A clear memory from my childhood that I have is one summer holiday wading out beyond the beach into the Somerset muddy sand at low tide with my Dad. I remember him laughing that his poor feet would be complaining as we squelched onwards getting muddier and muddier.
I thought of this again as I recently squelched through mud and soggy sand crossing over on the Pilgrim Path to Holy Island in Northumbria. I thought of my Dad and his good example to me. I thought of the thousands who had walked this way before with different motives. Some doing it for fun; some as a challenge; some tagging along, following the crowd. Some in sadness and some in joy. For those who travelled this way on foot at low tide to reach this ancient holy place this stage would be a time of great anticipation as they came for refreshing or healing, in hope, in despair or simply to worship.
And you? As you approach God, how do you come? What is our frame of mind as we approach the Creator of all things – whether through “mud” or on good firm sand? And what are we doing this for? “What are you doing here?” is the question Yahweh asks of Elijah. What are you doing here?
We were made to be together. Literally. Weren’t we?
At the beginning, The Creator says of Adam, that it is not for him to be alone. The Bible from start to finish is a story of people together. Behind it all time after time, is God our creator addressing nations: Israel, Judah, the world.
We were made to be together. We were made to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, together. So, it has been good to be reminded with our Six Weeks at Six Ways project and We Are Church, as well as all the other things that we do, together, that we are not only stronger and more effective together, but happier too and, it is simply right. It is God’s will for us.
Jesus gathered a team around him. The early followers of Jesus did what they did together. The writer to Hebrews urges the believers not to give up the habit of meeting together. It has been good to see more things happening with more of us meeting to do all sorts of things: some fellowship, some worship, some both. We don’t have to stop at six weeks.
We are made to be together, so, come on church, let’s keep meeting, let’s come up with more ways that we do that and do more things together!
For the sake of the Kingdom!
God Bless, Gerard
This month we celebrate the 140th anniversary of this church. We began life across the other side of the Six Ways Island with services at the Woodbine Academy (a boarding school) and then stood firmly at the corner of the High Street until the 1960s whereupon the current building was constructed. Our two halls were built at different times in the history of the church and have been altered over the years. We have been in a continual process of change and adaptation. There have been times of expansion and there have been leaner seasons too. The Baptist churches at Chester Road and at Sutton Coldfield were both planted by our church and we currently are planting a church at Castle Vale. God has been good to us. And God has been working wonderfully in so many people’s lives!
But what about the next 140 years? Well, maybe Jesus will have returned by then. Presumably none of us will be here for the 280th anniversary?! But what will God do here, in this place, so long as we are true and faithful to our God who is so faithful and true to us? We should pray about this and be so aware of the need for us to remember those who have gone before us who laid foundations for what we can do now. Also, we can lay those foundations for those things to come that we will not see come to fruition in our lifetime.
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes about the faith of the likes of Abraham and many others who did not see the fruit of their faithfulness, but still acted in faith and helped pave the way for the fulfilling of God’s purposes.
How true and faithful are we to what God needs to happen in this place?
In the news, everywhere it would seem, over the past few months, there have been so many startling and disturbing revelations about sexual misconduct, sexual abuse and the abuse of power overall. These have seemed to be everywhere and therefore we need to remember that we are part of everywhere.
Many of you will have heard about a recent case of historical child abuse that was carried out by a man who ran a dance school for many years here in our church halls. We have no direct responsibility for the appalling breach of trust and abuse of power on the part of this person. However, we need to be aware of this and learn from it. I mention it here because we need to be aware of it and be vigilant about it. We do need to ask questions about how he continued to wield this awful power over so many children who were left in his care and how it was that it was only years afterwards that it was discovered. We do need to be realistic that abuse like this could have happened in other situations connected with our church, even within it and that it could still happen.
Lives of people within our church and across our community have been affected by what has happened here. We need to learn from this and whilst needing to keep things in perspective, we must be vigilant that this sort of evil does not infect what we do in Jesus’ name nor those groups and individuals who we allow/invite to use our premises. This is why we have a safeguarding policy and procedures. This is why we need to undertake checks on volunteers working with children and young people. This is why the safeguarding of our children and young people is a very real, very needful thing. This is why we need to pray about these things and be truly like the one who said the children should come to Him, so that he could bless them.
On Saturday 17th February there is a day of action across the UK, it is called “One Day Without Us”. The aim is to draw attention to the positive role played by migrants: in our economy; in our communities; in the NHS; in education; and in all of life (including churches). There will be some activities in Erdington – more details to follow in the news sheet.
Whether you are able to take part or not, take this opportunity to think about the positive role that migrant workers play and about the kind of welcome that we should be giving. Leviticus 19: 33-4
“33 Don’t mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. 34 Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (CEV).
As part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we used this prayer:
You embrace all cultures and lands
But keep a special place in your heart
For the stranger, the widow and the orphan.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit
That we may become as you are,
Welcoming all as brothers and sisters,
Your cherished children,
Citizens together in Christ’s kingdom of justice and peace.
Blessings all round.