not just there for the nasty things in life

I hope you will forgive what might be self-indulgence, but I am going to inflict a little more of my sermon to myself which I preached at my induction last week, looking at 1 Corinthians 3:1-9:

Paul wrote some harsh words to the church in Corinth. The comedian Eddie Izzard has a very funny routine in which he imagines the postman in Corinth trying to get someone to sign for the letter from Paul. None of them want to because they know that he is going to be telling them off.

Nick, a Regional Minister’s role is not to write letters telling people off. But let’s be honest. At different times all churches, like Corinth, have their challenges and difficulties. The Christians in Corinth struggled because of different factions, and because of perceived or assumed super spirituality. Other churches in the New Testament era had other problems. And that has continued throughout almost 2000 years of church history. I don’t think that there are many problems that we face today which have not been faced by churches at some point in history.

Part of your role as a Regional Minister is, to appropriate the words from the wedding service, to help nurture and support churches for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health.

The ad was so successful that they wrote the book (available from Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers)

Some of you will be old enough to remember the TV advert for Yellow Pages in which an old man is phoning around bookshops looking for a copy of Fly Fishing by JR Hartley. Eventually he finds one and leaves his name: JR Hartley. The strapline of the advert is: “Good old yellow pages, not just there for the nasty things in life.”

Nick, I think you should have that strapline too: “Not just there for the nasty things in church life.”

But recognise that you are there too for the nasty things in church life. Not to be nasty, but to be there in the nastiness with the churches.

When you read the passage in 1 Corinthians 3 you can read it as quite an admonishment from Paul: “I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed you are still not ready.”

Ouch. But look at it another way. Paul had not abandoned them, even though they were somewhat dysfunctional. And Paul recognised their situation and offered them what they needed – milk, not solid food. You don’t feed babies solid food, it’s not what they need as they are growing.

Nick, part of Regional Ministry is to help feed churches appropriately. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to ministry at local level let alone Regional. Come alongside each church in their own context and feed them what they need to help them to grow.

Be blessed, be a blessing

om nom nom nom nom

There are many things that populate the surface of my desk. There are post-it notes with telephone messages, pieces of paper with ideas and spider-grams and scrawlings. There are letters awaiting reply. There are various bits of stationery and equipment. And there are many books.

First and foremost is my bible: without which I would be lost. Then there are books that help me understand my Bible. There are books that I use to help me plan services. There are books that I use for my own reflections and time with God. And there are books that I am reading to further my understanding and brought my awareness. And there is a pile of books that are waiting to be read.

One of my ambitions is to be able to be in a position where the height of the pile will diminish. This requires a certain amount of discipline on my part to set aside time to read, reflect and pray. With all of the busyness that being a minister entails it is very easy for this time to be squeezed out. I can find myself seeing it as a luxury or an indulgence and justifying not reading books because I’m spending time doing “proper ministry”.

But unless I am being fed I am going to struggle to feed others. Unless I’m being nurtured I will find it difficult to nurture others. You can only give somebody something that you already have. when I returned from my sabbatical leave I was full: I had spent 3 months reading, reflecting, praying and being fed and nurtured. and unless I am regularly replenishing myself eventually the well will run dry.

In case you’re interested the books that are currently ‘on the go’ are: How God Became King (Tom Wright); Real Scientists Real Faith (Ed RJ Berry); and Christ in the Wilderness (Stephen Cottrell). There is a substantial queue waiting to be the next in line!

How and where do you get fed?

Be blessed, be a blessing

I think I’ve used this joke before but it’s relevant to today’s theme:

bible genesisA collector of rare books ran into an acquaintance who told him he had just thrown away an old Bible that he found in a dusty, old box. He happened to mention that Gluten-somebody-or-other had printed it.

“Not Gutenberg?” gasped the collector.

“Yes, that was it!”

“You idiot! You’ve thrown away one of the first books ever printed. A copy recently sold at auction for half a million dollars!”

“Oh, I don’t think this book would have been worth anything close to that much,” replied the man. “It was scribbled all over in the margins by some guy named Martin Luther.”