Tracing my family tree has been a fascinating if not distracting pastime. The earliest reference that I can find is to a John Major (no comment!) my 9-times great-grandfather from Flamborough born in 1635. I feel a sense of connection and identity by discovering the story of my family. The connection is to this coast through my forebears who were local fishermen and lifeboat men on the Humber. These ancestors came from Scandinavian stock, which is no surprise given most of my family have blond hair and blues eyes: all they are missing is pointy helmets with scary horns! Stories such as these make us human and help form our identity. It is unsurprising that scripture is largely a collection of stories, not a list of rules. People find different meanings in the same stories and perhaps that is why interpreting the bible is not straightforward. God doesn’t simply tell us what to do: that is far too unimaginative for the creator of the cosmos, rather he asks us to join in with his story. Diligent study is needed to learn how the stories in scripture convey meaning to our faith in God and our identity in Christ, because there is such a huge distance between the time of writing and our time here in Scarborough. But study on its own can end up like tracing our family trees: distracted by the endless detail. For scripture to yield its real meaning we need the Holy Spirit to help us apply those stories and bring life to our journey together with God.
As I take up the post of the new Vicar here, I would like our church congregations to stand back and ask who we are and where God is leading us together in this new season. How do we do this? One way is to use our sermon readings from the Exodus journey of the ancient Israelites. I’ve called this sermon series “Journeying Together.” These readings pick up the story of the Patriarchs, Jacob and Joseph as they headed down into the land of Egypt and then much later, how God delivered the large Hebrew family into the Promised Land of Canaan. This wasn’t an easy journey and they made big mistakes. Through this journey God showed the Hebrews his loving-kindness and as they learned from God even wrestling with him, they were shaped into a people with a calling and a purpose. Why not take a look at the titles and readings that are printed further on in this magazine. These will help us form a vision for our church prompted by the way that God called and gave identity to his ancient people through their wilderness journey to the Promised Land.
Sermons, however, are a conversation not a transfer of information. Both preacher and hearer bring more to this conversation on a Sunday morning than mere words. You can check this out by noting what goes through your mind when you hear a sermon. You may agree with most things and yet question others. This is how it should be, because God gives his gracious Spirit as a gift to the whole body of Christ not just the preacher. The Lord speaks to each of us through that same Spirit that we may hear his will and purpose for our church. We are all called to the task of discerning and wrestling with God till he yields the blessing of our identity in him (Gen 32:24-30). As you approach each Sunday reading, why not ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the way forward as a church. Share what God says to you with your friends, with the preacher and with me, because that is how we grow together in our faith. In turn, the PCC and leadership will commit to listening and acting upon what the Lord is saying to the church, the story of how he is calling and purposing our lives before him.
It is in the incarnation, the life, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ that we see both the humanity of God and the divinity of Jesus our Messiah. This is God’s story and it isn’t finished, because he calls us to join in that story with him. If reading scripture is like tracing our family tree, then hearing God speak about our identity through what we read is like finding meaningful connections with our family tree for generations to come. My priority then is that we make space to hear God speak as the first step to making plans for his church in this wonderful place he has set us. Friends, this marks out our journey together as we lay down new stories of faith to pass onto the next generation. With Blessings from Richard