Tuesday, 8 February 2011

GENEral Thoughts: 2011 St Barnabas Annual Meeting of Parishioners

For the past few weeks Jude and I have been watching Monarch of the Glen on DVD. We get them from the library. It’s about Archie McDonald, a young man who, with great reluctance, has to take on the responsibility of being Laird of Glenbogle, a beautiful Scottish highland estate with a long and illustrious history. As Laird, his responsibility is to somehow turn things around and make the estate economically viable. The challenge is, times have changed. The “big house” is beautiful, but old and showing signs of wear. Upkeep is expensive. To complicate that, he has to work with a community of very eccentric family and staff in which relationships are volatile and complicated.

Laird Archie keeps trying to make it viable by turning it into a business. But Glenbogle is not a business, it’s more complicated than that. It’s a home; home to a family, a clan and a tribe with a long history. Glenbogle also represents a way of life and a set of values. The family and the way of life has roots which go down deep into the heart of the highlands, the place where they were planted.

Archie’s single-handed attempts to make Glenbogle “work” keep foundering on the eccentricities and complicated relationships of his family and staff and also on the economic realities of the world and banks and money.

Now, I’m certainly not the “Laird” of St Barnabas. But I think sometimes that some of you would like me to be, so I can “fix” St Barnabas for you. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I’ve bought into that. For example, every year up to now at these annual meetings, I’ve talked about noses and nickels and tried to say something galvanizing and inspiring—something that will make transformation happen. But, for the most part, we continue as we were. It’s not that good things don’t happen. They do. Very good things. But slowly. More slowly than I and some of you would like, perhaps, but good things continue to grow here.

St Barnabas is like Glenbogle. It’s complicated. It’s old (by Alberta standards). We have a history. Our building is like the Glenbogle “big house,” beautiful, but not practical—built in a different age. Our family is complicated—full of affection, loyalty, and courtesy—also eccentricities and tensions, joys and sorrows, encouragement and disappointments. We stand for a way of life and a set of values. We have roots that go back thousands of years and are also deep right here where we are planted.

So rather than give you any of my own bright ideas, I’m simply going to remind you of some things we heard in the Scripture readings and from Ken Gair’s message yesterday about what my job is and what our mission together ought to be:
Isaiah 58:10–12 (NIV84) and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations. 
1 Corinthians 2:1–5 (NIV84) When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
I want you to see that what’s really important for me and you; for St Barnabas. More important than cleverness, eloquence and wise, persuasive words is God’s power being released in us for mission and ministry through the Laird of Lairds, Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Although we need to be wise with money and administration and planning; like Glenbogle, we are not just a business.
1 Corinthians 2:6 (NIV84) We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
If you and I try and be wise with just the wisdom of this age we will come to nothing. We are more complicated and interesting and full of life than that.
1 Corinthians 2:12–14 (NIV84) We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
From the world’s point of view much of what we believe, say and do is foolish. Like Glenbogle, we’re seen as impractical, out-of-date, difficult. We’re foolish to believe in Jesus, this family and what it stands for.

But in Jesus, God has freely given us a spiritual truth so compelling and powerful that it can transcend our “foolish” beliefs and complications and make us into something which can change the world and make it better.
Matthew 5:13 (NIV84) “You are the salt of the earth.”
As Ken said yesterday, salt gives zest to things and makes them tasty. Salt preserves things and prevents rot and decay. Salt heals wounds. Jesus says we are the salt of the earth. May our discussion and the decisions we make this evening make our saltiness just right.
Matthew 5:14 (NIV84) “You are the light of the world.”
Also as Ken asked yesterday, are our curtains back so the light of Jesus is brightly shining into the lives of those around us? May our discussion and the decisions we make this evening make our light so shine that not only will we be kept safe from the darkness around us but also those who see that light in us will come and find safety for themselves and their families in Jesus.

May the fruit of this meeting be
  1. More of ourselves spent for those in need (Isa 58:10)
  2. More of God’s power released in us through Jesus and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2)
  3. Tastier salt and brighter light for a world full of bland spiritual food, hurt and darkness (Mt 5:13-14)