What’s our vision? What are we looking forward to, working towards? What’s our plan for trying to get there? These were the questions that we’ve spent some time thinking and praying about as a church. This sermon was to let people know what we think God is calling us to do.
We have spent quite a bit of time as a church creating a Mission Action Plan (MAP). Ths included a church vision day, work in small groups, and agreement with the PCC. This sermon was also preached in February, hence the reference to the rugby!
Vision; Luke 4:14-21
England narrowly beat Wales in the rugby yesterday. That’s the 16th win in a row, and with no defeats since Eddie Jones became head coach. He was also the coach of Japan when they beat South Africa a couple of years ago, still the biggest upset in rugby union history. Eddie Jones has inspired those teams with his vision, his understanding of how to play a different sort of rugby.
Or, to give another example, Dave Brailsford’s vision for British cycling is what has led to multiple gold medals, and multiple wins in the Tour de France. It was Dave Brailsford’s vision to set up a British road cycling team, with the goal of winning the Tour within 5 years. Three years later he did just that. And, under him, British cyclists have now won it 4 times in the last 5 races. It was his vision that held out a different way of looking at the future. It was his vision that inspired people and made things happen.
Eddie Jones and Dave Brailsford couldn’t and didn’t do it without other very talented people, have both made serious mistakes, have needed all sorts of sacrifices, and have upset people along the way. But, their different way of looking at their part of the world, their sport, is what made the difference.
Well, in our following of Jesus, in our walking with Jesus, today we’ve heard Jesus set out his vision of the future, his different way of looking at the world. It’s an inspiring vision that hold outs hope for the future, that shows how things can be different, and that makes that future a reality.
Jesus takes the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, turns to one of the many passages where the prophet spoke about what the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, would look like. He reads it and then says, basically: this is what that prophecy looks like. It looks like me.
Which doesn’t go down well. Which upsets the people that had seen him growing up, had known him a bit, had thought that he was just like them, and were shocked and upset when he turned out to be different. Which is one of the many ways that vicars get it a lot easier than people who grow up, become Christians, and carry on living in the same place, in the same town. You only get to see the mess I’ve made of the last few years, not all the ones before that… But, if people have grown up with you, then they can often find it hard to believe or understand that you’ve grown or changed. They’ve still got a mental picture of you as a child, or teenager, or someone who would do that, or not like this.
It’s hard sometimes to break out of the moulds that people try to fit us into, and particularly hard to break out of the moulds that people have got us thinking like. That’s a challenge for us to think and pray about. And it was a challenge for Jesus too. The people in his home town thought of Jesus as Joseph’s son, the oldest child of the family, the apprentice builder, or whatever else. They certainly didn’t think of him as God’s chosen one. People, we, find it hard to look past the outward, the superficial, what’s just in front of us.
Well, this announcement in the passage we heard, is near the start of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has returned from being baptised and his time in the wilderness. He has returned filled with the Holy Spirit, and is already making waves, creating a stir, as he teaches and heals in Galilee. But, Jesus comes to his home town to announce what is actually going on, why these things are happening, and how:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Jesus’ hearers have been waiting for God to liberate Israel from her enemies. Jesus’ hearers have been looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, of God’s chosen, anointed one. They have been waiting for the new Exodus to start. The first Exodus was led by Moses as God’s chosen people escaped from slavery in Egypt. Jesus’ hearers are waiting for the new Exodus, when they will be freed from the oppression of the occupation of the Romans.
Jesus tells them that the Messiah has come, that the new Exodus has started, but that it doesn’t look like what they wanted, expected, it to look like. Instead of the occupation of the Romans and the suffering under the collaborators being swept away, the greatest enemies of sin and death were being defeated. The good news of God’s love was going to be available to everyone.
And that’s another shock, another surprise. The chosen one, God’s own son, was a bit too familiar, and his message was a bit too unfamiliar.
Eddie Jones and Dave Brailsford have both held out visions, had ways of looking at things that have been a bit too unfamiliar, have confused and upset people. I’ve heard some of the stories about the screen being put across the north aisle, for example. But, we know how much better our building is with that in place.
If you were around last year, you may remember that during Lent we thought about the Five Marks of Mission, the five things that tell us what mission is all about.
Tell: Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
Teach: Teach, baptise and nurture believers
Tend: Respond to human need by loving service
Transform: Transform unjust structures of society, challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
Treasure: Safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth
All five of which are in Jesus’ announcement of who he is and what he is doing. And those are the things that we are being called to do. And over the last few weeks as we’ve thought about following Jesus we’ve thought about seeing what the Spirit was doing and joining in. And last week we thought about the wholeness and healing that God brings, signs and foretastes of the complete healing, the full wholeness that the full coming of the kingdom of God will bring.
So, what are we going to do about this? What is the Spirit doing? What are we being called to do?
Well, we’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last few months thinking and praying about what God is asking us to do next. To help us to do that we’ve developed a Mission Action Plan. That’s just a tool, just one way, of getting us to answer the questions that Jesus raises in the passage we’ve heard.
It’s on your notice sheets. We believe that God wants his church in Hartshorne to be Sustainable, Flexible, and Hospitable. This is about building on all the many good things that we are already doing. These things are the things that we believe God is calling us to do next.
We want to be Sustainable, by helping each other in our discipleship. We have set up an evening house group, and we are wanting to explore holding a mid-week service, and other discipleship groups.
We want to be Flexible, holding services that aren’t on a Sunday morning. We are planning to hold a Songs of Praise service on a Sunday afternoon, particularly for those people who attend Senior Citizens’ lunches. We are also looking at holding all-age events or services.
We want to be more Hospitable, extending our welcome to other people and groups. We have been serving drinks on the first Tuesday of the month at the weekly Post Office in the Dethick Hall. We have also involved pupils from Hartshorne School in the Senior Citizens’ lunches. We also supported the community carol singing outside the Rodney. We are now looking at how to open up the church building, to extend our hospitality to visitors, walkers, and people visiting the churchyard.
Please do prayerfully consider how you might be able to get involved with these things.
And just recently, it seems that God is calling us to do something else as well. To increase our hospitality, we are also wanting to open up the church building during the day. When the building is currently unlocked, we do often get visitors, showing that this is something that would be welcomed by the wider community.
We have approached our insurance company, who told us that they thought that it was ‘normal’ for church buildings to be unlocked and unstaffed during the day. So, they won’t charge anything extra for this, as long as we’ve used our common sense about locking away and securing valuables. We are planning to do some of the preparation for this during our Saturday work parties. If you’re able please do come along!
But we want to do something else as well. If you’re able could you stand up and turn round please.
We also want to replace the brown interior double-doors with glass doors. This will make the entrance to church far more attractive and welcoming, and show when the building is open for visitors and services. It will also make the building less draughty and warmer.
We have had outline estimates of the cost of the doors, and will also need to spend some money on making parts of the building secure. We think that this will cost somewhere in the region of £16,000. Obviously, we will require funding from charities and grants to make this possible. We will also need the support of the congregation and wider community. If you would like to help, prayerfully, practically, or financially, then please do speak to Graham, the wardens or Deb Worth.
Do have a seat.
Jesus embodied the coming of God’s kingdom. He showed what it looked like to be in God’s kingdom in his words and his actions. We’re called to do the same. Our infinitely loving God longs for us to be part of his kingdom, longs for us to live in the power and love of that kingdom, and calls us to speak and act with the power and love that he gives.
The things that we believe that we’re being called to do are expressions of God’s love, God’s call to change, God’s welcome
Let us pray: Fill us up Lord with your empowering Spirit. Send us out to live and work for your praise and glory, so that people may come to you through Jesus and so that your whole creation may know your kingdom. Amen.