I had the privilege to attend a service in Keith on Sunday evening. A good friend, one who I had trained with over the past three years was licensed by the Bishop to operate as a lay reader within the church. The topic of the sermon was what we could learn from Simon and Jude. I wish I’d taken notes. Simon and Jude were two of the apostles. It is said they both preached the Gospel in Mesopotamia and Persia, modern day Iraq and Iran. I would hope that they, like many of my friends were guided there by the Holy Spirit, and knew when they got to their destination that they had arrived in the right place for their ministry.
Long before I began my ministry in Caithness I had a knowing, a burden placed on my heart for Caithness. I already knew that I wanted to minister in some way in this area of Scotland. And I know others who also have this feeling. That God is moving in ways that we don’t quite grasp or understand. So when I was offered the opportunity to work through my curacy in Caithness, I responded positively. Like my friend whose licensing we celebrated on Sunday evening, our ministries entail us going out into the community, sharing the good news of Christ and listening to all who we meet. Over the past three years, we have wrestled with Scripture and had our assignments examined. It is one thing to have one’s academic work scrutinised and marked, but it is another to try to do the pastoral work in the community.
What we do now cannot be graded. It is qualitative, rather than quantitative. Our faith is in someone unseen, who can never be tangibly solid as the person sitting next to you, yet faith is something that each of us works with every single day. Faith is what brings us together. By faith we all pray that the members of this congregation, the church, are a beacon of light into the community. Through faith this congregation has continued to exist. But when faith begins to disappear, for whatever reason, then the faith of the congregation is rocked.
We have an opportunity here, in St Peter’s, to choose where we want to go. Simon and Jude chose to go to modern day Iraq and Iran. I’m not suggesting we all sell our homes and move to another continent, but we do have some choices to make. Choices that begin at an individual level. Our own hearts and minds. Not of the person in front, nor of the person sitting next to us. The process begins by us looking at ourselves and then moves into looking outwards, beyond the confines of the four walls of this building back into the community.
Does our faith rest on who Christ is? And if so are we prepared to move forward as a united congregation in mutual support and love for each other? The writer of the letter to Ephesians states that “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”
There is a rich heritage here in St Peter’s, both in terms of the building and also spiritually, and I for one would be incredibly sad to see the love and effort poured into the life of this congregation over the past number of decades dwindle to a point that is no longer viable. Which is why as a deacon, my role is to go out into the community. It is to minister to those who don’t yet know the love of Christ, while being supported and nourished by this congregation. Simon and Jude would have had similar agreements from the community in Jerusalem before setting out on their journey.
Can we love and support each other? The passage from John’s Gospel takes some reading and digesting, let along understanding. The hostility spoken of in John’s Gospel has been removed through the blood of Christ. He is our peace, and we have been reconciled to him through the cross. For us to be able to live and work together we need to bring ourselves to that moment, that point where we lay ourselves and our own agendas at the foot of the cross and ask that in return we might be able to partner with God in that which he is already doing in this region of Scotland.
Let us take a few moments now in inward inspection of ourselves and what we can leave at the foot of the cross as we prepare to move into prayer and preparation to receive the reserved sacrament.