Letter from the Vicar (July 2012)
Are you ready? Steady. Go! How I dreaded those words when I was young. I was never any good at races and always finished near the back. I remember once running the 880 yards and thinking, “If I get a good lead in this race perhaps the others won’t be able to catch up!” So off I went as fast as my little legs could take me.
But, of course, for an eleven year old, 880 yards is a long way so even though I was in lead for the first 300, I soon began to tire and was eventually overtaken by the whole field, coming in last! But at least I was willing to have a go. I soon realised that running was not for me. Far better the pushing, pulling, gouging and shoving of rugby, which became my best sport. Even so the urgent readiness needed on the part of those preparing for a race is a lesson to us in our Christian life.
During the next two months we shall be saturated by the coming of the Olympic Games and the Para-Olympics and here in Weymouth we shall be playing a big part. Those who are competing will have gone through many months and years of preparation to bring them to the point where they are ready to compete at the highest level. Many hours of arduous training are necessary. Some have even had to leave their native land, and live in relative poverty and to train all hours that God sends to reach the top level in their sport. What sacrifices. And what achievements. I’m sure we’ll hear many stories of sacrificial training in the coming weeks. Jesus expects a similar level of readiness in you and me. He teaches us that we need to be spiritually and morally trained to live out our lives as his followers. This apply to all Christians and not just the ordained. We all need to sharpen up our readiness for action. We need to spend time toning up our spiritual muscles, doing our Christian press ups and sit ups.
So what advice does Jesus give? Well to start with he teaches us not to be too attached to earthly possessions, to store up treasure in heaven, not on earth.
We live in a terribly materialistic world and most of us are material girls and boys. But the physical world around us is fleeting, only the world of the spirit endures for ever.
We show our priorities, says Jesus, by being generous to those in need. Being ready for action means being open handed. You and I are well off compared to many in the world; we need to think of their needs as well as our own. As well as being ready to help those in need, Jesus says we also must be ready to meet him. He can come in many forms and guises. Certainly we meet Jesus in the Bible and in the Eucharist. But we also meet Jesus in the world around us, in the beauty of the part of the world we are fortunate to live in. We meet him in those we love. We meet him in the poor and downtrodden. Jesus says he will come to us in the most unexpected ways. We must therefore be a watchful and prayerful people. I’m reminded of the joke about the new Christian who took a lunch break. He got out his sandwiches and then paused to say a long and earnest grace, he eyes tightly shut. When he opened them again his sandwiches had gone. An older workmate, noting what had happened, commented, “You forgot, pal, it says ‘watch and pray’!” For a Christian being ready involves prayer, but it also involves attentiveness. We need to pray with our eyes open. We need to know and understand the world around us. We need to keep our eyes and ears open to what’s going on around you in Weymouth and the wider world. God is present and at work in the world as well as in the church. We need to be on the look out for him! It may be that during these busy two months we will see him in new and different ways. There are many ways of being on the look out for God. By prayer, worship, bible study certainly, but also by being alert to the needs of this community. So an exciting, eventful two months is upon us.
The starting pistol is cocked. On your marks, get ready ….. Amen!