Monday, May 17, 2010

Looking back... Looking forward...

I am well aware that my sabbatical blog has fallen dormant for a while, but I do feel that I need both there and here to record what my Sabbatical time has given me.

More than anything else the 3 months have given me time:

Time with my family
Time to myself
Time to rest
Time to recover
Time to renew
Time to experience
Time to have fun
Time to travel
Time to sleep
Time with others
Time to travel
Time to read
Time to think
Time to pray
Time to reflect
Time to plan
Time to speak
Time to listen

I guess more than anything else it has given me a chance to not just do all of that by time also to experience that profoundly in myself. I am not wanting or meaning to sound pretentious but it has given me time to become renewed and refocused spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. I can feel that in my body. I warned you it might sound pretentious!

Today I was presented the gift of time with a friend and colleague, David Brooke, with whom I did my post-Ordination training. David is now on Sabbatical himself and he stopped by our place to rest, recover and renew our friendship. David is cycling to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain and his blog about his long journey can be read here. The journey seems hardly all that I mention above and yet I hope and pray that he will, despite the miles he must cover, experience the list above deep within his being.

As I stand on the edge of the end of my time off, I am aware that together with my church, we stand on the beginning of something new that God is longing to do amongst us. Some of those new things will be small changes in our worshiping style, some will be encouraging involvement in deeper ways in the life of the church and community, but most of what lies ahead at this stage in unknown to me.

Now if you are a member of my church reading this you might be wondering why I had this time off in the first place if I wasn't going to come back with new plans and vision.

And yet, as we wait, like those first disciples, for the coming of the Holy Spirit, that is perhaps a clue to what we should be as of now. Those disciples were told to go and wait in a particular place for the Spirit's coming.

As we wait for the next phase of stage of God's plans amongst us we too must wait, wait on God. We must pray and ask him to reveal clearly to us his plans and purposes for his church here and for our wider community. Prayer must be key to discerning what God's plans and purposes for us are.

Another thing to mention is that I never hoped that I would come back with plans and new initiatives for I am not our church - we are. I hope that alongside the prayer will also come a long period of consultation with the church and the wider community as a means to discerning some aspects of vision and direction over perhaps the next five years.

Over my time away from parish ministry I have also reflected much on the meaning of our central act of worship - the Eucharist. One thing I have become clearer on though is the word Eucharist means 'thanksgiving' and the thanksgiving we are called to participate and share in is the thanksgiving of all creation for the saving love of God in Christ.

This thanksgiving is something that also spills out of a particular building on an particular day into the whole of our lives and from our lives into the whole of our existence.

As we seek God's continued leading of us in all things, here is the Wordle for Acts 2:1-21 - one of the key readings that we will use on Sunday.

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
Peter Addresses the Crowd

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

I find it interesting that some of the stand out words in the wordle are 'spirit' 'heaven', 'filled', 'speaking', and 'men' (there is no gender specific point being made here. The 'men' are those in the crowd who are being addressed first as was custom in public speaking, and also the 'men' in the prophesy which he quotes are in a poetic way only a subgroup of everyone on whom and in whom the Spirit of God would fall and empower.)

God longed to continue the ministry of Jesus in all people. This would happen through people being filled with the Spirit giving them courage and confidence to speak of their, of our experience of God to all people... including us men!

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