths of the storm around us, yes even in the belly of a large fish!

As we consider the challenge that is before us as individuals, as congregations and as a diocese, let us not filled with despair, as Jonah was, let us not deceive ourselves but let us work together taking inspiration from the words of St Paul writing to the Philippians “Stand firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.” 1.27

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