Anne Currie
25th May 2014

Paul strode confidently into the church. After his achievements in Antioch, Ephesus and Corinth, coming to the small town of Redhill seemed not to be too much of a problem.

He’d done his homework, read the annual report, delved into the Parish Directory, and perused all the leaflets at the back of the church. read the PCC minutes and the accounts! Finally the moment came and he stepped into the pulpit to deliver his talk.

“People of St. Matthew’s, I have read your annual report and looked carefully at your noticeboards. I see how extremely busy you are, involved in mission in every way…. and in this I am reminded of my visit to the Athenians, For they were also very busy, indulging in their passion for exploring religions and worship and philosophies of every kind.

As I made my way around their city I found their altar to the unknown God, a space for a new god or religion and I proclaimed this truth to them, that this space was indeed a window for them to see through clearly. That this unknown God of which they spoke was really the one true God, the creator, the father, Lord of heaven and earth.

People of St Matthew’s… where is your window, where in all your busyness do you meet and communicate with the one who created the heavens, the earth and you.

Are you like the city of Athens…. full of altars to Foodbanks, Concerts, Coffee, and a mission development plan that just gets longer and longer! Are you losing sight of your vision and mission?”

In the stunned silence, one person in the congregation stood up and challenged him….. which was a bit of a shock to Paul…. he was well used to people listening, reading his letters, taking his advice – but how often did they ever question it! He wasn’t used to being challenged in full flood so to speak!

So upstood the lone speaker:-

“Well I’ve got news for you St. Paul……. we’ve got a window… in fact it’s a whole glass sliding wall and it stretches from Easter to Pentecost! And at our window we’re praying and we’re thinking and we’re looking at our whole church community inside and out reflected in its glass… And we’re praying that the advocate that Christ left us, the Holy Spirit, will work through us and show us what our way forward should be!”

And that’s exactly where we are at the moment, a good way along the road to Pentecost, wondering where is it that we should go… what is it that God wants us to do….. where have we got to in our quest to write the 29th chapter of St Matthew’s story? What will the celebration of the Holy Sprit’s arrival mean for St. Matthew’s this year?

It may well seem that we have any number of activities happening inside our church, the Annual Report is full of such items. But, it is good, every so often to take a long hard look at, and spend time in reflection and prayer about, all that makes up this thing we call St. Matthew’s, the church, the community, the individuals; and not just inside these four walls. For Christ never worked inside four walls, he was always out and about amongst the community, listening and doing.

So this time of reflection needs also to take in, where does our church sit in relation to its surroundings? Does what we offer, what we do, have an impact outside our four walls? We know that some of it does… Food bank, Street Pastors to name but two. But where else might we be needed?

As you leave the church today, you will be handed an invitation, a letter. It contains two invitations really. One is an invitation to come along to the gifting day on 21st June. to see what is planned for upgrading our church hall. Our hall is a huge resource in outreach for our church. The numbers of groups who use it are diverse and numerous. But it’s looking it’s age and needs some revamping. So if you come along you can have a look at the plans and hopefully, if you are able, leave a donation.

But what we really hope is that you will come along in the morning of that day. For that day will be the culmination of this whole time of prayer and reflection between Easter and Pentecost, when we bring along the results of our thinking and praying.

Come and spend just two and a half hours with Rev. Sue Weakley, who is part of the Diocesan Mission Action Planning Team, who will guide us through a further thinking process.

It’ll be small group work rather than sitting and listening to just one person and filling out a form at the end! And there won’t be people there with clipboards to sign you up to do things.

What it is, is your chance to say what you think! What’s good, what’s not so good, perhaps this needs changing or that needs a tweak; or maybe even can we have more of that and less of this? And at the end of the meeting when we put it all together – via many post it notes – we’ll have a whole wall of ideas and suggestions, and Rev’d Sue will help us all to whittle these down to manageable numbers to begin to formulate our future plans for MATT29.

If you haven’t heard about MATT29 it’s short for our Mission Action Planning Project which all churches in the diocese have to carry out. Bit like an audit really, but with a lot of prayer to help it along.

We’re not looking to change our tradition of worship, or to throw away all the good things we do at the moment. But maybe some things need a facelift, a new breath of life.

And it will not work without the participation of all the congregation! Everyone’s opinion is important, from the youngest to the most senior in our congregation. Whether you come once a month or every week, to the 8am on a Sunday or the 1pm on a Tuesday. So I urge you – can you give just two and a half hours out of a whole year full of 8760 hours?

Paul’s sermon to the Athenians and Jesus’ words to the disciples at the Last Supper are telling us of how we as a church can sit within our community. Pauls sermon illustrates how it is important to put the gospel into the language of your audience. Paul is in Greece, particularly in Athens, and there is no use of him talking about the gospel in the context and culture of Jewish everyday life, they just won’t get it! So he adapts his words to his audience. He uses his time there to study and understand their cultural assumptions and icons. He talks to them about their religious life, their art, their love of philosophy.

This is something that we will be doing as part of the MATT29 project. No…. not nipping off to Athens, but sticking our heads outside those big black doors! Rev Sharon will be obtaining a large street map of our parish, and during the season of Trinity – which is through the summer and into the autumn, we want to flesh it out with what we know about our parish.

So we’ll be asking everyone to give information, take photos, annotate. And we will be building a picture of what it all really looks like outside these four walls. More from Rev. Sharon on that at a later date.

Jesus told his disciples that he will leave us with the advocate, the holy spirit, to be with us forever, wherever we go.

This promise of the spirit is a gift. It’s not something which either we or the disciples have had to earn, and it is a gift which calls us to keep his great command by loving one another.

Whether it is a personal love (the spirit of love that calls us to share with one another) or a communal one (expressing love and support for others in a tangible way). The message of Christ in today’s gospel reading is one of God’s love through Christ, the presence of the holy spirit for all, and his call to us to reach out in love to a world which is suffering in so many ways – from either a lack of love, or love of the wrong things.

One way of manifesting that love is through what we do as a community, how we are ‘the church’, how others see us from outside our stone walls. So please share with us in our enthusiasm for the MATT29 project, please come along to the meeting on the 21st, the whole family is welcome.

Let us as one body, turn our stone walls into glass, that our church may be a window by which god’s love and Christ’s gospel may freely enter the world.

Acts 17.22-31
John 14.15-21