Why are Lucy and I in Itchen Valley? Why did I give up a good career in the city, to work in the church for nothing? Most recently, why did we move from our own very perfect house in Kilmeston which was the product of a life time of work where our children were brought up, to rent in Itchen Valley? Why?
Because Lucy and I have discovered something. We have discovered: something which makes sense of the way the world is; something which gives us a sense of direction, a means of navigation, a compass in the storm; something which can bring joy, even in the toughest circumstances; something which helps us cope, when we are suffering; something which addresses our questions of identity who we are and whose we are; and we want to share this thing that we have discovered with people who often get over looked: with people who have had our sort of experience of life…. that’s you…..and that thing that we have discovered is actually a person: Jesus Christ.
That’s why we are here: introducing our neighbours to Jesus, this is what we are spending our life doing for no other reward than the joy of seeing Jesus in action in people’s lives: so that one day we may have a community in which God is worshipped in every home and no-one feels unloved or alone….
That’s our why; what is yours? What is your ‘why’?
You may have heard this before: It’s the story about the au pair girl who came rushing into a room where the children of the household were noisily creating havoc and she meant to say, ‘what on earth are you doing?’ but actually said ‘What are you doing, on earth?’
It’s a great question.
What are you doing on earth? Why are you, why am I, here? What is the point of your life? What is the point of my life? What am I, what are you, hurtling around doing things for? Am I, are you, just spinning plates keeping the show on the road? To what end? To what purpose? What are you doing on earth? What is your why?
OK if you don’t know… What does God, the creator of the universe, the creator of each one of us of you and me, what does Jesus expect of us in our lives?
What should be our why?
Jesus has given us two great commandments and one great commission, which is in our reading today. They are all 3 related to each other.
The most important commandment is to Love God with everything we have mind, body, soul, strength, all our time and all our energy…
The second (which we sometimes mistake for being the most important or even the only commandment) is to love our neighbours, as ourselves and then there is the Great Commission to go out and make disciples….
Because if we do go and make disciples…we are both loving God, because we are doing what he asked us to do and loving neighbour. Because this is what the creator made us for: to worship him to love him, by following his two great commandments and his one great commission.
If we only concentrate on one of these: loving our neighbours, when it suits us, when we can get this to the top of our list of priorities, then we are only doing one of the things God asks us to do with our lives and possibly that not very well. And its a bit like preparing for an exam, in which you are going to be asked three questions, by only preparing one answer. Would we recommend to our children or grandchildren that they do that?
But of course the billion dollar question is how do we make disciples? Most importantly, how do we make disciples here in Itchen Valley?
And in any event, you maybe thinking ‘You will never get me making disciples of anyone I can’t talk to anyone about my faith’…well from 1 Peter we know that we ONLY speak to others about our faith with gentleness and respect. We make disciples by living lives which are so oriented to God that people ask us for the reason for the hope that we have. I spoke about this a couple of Sundays ago….No one becomes a disciple by being bullied or embarrassed.
The key is to reach people in their place of need: by helping them through their suffering: They come to know us and, as they do, God may draw them to him by asking us what motivates us. And then we can explain….we can give our story. It’s all very gentle; its all done with respect.
Some (outsiders) may imagine that in the Itchen Valley there is little or no suffering…. In the Itchen Valley. It’s such a beautiful place with so many successful people, how could there be any suffering?
Well that is totally, totally wrong: we are all human and suffering is just part of the human condition; It’s just that the pain that we suffer here may have different causes.
And the other difference in the Itchen Valley is that none of us want to talk about our suffering: We want to keep up the image that everything is just fine; we want to keep the stiff upper lip because it is how we were brought up and to talk about our pain isn’t quite the thing.
But how can we love our neighbour as ourselves, if we don’t even know that they are suffering? How can we meet people in their place of need in the Valley? How can we do this in a way which shows gentleness and respect, which does not invade their privacy, which doesn’t make them the subject of gossip, which enables them to decide how to respond which enables them to choose whether to ask us about the hope that we have which enables them to decide how much they reveal?
Of course we know about the suffering of the people that we know and look after in our villages. But can we honestly say that we know everyone in our community?
The ‘Who Cares’ Initiative is the answer….Who Cares Website Page
We can find out by our anonymous survey, what the top areas of concern are in the community. Then Amanda and I can use this information to set our schedule of teaching and preaching for the next couple of years and we can use the magic of the Itchen List to let people know what is going on…and they can choose to attend or not….as they wish
We can meet people at their place of need with gentleness and respect….
By this means, we can bring Jesus, the great healer to the place of pain and loss….and lives will be transformed.
You see being part of a church is about worshipping God through transforming the world about making it a better place, one person at a time.
We can all be involved
Look, it is, of course, a little uncomfortable knocking on doors asking if the person you meet would like to complete the card and just put down the first thing that comes into their mind (it shouldn’t require any reflective thought), but everything must be done with gentleness and respect. If the person we are visiting shows the slightest disinclination to take part then that is absolutely fine. We don’t visit people who have ‘no cold calling signs up’, we move on, in a really friendly way, we must treat them with gentleness and respect.
But the little discomfort for us of knocking on the doors, must be weighed against the potentially huge benefit for our neighbours. How can we do more to love our neighbours, to love God and seek to make disciples than this?
Are you with me on this? You needn’t put up your hands…. If so please do sign up on the sheet to be willing to do some door knocking. Vernon’s done this brilliant chart which is at St John’s Itchen Abbas showing all the roads in the parish, please do complete and let us know which roads you will do.
There will be some training on Monday 19th June to ensure that whatever we do is done with the utmost gentleness and respect and most importantly Is totally anonymous…..
Let’s change the world, one person at a time and make that remaining chapters of our lives count for something of eternal significance.