It’s the only way to be!
As part of my preparation for retirement I’ve re-read ‘Mr Rush’ by Roger Hargreaves. You might remember the story. ‘Mr Rush was the fastest thing on two legs!’ He tried job after job but his rushing around would always get him into trouble … until he found the perfect job: delivering express-rate letters! ‘Mr Rush was so good at it he delivered twice as many letters in half the time any postman had ever done before. Soon he had saved enough money for a holiday.’ I feel a bit like Mr Rush just at the moment, trying to squeeze a quart of activity into a pint pot of time. (After the rush will be retirement which, just at the moment, sounds like one long holiday!)
Our final Service is at St Mary’s, at 10.30 am. on Sunday, 17th July. Do join us if you would like to. The Service will be followed by a farewell bring-and-share lunch at Parish House at 12.30 pm. Again, do come if you can.
One popular misconception is that vicars work just one day a week. I understand that but, interestingly, our terms of service assume we will work six! And, those six days a week can include a lot of rushing: meetings, visits, lists, orders of service, rotas, talks to prepare.
With that busyness comes a very real danger. For, if there’s too much rush, I can easily lose sight of what I’m in business to do. In today’s fast-paced world each of us can be taken up with the immediate and lose sight of what really counts. Jesus was very clear about his mission and ours, his ministry and ours. Our motto verse for 2004 reminded us that Jesus said, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a person remains in me and I in them, they will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:4) This is what I need to remember today and tomorrow as I rush around. And, this is what the Church needs to remember as the vacancy beckons. Jesus is the vine; we are the branches, grafted into him. Spiritual life, real spiritual life, comes from him and through him.
If we abide in Jesus and if he abides in us we will bear much fruit. That’s Jesus’ promise! If we want to be spiritually fruitful we must abide in him. If we want to be spiritually effective Jesus must abide in us. For the truth of the matter is that we cannot bear spiritual fruit without him.
I’ve become very interested in spiritual impact. Some people and some churches seem to make a spiritual impact. Why? What’s their secret?
I’m convinced that those who make a spiritual difference are those who keep close to the Lord, those who know his indwelling, those who are full of him.
Just before he ascended, Jesus told his disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit had come, to wait for the gift the father had promised, to wait for the gift he himself had spoken to them about. Don’t rush ahead. Don’t charge in. First make sure you’re co-working with God. Make sure you’ve received spiritual power before you attempt spiritual work.
The great preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, once famously said, ‘A sermon without Christ is like a loaf of bread without any flour. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.’ Following Spurgeon we might say, ‘a church without Jesus is like a loaf of stale bread. No Jesus in your church? Then shut the doors and don’t open them until you’re sure you know that those who come in will meet with the one person who is the source of real spiritual life.’
I need to realise this just at the moment. But this is also the key for the interregnum and the significant years ahead. Jesus meant it when he said, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches.’ He meant it when he said, ‘If a person remains in me and I in them, they will bear much fruit.’ He meant it when he said, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:4)
I know Joyce and I will look back on our time here with real affection. We’re so grateful for your love, support and encouragement. Time and again someone has said just the right thing at the right time. Time and again we’ve known the Lord’s provision and witnessed his leading. So, thank you for the privilege of these almost fourteen years. They’ve flown by! St Mary’s with Holy Apostles has been our life – and we’re actually a bit unsure as to how things will be once the removal van has left North Cliff Gardens.
I will be working from the vicarage until about 4th August and we shall probably be moving on 15th or 16th August. One thing I’m sure of: We’ll never forget these years and we’ll never forget you. It’s been a privilege to be here – and we believe the church’s future will be exciting. After all, it is the Lord’s!
So, in the words of our motto verse for 2009, ‘to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we might dare to ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in St Mary’s with Holy Apostles and in Christ Jesus!’ [Ephesians 3:20–21]
Joyce joins me in sending love,