29. April 2018

Mind your own business

Service Type:

Minister: Revd Dr. Ian Tutton

‘…Lord, what about this man?… (John 21, 21)
John’s Gospel ends with Peter, after his own personal exchange with Jesus, drawing attention to the disciple, John. Jesus had spelled out for Peter what his destiny was to be, and Peter is, at best, curious as to the fate of his companion. Jesus, for His part wouldn’t be drawn – ‘what does it matter to you?’ ‘You concentrate of your own particular responsibility.’ ‘You, follow me.’ Precisely because the Christian life is peculiar to each one of us, we are to live the life to which God calls us according to the gifts, talents and abilities with which each one of us has been blessed. Faith is personal; each person of faith is on their own individual faith journey. That does not mean that we can afford the luxury of reshaping God in such a way as to fit in with our understanding of what faith might demand of us; rather it is God at work in us, reshaping us such that we are enabled to cope with the demands that the life of faith makes of us. It is very easy to drive a wedge between faith and its object. Indeed it is fashionable today to suggest that one’s personality is not complete unless one has faith; faith in who or what is a secondary consideration, what matters is that one recognises that somewhere deep within us that is that about us which can only be ‘satisfied’ by our having faith. And so, Depeche Mode can exhort their followers to…
“Reach out and touch faith, Your own personal Jesus,
Someone to hear your prayers, Someone who cares, Your own personal Jesus,
Someone to hear your prayers, Someone who’s there…
Feeling unknown, And you’re all alone, Flesh and bone, By the telephone
Lift up the receiver, I’ll make you a believer…
Take second best, Put me to the test, Things on your chest, You need to confess
I will deliver, You know I’m a forgiver”
(Depeche Mode)…
But its not about a personal Jesus, rather it’s all to do with a personal faith in Jesus. Or, as far as Peter and John were concerned, it was all to do with the personal faith journey that being a follower of Jesus would demand of them. Following Jesus is the priority, and faith is the means by which one is enabled to follow. It is not up to us to decide what it means to follow Jesus, what it means to have faith in Jesus; in essence it is not for us to determine the end even before we’ve begun because that is in itself a contradiction as far as faith is concerned – ‘faith is the assurance of that which is hoped for, the conviction of things as yet unseen’ – For both Peter and for John, whilst Jesus shares with them what it might mean for them to commit themselves to live by faith, a life following Jesus, what that would entail for each of them would have to unfold daily. ‘…It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me…’ – Paul’s testimony. For him, faith meant surrendering his own priorities, his own ambitions, his own desires, surrendering them to the will of God as revealed to him in and through his life changing encounter with Jesus. And so it is with all of us, surrendering ourselves, just ourselves – not ourselves as we would wish to be, nor ourselves as we would wish to be seen by others, not our ‘other self’, but our true self – scarred, wounded, damaged, abused, – this is who we really are, and who we really are is who God calls into the service of Christ…
“For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Jesus Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change. When Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy burdened,” He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way. These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus. He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship. He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love.”  (Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out).
And while our faith journey is our personal faith journey it is not one that is travelled in isolation; we journey with countless fellow-travellers, each making their own way home to the Father’s House, and as they travel together, they get alongside one another, encourage one another, support one another – ‘rejoicing along the way as others rejoice, yet weeping along the way as others weep’  and in that sense of informality, of spontanaity, the Church is born; not as an institution, or an organisation but rather as a brotherhood, a sisterhood, a society – what those who are meeting for worship in the corner of North Square would describe as a ‘society of Friends’ – or what Paul would come to describe as ‘The Body of Christ’, comprising individual ‘bits and pieces’ yet each individual ‘bit’ or ‘piece’ now recognisably part of a larger whole. Of course, at the human level we can function as a human being even if not all our ‘bits and pieces’ are in pristine working order – hard of hearing, failing eye sight, etc – we can even function to a degree if certain ‘bits and pieces’ are missing either by injury or illness – e.g. one marvels at the achievements of certain amputees – and any local church is something like that; it is very rare nowadays for everything that might be done, even ought to be done, to be able to be done precisely because there isn’t the necessary spread of gifts, talents and abilities to make it happen but that is all the more reason for those who are part of the body to do all they can and more to compensate for what is otherwise lacking; that is why ‘church’ meetings are important, meetings like the one we will hold later today, when each of us joins with one another together to discern God’s will for us as a church; to assess, realistically, what we can commit ourselves to do; and to decide how best to do what we can such that God is honoured, the Gospel is proclaimed, our faith strengthened and our commitment rewarded…

Mind your own business

‘…Lord, what about this man?... (John 21, 21)

John’s Gospel ends with Peter, after his own personal exchange with Jesus, drawing attention to the disciple, John. Jesus had spelled out for Peter what his destiny was to be, and Peter is, at best, curious as to the fate of his companion. Jesus, for His part wouldn’t be drawn – ‘what does it matter to you?’ ‘You concentrate of your own particular responsibility.’ ‘You, follow me.’ Precisely because the Christian life is peculiar to each one of us, we are to live the life to which God calls us according to the gifts, talents and abilities with which each one of us has been blessed. Faith is personal; each person of faith is on their own individual faith journey. That does not mean that we can afford the luxury of reshaping God in such a way as to fit in with our understanding of what faith might demand of us; rather it is God at work in us, reshaping us such that we are enabled to cope with the demands that the life of faith makes of us. It is very easy to drive a wedge between faith and its object. Indeed it is fashionable today to suggest that one’s personality is not complete unless one has faith; faith in who or what is a secondary consideration, what matters is that one recognises that somewhere deep within us that is that about us which can only be ‘satisfied’ by our having faith. And so, Depeche Mode can exhort their followers to…

“Reach out and touch faith, Your own personal Jesus,

Someone to hear your prayers, Someone who cares, Your own personal Jesus,

Someone to hear your prayers, Someone who's there…

Feeling unknown, And you're all alone, Flesh and bone, By the telephone
Lift up the receiver, I'll make you a believer…
Take second best, Put me to the test, Things on your chest, You need to confess

I will deliver, You know I'm a forgiver”
(Depeche Mode)…

But its not about a personal Jesus, rather it’s all to do with a personal faith in Jesus. Or, as far as Peter and John were concerned, it was all to do with the personal faith journey that being a follower of Jesus would demand of them. Following Jesus is the priority, and faith is the means by which one is enabled to follow. It is not up to us to decide what it means to follow Jesus, what it means to have faith in Jesus; in essence it is not for us to determine the end even before we’ve begun because that is in itself a contradiction as far as faith is concerned – ‘faith is the assurance of that which is hoped for, the conviction of things as yet unseen’ – For both Peter and for John, whilst Jesus shares with them what it might mean for them to commit themselves to live by faith, a life following Jesus, what that would entail for each of them would have to unfold daily. ‘…It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me…’ – Paul’s testimony. For him, faith meant surrendering his own priorities, his own ambitions, his own desires, surrendering them to the will of God as revealed to him in and through his life changing encounter with Jesus. And so it is with all of us, surrendering ourselves, just ourselves – not ourselves as we would wish to be, nor ourselves as we would wish to be seen by others, not our ‘other self’, but our true self – scarred, wounded, damaged, abused, - this is who we really are, and who we really are is who God calls into the service of Christ…

“For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Jesus Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change. When Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy burdened," He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way. These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus. He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship. He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love.”  (Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out).

And while our faith journey is our personal faith journey it is not one that is travelled in isolation; we journey with countless fellow-travellers, each making their own way home to the Father’s House, and as they travel together, they get alongside one another, encourage one another, support one another – ‘rejoicing along the way as others rejoice, yet weeping along the way as others weep’  and in that sense of informality, of spontanaity, the Church is born; not as an institution, or an organisation but rather as a brotherhood, a sisterhood, a society – what those who are meeting for worship in the corner of North Square would describe as a ‘society of Friends’ – or what Paul would come to describe as ‘The Body of Christ’, comprising individual ‘bits and pieces’ yet each individual ‘bit’ or ‘piece’ now recognisably part of a larger whole. Of course, at the human level we can function as a human being even if not all our ‘bits and pieces’ are in pristine working order – hard of hearing, failing eye sight, etc – we can even function to a degree if certain ‘bits and pieces’ are missing either by injury or illness – e.g. one marvels at the achievements of certain amputees – and any local church is something like that; it is very rare nowadays for everything that might be done, even ought to be done, to be able to be done precisely because there isn’t the necessary spread of gifts, talents and abilities to make it happen but that is all the more reason for those who are part of the body to do all they can and more to compensate for what is otherwise lacking; that is why ‘church’ meetings are important, meetings like the one we will hold later today, when each of us joins with one another together to discern God’s will for us as a church; to assess, realistically, what we can commit ourselves to do; and to decide how best to do what we can such that God is honoured, the Gospel is proclaimed, our faith strengthened and our commitment rewarded…