Vision 2018 – How Will We Know When We get There?
This sermon will have three introductions. To anyone who attends my preachers’ support group, this is not recommended, usual or likely to be repeated.
I have been the vicar of this church for twelve years now. It is a privilege to be part of this group of Christians working out our vision at regular intervals. Who are we? What are our values? Where are we going? It has reached the time in our life when we need to do it again. The autumn of this year will be our key time and this is to set the scene.
It seems to me healthy that a church should look, say every five years, at its vision for the next five.
Haven’t we done this before? Yes.
In 2010 we embarked upon a short period of vision-seeking. We did this alongside our friends at Holy Trinity and the strap-line, still part of both our logos, of Christ – Community – Church was born.
We want to be Christ-centred in all we do.
We want to be good news to the local community.
We want to be a resource to the wider church.
During that time some statement of our values as a Trendlewood community came to the fore. Three were key:
1. We are inclusive. We see our mission as being to everyone on Trendlewood Estate and we wish to exclude no-one from our meetings.
2. We are hospitable. This is true not just of our corporate life but of our individual lives. Hospitality is for the convenience of the guest not the host. Hospitality means that lack of food, drink and shelter will not stop us from hearing the other person’s story. Dinner parties are very nice but they are not the end of hospitality. Hospitality is when someone comes to the door in the middle of your dinner party and needs help and you invite them in.
3. We are an exporting community. I have phrased this badly in the past and been rightly criticised. We are willing to allow gifted people to leave and serve elsewhere. When I said that we were willing to export our best people I did not mean that those left were the worst – but if it seemed like that I apologise.
And the final bit of vision 2010, as evidence that during a time of vision the truth can come from unexpected sources, a person who I sometimes found it difficult to engage with whispered in my ear that we should move schools. We should go to a school with no Christian links and give it some. This seemed right to me, to the then Trendlewood Committee and to the church. For such a major decision I rejoiced that everyone worked with it. No-one left over it. We moved here on Palm Sunday 2011.
It has been a good decision. Not least because the rent was cheaper, but also because of the relationships we have been able to build with teachers, support staff and students. This week, saying goodbye to year six, it was children I have known all their school life.
In 2014, aware that the next step in the life of our church might be momentous we gave a whole year to seeking the Lord’s will. We prayed. We met communally. We discussed.
We saw a new direction. A clear call to seek full independence as a church and also to free up our Backwell folk one Sunday a month to worship where they lived and amongst their own community. Andy’s congregation/church was born. Trendlewood became independent on 1/1/17.
Two years ago we finished a long series in Acts.
We said, at that time, that the journey of the gospel is unstoppable but uncomfortable.
Luke introduced us to the way shattered and broken disciples were emboldened with the news that Jesus, the one they had followed, was alive beyond death and filled with a supernatural outpouring of spiritual power which enabled them to take incredible risks to tell people their stories.
One passage stuck with me and I want to revisit it.
Let’s go back to the passage in Acts we had as our reading today.
It is a central passage. How do we discern the spirit’s guidance to go or do anything?
Do I stay until the Lord says go? Or go until the Lord says stop?
Look at vv6-10 again
Even after all the apparent direction from the Holy Spirit, stopping some journeys and beckoning on others, it was still something that needed a conclusion (v10).
In Macedonia we reach Philippi.
Paul wrote a letter to the Philippian Christians later, after the church was planted and founded. Let me read you a bit (4:14-16).
Paul was directed to a wealthy woman because wealth was going to be necessary to keep the gentile mission going.
Being sensitive to the Spirit is not just about who or what to pray for. It is about what to do with everything we own in every area of our lives. For this passage tells us that God is working to a bigger plan, and on a bigger scale, with more complex detail, than we can ever imagine or dream.
From time to time people suggest that we need to have a more spirit-filled church. I hope the stories of our journey and Paul’s tell you that we are already. What would it look like if the spirit was at work in this place. Like this. Because the spirit is at work in this place.
This passage has little reference to Jesus. In fact the only one is where in v7 the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of Jesus. But the central act of Jesus’ life, his death in Jerusalem and the subsequent news of his resurrection, is what informs Paul and his team. Paul has had his life turned round by an encounter with Jesus.
Over the autumn I want us to be able to assemble the sometimes contradictory parts of our story together:
The dreams and the visions
The prophecy and the common sense
The casual conversation and the theological insight
The local knowledge and the bigger picture
The needs that can only be met by paying out money and our own gifts and skills
In our Bibles God asks of his prophets two key questions:
What do you see? (In our passage – a man from Macedonia?)
What have you got in your hands? (In our passage a woman with purple cloth?)
By Christmas I hope we can draw some conclusion together about the next bit of our journey.
Already the Trendlewood Church Council have done a bit of talking and paying and we think we see two clear strands:
Building up our personal discipleship
Increasing service of our community
(They are not contradictory; one should lead to the other)
Since I have been here we have had our church’s 18th, 21st and 25th birthdays. Very few ministers have the privilege of working with such regular celebrations. Well guess what? Next year we will be thirty.
Perhaps the social team will take note that Palm Sunday next year should be a party.
But how should we mark it? A woman I know said ‘Why not do thirty great things for the community?
It is my prayer for us all that we see God clearly as we look for him, that we listen to the usually quiet voice in the corner who has a big thing for us to hear, and that we discern the Spirit who may be beckoning us as Paul was beckoned.
Let the conversations commence.