Monthly letter from our minister
Each month our minister Simon, or his assistant Hannah, writes the introductory letter to our Church News magazine. The latest letter is reproduced here.
Previous letters can be viewed by following the links below.
Christians these days define them-selves in many different ways - by our denomination (Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, etc), by our theological shade (conservative, progressive, radical, etc) or by our worship preference (traditional, contemporary, choral, etc). Most of these labels of course baffle the society around us, and only seem to reinforce the divisions within the Christian Church. I prefer one of the more ancient descriptions of us, that I think has a bit more breadth - that is -that we are followers of Jesus. Church Members kindly affirmed this description when we agreed our mission statement, which reads,
“As followers of Jesus, we seek to express God’s unconditional love for every person. We will encourage everyone to know God in every aspect of living, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.”
Currently we are running a short sermon series on this statement look-ing in particular at God’s unconditional love (28th January); God with us in every part of life (4th February); and the centrality of Jesus (11th February). During Lent, which begins on 14th February, we will use the Lectionary readings at South Street, to see what they tell us about the first part of the statement - being a follower of Jesus. We hope this will help us to use Lent to reflect on our personal and corporate discipleship.
Being a follower of the Way of Jesus is probably one of the earliest des-criptions of us, and almost certainly goes back to Jesus himself. In Acts 9,Saul goes out looking to arrest any who “belonged to the Way”, and then later on in the book, identifies himself as a follower of the Way of Jesus. Gospel writers speak of those blessed by Jesus, following in his way (see for instance Mark chapter 10).
The description of us as followers of Jesus is an invitation to join him - for his way is something to be followed. It is firstly, an invitation to journey with Jesus, not expecting him to follow where we go, but in faith being ready to step in his footsteps. To be a follower of Jesus is to be prepared to leave behind security and self-interest, and to give ourselves to the cause of unconditional loving, and extravagant hopefulness. We have come to see the church as an historical institution, and the Christian faith as a set of doctrines, or rigid practices. Yet first and foremost, Jesus calls us to a way in which we continue to discover the “always greater Christ”, and the depth and wonder of the hope God is leading us into.
Secondly, the symbol of the Way tells us that, as Christian disciples, we are called to a process. Any journey involves change, as we make the transition from one place to another. We are called to share with Christ in the process of journeying from death into life, and through the giving of himself, to begin the transition from our brokenness into a greater wholeness. The Way for Christ was the way of the cross, where he took upon himself the world’s suffering, that through his Resurrection he could offer release and liberation to all. With Christ, the way we follow is a process of dying to self at the cross, that we might be made new in the Resurrection; this is a process we need to go through repeatedly, as we strive to become more like Jesus.
Finally, the invitation to be a follower of the Way is to be invited into relation-ship. Relationships with our sisters and brothers, who journey with us on the way, but most importantly with Jesus himself. Most importantly, because it is our knowing Jesus that enables us to form selfless, forgiving and loving fellowship with one another. The Way is not simply a process or path; rather it is embodied in Jesus himself, who tells us in John 14.6 that “I am the way”.
At its simplest and yet deepest, being a follower of the Way is to meet Jesus, and allow him to transform our lives. To walk the Way of Jesus is to begin a lifelong journey of discovery; as we meet Jesus, learn who he is, and allow him to truly mean something to us. It is to encounter in Jesus, one who comes to define how we see the world, and how we see our lives within it. It is to find in him one who brings into our lives, and the world, the greatest hope, the brightest light and the deepest peace.
As we travel together through Lent, may our prayer be that as followers of the Way of Jesus, we will journey on with Jesus; become more what he intends us to be, and encounter Jesus in our lives and fellowship.