How about being the one charged with mapping a journey – is that something you aspire to do? From those working in government, in businesses, in churches and in the ordinary family chat around the dinner table, we are all involved at some level in deciding how to move things forwards.
This week Rishi Sunak has been tasked in providing a financial roadmap to help us start to build back from the fiscal impact of Covid-19, with the 2021 Budget. Decisions have been made to try to balance supporting the vulnerable and to enable the economy to grow. As ever, when leading groups of people into change, some will not feel especially supported by the decisions made. We’ll all have different opinions. At Morning Prayer on Thursday we particularly prayed for those who might feel left behind by the budget announcement.
Moving out of lockdown, maps and blueprints into new spaces have been very much on my mind. As I mused on the topic of moving forward in my own context of church leadership I naturally turned to see how Jesus called his first disciples. He asked them to make changes to their normal and follow him into a new experience.
In Matthew’s gospel Jesus says to Matthew, “follow me”, and Matthew gets up and follows.
9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ 12 But when he heard this, he said, ‘those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’
Although Jesus’ call is initially compelling the passage shows that Jesus then sat and ate and obviously spent time with his new followers, talking and listening. I reflected further that Jesus’ love is always relational and so as we inch forward to the new we too need this to be as part of a conversation. Dialogue with one another but especially prayer conversation with God will be key in how we take the old and make of it something new.
As we journey from originally what was, or more recently what has been, we need to travel together, in its broadest sense. The motive for decisions has to be one of drawing old and new people together around our worship of God, not leaving people stranded. Notice also how Jesus is constantly expanding his circle of connection as he includes those considered as ‘outsiders’ into his care. He speaks of his mission as being like a doctor who tends to the needs of the sick. This sets our compass of travel – as we work out how we move forward as a church community we must have in our view those who need to know the healing love of God. With love as our motive, even if we cannot please all people all of the time, we will set well our direction of travel.
Thinking back to the budget, how will we start in person worship at our four churches with the resources of money and people and clergy we have to hand? Perhaps in a similar way to the 2021 budget we may need to delve further into our reserves to enable later flourishing. These reserves might be financial, but I’m thinking more about how we will need to reach into our reserves of patience and forgiveness and especially prayer as we discern together our roadmap forwards.
I am excited to see where our journey after God will take us. Jesus takes the old and makes of it something new. God never discards but his love always transforms. My prayer is that we too will see God’s transforming hand at work across our benefice.