Sunday, 26 July 2009

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

Today was our new vicar's first Sunday. He asked me before we went on holiday if I would give the sermon at the 1130 family service. To be honest my feelings about this were mixed; on the one hand I was appreciative of his backing for my calling and open support, but on the other hand I had been hoping for a Sunday off. But I agreed and today was the day.

I knew it was going to be different when he arranged for us to meet on Friday to talk through my thoughts about the sermon and his plans for the service. The meeting was inspiring; he was positive about my sermon plans, excited about my abilities and totally downplaying of my self-stated flaws/weaknesses/concerns. He prayed with me and gave me lots of food for thought. The main one being "I know you'd never have given a professional presentation with notes so why do you produce notes for your sermons"; he showed me his mind map method and left me to ponder.

So yesterday I spent some time meditating on the sermon I'd written (see below) and guess what - a mind map produced itself. Believe me I've tried mind maps in the past and they've never appealed and never come together for me, but this time it just worked. And today I took my mind map with me (just in case) and I left my notes at home.

When I got to church this morning I did all my usual; chat to people from the previous service, banter with some of the teenagers, get out the candles for the 1130 service if it hasn't been done and generally make sure it's all ready to rock. Then Neil (yes, he has a name and I might as well use it since it's no secret and you could find it out for yourself if you wanted to) asked me to spend a few minutes in prayer with him before the service. This might be regular order of play for most people but not something I've ever had before and it made a huge difference; it calmed me and brought me into God's presence.

The service was lovely, it felt so energised and spiritual. And the sermon went just as I'd hoped. Of course I didn't mention every word I'd written but that didn't matter because others came to mind and it all came together. Everyone seemed to love the actual sharing of the loaves (biscuits) and fishes (sweets) and they brought so many feelings out when I asked them about it. I had two people from the congregation actually tell me how much they enjoyed it and Neil had nothing but positive comments.

So before I post my notes I just want to say; Thank you God for the blessing of Neil at our church, for his insights, positivity and manner. Amen.

Today the theme of the gospel reading is “Jesus makes a difference”.

In the story, Jesus wanted to be alone with the disciples to mourn the death of John the Baptist. They had gone to the mountain, away from the crowds so that they could spend time in reflection together.

But the people followed, they wanted to be near Jesus, they wanted to be healed by him and to hear him speak. And Jesus didn’t turn people away, never. Jesus always had an open door for people to come to him; he would welcome them, heal them and feed them.

And that is what he spoke to the disciples about; he wondered how he could feed these people. The disciples managed to find a boy with 5 loaves and 2 fishes and they brought them to Jesus.

The disciples felt that the task was impossible; they could not feed the huge crowd with so little food. They did not know what to do.

But Jesus blessed the food and thanked God for his gift of food. And as he thanked God the food multiplied until it was enough to feed the entire crowd.

All this talk of food is making me hungry. Anyone else hungry?
Bring out 4 plates; each with 5 biscuits and 2 fish sweets.

So who would like a plate of food? Come and get it then.
But wait, hold on!!!! There are not enough plates for everyone, but each of you with a plate has 5 loaves and 2 fish. How about you share this gift with other people, can you share what you have with others here please.

It is not always easy to share what we have is it. Did that feel ok, or was it difficult? Jesus wants us to share no matter how hard it may be; and he promises that he will take the little that we have and use it.

Now look what I have here! When Jesus blessed the loaves and fishes they multiplied, there was enough for everyone. Well I also have enough here for everyone - so come and get it!

God does the same for each of us. He takes the small gifts we have and he makes great things out of them. He takes our loaves and fishes and feeds the crowd.

For example; he takes the gift of musical ability that so many of our young people in this church have and he brings them together with passion to play. And voila, a band, a music group and more besides in the worship of God! With God’s blessing and by working together great things are achieved.

Dear Jesus. Please help me to share what I have so that you can use it in a special way. Thank you that nothing we bring is ever too small for you to use. Amen.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Reflections on holiday

Llm calling blog post - holiday thoughts

As you will have noticed I have been AWOL for 3 weeks; in fact I've been on holiday in Georgia, North and South Carolina.  The time away has given me a lot of time to relax, reflect, ponder and pray. In the month before the holiday I was caught in a tornado of events that left me feeling dizzy and confused:
- LLM courses started, filling me with excitement, awe and passion
- I delivered my 16-18th sermons in 8 months
- I wrote and took my first service on my own
- I got caught in church politics as the only possible mediator
- everyone nicely forgot I was allowed a holiday and decided I had to get 3 weeks worth of activity done in the week beforehand
- I was asked to give the sermon for the Sunday After our holiday so that needed preparing
- I decided it was best to write the 4 essays for my LLM courses in the week before holiday meaning I worked till 2am 5 nights in a row

And the final event - several hours before we went to the airport I got two of my essays back (understanding ministry - theology and supervision) and they were a disappointment to my standards.  It was this that sent me reeling.  

I was over-tired, over-wraught, over-stressed and over-done; now I was also under-achieving and not good enough.  I decided I had to analyse a bit before I left for holidays and am pleased I did because it confirmed that although the essays had been done quickly, they had also been done thoroughly and that the information missing was from courses I had not yet taken - an issue but not of my own failing. 

So we came away. 
I put my stresses and worries behind me and asked people to pray for me. I relaxed and enjoyed spending time with my family.  For at least 4 days I didn't even think about church.   And then I found time and peace in my head and heart to reflect and this is what I've learned:

1- I must say no more - at church especially but also in my wider life - j have been taking on too much and it leaves me exhausted and depleted

2- I must remember that I am good enough, that I've been called to be an LLM and that whatever the path is it is the right one

3- Llm training is challenging and I am allowed to ask for support along the way

4- I need to be open about my workload (home and church) with my new vicar so I don't get so overloaded again

5- I need to be less expecting of myself and just let it flow - I have never been a slacker and if the training takes longer than I hoped then so be it.

I am sure there ate other things I've learned but these are the major ones.  I am coming home different; knowing I will ask for help and being kinder to me.  I am always ready to give to others but I need to know when to take instead.      

Ps - the other 2 essays were good, I need to keep everything in balance!

Pps - our new vicar is installed on Sunday - it feels like the start of a new era!

Ppps - the southern states are wonderful; friendly people, relaxed way of life and enough churches to keep you busy visiting for 10 years!