Who we are and how we are matters.
A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley
by Andrew McKearney on 15 March 2020
One of the things that characterises our society is a loss of community, an increase in loneliness and a lack of trust. It’s a picture I suspect we’re familiar with. What the current crisis over the coronavirus shows us is how completely dependent we are on each other!
Here at St Mary’s we’re called to be a church community, Christ’s body, and we realise all the more just how precious this is. The church has always offered and will always offer a sense of community and belonging. How we do that nowas we face this crisis, and how we do that over the long-term in such an individualistic society, that’s the challenge!
Being the church is part of the way that we live out the gospel. The gospel is not just a spiritual message important as that is; but the message is embodied in a community of people who form the church – us!
That’s why it’s so tragic when things go wrong in the church and trust is broken.
Who we are and how we are matters.
Think of the disciples that Jesus gathered round him. When they left their nets they joined with others and spent the next three years together.
They walked the highways of Galilee, slept out under the stars and in people’s homes, argued with each other about which of them was the greatest, talked, ate and prayed together. This morning we learnt that they even went shopping together!
So important is this little community that in Matthew’s gospel Jesus promises that ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’ (18.20)
The most obvious aspect of any church is the congregationgathered for public worship, to read the bible, to celebrate the sacraments and to pray. We’ll continue to do this for as long as we’re able.
Then alongside our congregational life we each seek to live out our faith in our daily lives, practicing for ourselves those life-giving disciplines of prayer and bible reading, acts of mercy, generosity and kindness. With social distancing and self-isolation it’s all the more apparent just how important our own practice is. We may have to suspend our life together as a congregation – we just don’t know yet – but we won’t have to suspend those disciplines that sustain our own lives as Christians.
Then in between our own Christian lives and the larger life of the congregation, lies the life of those small groupswhere, like the disciples, we too can talk together, eat and pray together in people’s homes and, as may soon become important, go shopping for each other!
There are nine small groups that meet in and around St Mary’s all detailed on the leaflet that was distributed both last week and this week.
And I’ve asked each of these small groups to discuss whether to stop meeting for the time being and if so to think about how you can stay in touch to support and encourage each other – because that’s what these small groups do so effectively.
You help to foster a sense of belonging and commitment – you develop and deepen the Christian faith of your members – and you do this in a variety of ways.
Four of the groups focus on worship and prayer. There are two discussion groups, one that reads poetry together and the other a theological book. Finally there are three Home Groups and they offer a variety of bible study, discussion, fellowship, meals and prayer.
Over in the hall afterwards there’ll be an opportunity to talk to some of the members of these groups and ask any questions that you may have. Are you interested in joiningone of these groups? Do you want to suggest something new? We would love to hear from you so please have a word with anyone in the Ministry Team here.
And we do have some plans though any plans may have to be put on hold – I’m sure we’re all doing this with our own diaries at the moment!
Whether you’ve been with us a day or a decade, we would love to run a short four-week series for anyone who wantsto take another step in your involvement here at St Mary’s! It’s an opportunity to learn more about what makes us tick!We’re calling it ‘This is St Mary’s’.
And on the back of the leaflet you’ll see that Bishop Humphrey hopes to be with us to hold a Confirmation Service in June. There’ll be a group of young people and it would be lovely if there was also a separate group of adults, all preparing to be confirmed.
As I said earlier who we are and how we are matters.
Bishop Olivia, our new Bishop of Reading, has suggested four important things about how we are now:• Calm – because the opposite will lead us to do things that might impact seriously on others.• Caring – those who self-isolate need to know that we care about them.• Considerate – looking out for one another because it isn’t just about me, it’s about us.• And finally Christ-like.
Let’s live hopefully, love generously, pray earnestly – and let’s bless each other by the way we behave.