Sunday, 27 December 2015

What about him?

A sermon preached at Guildford Cathedral: St John the Evangelist - 1 John 1; John 21: 19b-end

Call the Midwife, Strictly Come Dancing, Eastenders, Doctor Who: just some of the familiar 'stories' and seasonal 'specials' which have dominated the TV schedules over the last 48 hours. The Christmas Day ratings battle was won by an ongoing saga, described by The Telegraph as a 'posh fantasy'.  Downton Abbey delivered a festive round of 'happy endings'.

A straw poll of my Facebook friends revealed that I'm not alone in not having watched a single episode.  Yet we, the detractors and the indifferent, couldn't escape the comment before, during and after this 'final special episode'.  It's been ridiculously successful example of what one friend called 'fictious nostalgic goo'.

After 6 seasons of class drama, made up of increasingly tenuous sub-plots, Lady Edith got married.

Fans may well be rejoicing at this saccharine conclusion.  But will we talk about it in the same breath as Brideshead or Barchester? Will the witty put downs of the Dowager Duchess become as well rehearsed as lines from Friends or the wisdom of The West Wing?

We'll remember the cultural phenomenon; but there'll soon be a new contender for the top slot on Sunday nights. I doubt that Lord Fellowes will say tomorrow morning: 'many other things Lady Edith did - if everyone of them were dramatised, I suppose the world itself could not contain the DVD box sets that would be produced'.

That said, the curiosity and possible jealousy of Peter's 'what about him?', as he looks back at the Beloved Disciple, might be worthy of Lady Mary's rivalry. Jesus' response sounds like a stinging rebuke; a parental 'never you mind' to a fractious sibling.


Eugène Burnand - The Disciples Peter and John 
Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection (1898)

The exchange between Peter and Jesus about reveals something of human capacity for comparison and resentment; but what is it saying about the nature of our calling as disciples? The text focuses on the Apostle Peter on the day we celebrate John's ministry as an Evangelist; yet by including it, perhaps we are drawn back to the one to whom they both witness. At the heart of this story is the word of life, Jesus himself.

The phrase 'follow me' is on Jesus' lips when he meets the first disciples; he repeats them when he likens himself to the good shepherd, laying dow his life for the sheep.  And now, having overcome death, the risen Lord continues to invite disciples to follow him.

Yet Peter struggles to embrace his calling without asking that honest question 'what about him?'

For each of us, response to God's call in our lives is deeply personal. It's an individual journey taking us into the intimacy of friendship and family life, equipping us to use our gifts and training in business, the public sector, creativity or voluntary  service.  It's a journey that draws us to abide with God in worship and which sends us out, as we walk in God's ways in the world.

We do all this in the company of others.  The person next to you today who offers you a smile, a word encouragement or concern; the person who two, ten, twenty or sixty years ago nurtured you in the faith; the person we've yet to meet who might discern in us gifts that build up and bless others.

The risk of journeying together is that we face the temptation to compete; to want to know what someone else is doing. Sometimes we want to control or direct them; or to envy their particular talent, work or energy.

That's when we hear Jesus' words to Peter: that's not your concern, your job is simply to follow.

No one else can do what you're called to do in his name - embrace that, step by step.

Ultimately, all that is entrusted to us, from the cash in our pocket to our very breath, belongs to God.

Like Peter, we acknowledge our shortcomings and the things that distract us.  Like him,  day by day we place our trust in God's faithfulness and love.  That assurance draws us out of ourselves, into relationship to others. Our following becomes an act of witness.

In word and gesture; in the authenticity of our character; in our capacity to be a little more patient or generous, joyful or kind: the Spirit is at work in us. In the Spirit's power we make manifest the love, light and glory of God, who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

We do that individually. We do that differently. We do that together. We do that in God.

Peter was called to be a rock, a servant leader of God's people. John was called to be a theologian, a story teller in God's world. John outran Peter to the empty tomb; yet, in love, they are both called to follow. They are both called to invite others to become God's beloved.

To be beloved disciples we must abide in God, dwelling in Christ and being inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The words of John are an invitation to that pattern of life.   The founder of the L'Arche community, Jean Vanier writes in his commentary:  'In the Gospel of John, I have come to see that to pray is above all to dwell in Jesus and let Jesus dwell in me. It is not first and foremost to say prayers, but to live in the now of the present moment, in communion with Jesus'.

That deep longing for God answers our human restlessness; that communion with God fulfils our desires; that unity with God and each other becomes the wellspring of our life and love. Two thousand years after John's witness we still declare that God is with us; that we have seen his glory. It takes us beyond fictional happy endings, like Lady Edith's, into costly yet abundant life.

John's retelling of the mystery of the incarnation is intensely particular. It is about the Word which was with God being with us. It is about the identity of the one who says 'I am':  the bread of life; the true vine; the light of the world.

John's declaration of what was from the beginning is also radically inclusive, daring and abundant: we abide with God in the same intimacy of Father and Son because of the power of the Spirit.

Our epistle is an ecstatic, heartfelt  and joyous outpouring of this spiritual fellowship in which we share.

This is the message: God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

This is our calling: to walk in light as he himself is the light.

Here at this Eucharist we acknowledge our shortcomings and hear afresh God's words of forgiveness. Today we hear again that call to follow and receive the assurance that we are beloved. In bread and wine, we are nourished by the word of life; and in response to the final words of our service, we become the tangible and embodied proclamation of God's love.

Jean Vanier expresses our calling in this way: 'My hope and prayer is that we, as faltering followers and friends of Jesus, will continue seeking to dwell in him - just as he seeks to dwell in us. This seeking will challenge each of us to open ourselves to the pain of humanity and to become friends with those who are weak, broken, rejected and in need. Together, I pray we may rise up in the new life promised to all where we will know God'.

© Julie  Gittoes  2015

Monday, 14 December 2015

I'm a stranger here...



"I'm a stranger here and no one sees me", sang Bob Dylan, "nothing matters to me and there's nothing I desire". Except of course, in the longing of his song, an absent 'you' to his 'me'.  In the decades since he wrote Nobody 'Cept You, loneliness has become a significant issue for increasing numbers of us. 

Like Dylan perhaps we seek consolation in relationships: in those we admire or who set our hearts on fire. Perhaps like him, we seek consolation in memories: a familiar hymn or a cherished memory.  Perhaps, as in his lyrics, there's a void: nothing seems sacred, nothing seems worthwhile; everything's changed and feels strange.

This isn't a contemporary phenomenon. The psalmist expresses the sense of pathos: "I lie awake; I am like a lonely bird on the house-top" (Ps 102:7).  Loneliness is a common human experience - fleeting moments, regular intervals or sustained periods. It doesn't correlate with our relational status or our business; or discriminate between those of us who're cup half empty or cup half full people.

Rowan Williams puts it with heartrending, recognisable eloquence: "Loneliness has to do with the sudden clefts we experience in every human relation, the gaps that open up with such stomach-turning unexpectedness. In a brief moment, I and my brother or sister have moved away into a different worlds, and there is no language we can share... It is in the middle of intimacy that the reality of loneliness most dramatically appears" (A Ray of Darkness, p. 121-26).

At Christmas, those "sudden clefts" feel more acute. Christmas adverts promise the perfect celebration - the idyll of togetherness. This year, John Lewis spent millions of pounds acknowledging that often we feel "half the world away" and  inviting us to "show someone they're loved".   

 Image result for john lewis ad 2015

Our responses to others - and the way others reach out to us - go someway to cultivating community and expressing support in tangible ways.  Deciding to "do something" can take us out of ourselves, creating a sense of purpose by giving us something else to focus on.

But: loneliness isn't just a physical, emotional or relational question. It's also a spiritual one.  In the absence of others or when shared language is lost, those gaps might draw us into a different sort of intimacy; intimacy with God.

Such intimacy is rooted in God's desire to to reach out to us in Jesus.  In this season, perhaps we turn to the opening chapter of John's Gospel for a poetic and majestic expression of this love; it's sublime in its intimacy and scale. In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God.

This Word is full of light and light, truth and glory; grace and peace. This Word becomes flesh, coming to us and dwelling with us - even in the depths of our loneliness. Humanity is reconciled in this: the Word who abides close to the Father's heart, abides with us.

He was a nursing infant and a toddler in exile. He learnt a trade in the stability of a home in Nazareth, yet he was without honour there. He was tested in the wilderness and sought refreshing solitude on the hilltop. He was betrayed in a garden by one friend and denied in a courtyard by another.   He cried out in dereliction on the cross, yet in alienation spoke words of forgiveness and acceptance. He was buried in a strangers tomb and drew alongside disciples on a road, sharing his risen life with them in broken bread.

This is the intimacy of God with us: Word made flesh sharing our language in wordless infancy.

This is the intimacy of God with us: the one whose Spirit sighs within us, who is our peace.



©  Julie Gittoes 2015

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Are you the one?

As we reach the Third Sunday of Advent, we remember John the Baptist: the voice from the margins pointing us to the one who is God's Son.




Match.
eHarmony.
Love Struck.
Soulmates.

You don't have to be a pub quiz fiend to work out the connection between them: they're a handful of the dating agencies currently advertising on tube trains and in weekend supplements.  Romantic possibilities are only a click away on Google. Deep within us there is a human longing for love, commitment and intimacy.

Are you the one?

Perhaps seeking a partner has become increasingly commodified - with an online profile pic, witty tagline and  personal information serving as a personal marketing tool.

Mobile dating apps like Tinder speed up the process of judging attraction with a quick left or right swipe across the screen.

The Blind Date section in The Guardian uses a template of questions revealing hopes and expectations, first impressions and awkward moments, marks out of ten and the possibility of meeting again.

Are you the one?
Or
Do I wait for another?

Even the BBC thriller London Spy turns, in part, on a conversation about being the one.  Weighing improbable mathematical odds disrupts a relationship which began in a chance encounter. The code is not broken by map co-ordinates, a complex formula or clues sought in the overwhelming digital life of a city. The code is broken by recollecting a conversation about soulmates.

The one. Or are we to wait for another?

That there is one person who is all that we need in life, one  person who 'completes' us is a myth.  As friends and parents we need to understand the cultural pressures of those we cherish, so that we can support and uphold them.  When it comes to love and heartbreak, being single and being a couple, life is both more complicated than that, and more hopeful.

We don't exist as fragmented souls, but as human beings made in the image of God. We are created for companionship and shared endeavour.  We find intimacy and commitment on multiple levels, within a network of relationships.

We are to be partakers of God's Kingdom -  finding rest for our restless hearts in his love. We are to seek peace in a troubled world, finding our hope in God's purposes. He is the One to whom the prophets direct our attention. In him we live, move and have our being.

Such hope accounts for the urgency of the questioning at the heart Matthew's account of John the Baptist's question to Jesus: Are you the one?  Or are we to wait for another? 

All the people from Judea and Jerusalem flocked out to see John in the wilderness. Now he's in prison - confined, condemned and silenced. He hears rumours. Jesus is teaching, healing and arousing the suspicion of the authorities. Have his hopes been fulfilled? Knowing that perhaps his time for waiting is short, he needs to know Is Jesus the one for whom he prepared the way?

Jesus answers by directing attention to the fruits of his ministry. He's bringing healing, freedom, renewal and wholeness to those who are brokenhearted, bowed down, marginalised and distressed. In him the fullness of God dwells. The activity of God's mercy in Jesus is more than a response to individual repentance or a series of personal transformations.

He is the one who fulfils hopes and gives meaning to communities.  He draws us into a movement that brings renewal which is revealed in changed  lives.  Where there is compassion, patience and altruism in the face of adversity, God's Kingdom breaks in.

Are you the one? Yes
Or are we to wait for another? No.

God's Kingdom is breaking in: we are to play our part in its fulfilment moment by moment, gesture by gesture.

The prophet Isaiah draws us into the depth of longing for God: O that you would tear open the heavens and come down so that the mountains would quake at your presence.

As we cry out 'Lord, have mercy' in the wake of terror, bombings and seemingly random acts of violence, perhaps we too long for direct intervention on the part of God.

As we cry out 'Christ, have mercy' in the face of flooding, illness, pressure and relationship breakdown, perhaps we it feels as we are fading like a leaf.

In all this we are calling upon the name of God in our own words or in the words of psalms and canticles.  In prayer, praise and lament,  we are called back to walk in the ways of God's commandments.  Isaiah foreshadows the consistent repentance proclaimed by John and the Kingdom made manifest by Jesus.

Isaiah's words acknowledge our human frailty and fickleness.  And yet God is not far from us. In our worship, we take the step of turning back to God. We let go of the desire to do things in our own strength. Instead we are to rely on divine mercy.

In Advent, we explore what it means to pray 'thy Kingdom come'. How do we live as faithful members of God's Kingdom now? God is the one who loves justice and who establishes equity. To love him as 'the one' entails our willingness to make his priorities our priorities, for his justice to be seen in our acts.

Jesus reminds the crowds that they went out to the wilderness to see a prophet:  John is not frail or fickle. The consistency and conviction of his commitment to God's Kingdom offers a deeper comfort. The comfort of putting our trust in God.

Are you the one?

John, the prophetic voice from the margins, both proclaims and recognises the fullness of God's Kingdom.  Like him we stand on the cusp of a new age.  The Kingdom Jesus brings is one in which violence is overcome through love; who restores hope through his peace.

Are we to wait for another?

We aren't to live life as if we were the sole arbiters of our destiny; but to turn the Kingdom from ideal to reality through our attentiveness to God.  Dare we seek God's peaceable Kingdom as we move from worship to service?

God is the one who meets our human longing for love: who fulfils our desire for stability, intimacy, commitment, faithfulness.

In Christ, he meets us in our hopes and expectations; he remains constant whatever the vagaries of the impression we make.

Rather than mark us out of ten, he offers to draw near to us moment by moment by the power of his Spirit.

May we be channels of that healing and reconciling love, pointing others to the one who loves us to the end.



©  Julie Gittoes 2015

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Travelling faithfully

Travelling has become big business: glossy newspaper supplements, niche travel agencies, numerous websites, pressure to see and experience places while we still can... popping into Waterstones across the way, we find shelves heaving with with rough guides, lonely planets, books on the best of, must sees, 24  hours in and of course travel memoirs, including Notes from a Small Island.


Written by Bill Bryson, one of the best known travel writers, that book captures insights into our country from the point of view of someone seeing it for the first time. Bryson is a travel enthusiast.  He gets excited by the shampoo left in hotel rooms; he delights in loafing along unfamiliar streets, pausing to contemplate a new vista or venturing into the homely looking restaurant. He admits that he feels a childlike wonder of unknown languages and unusual food. Bryson describes himself as someone who could spend his entire life arriving in a new city each evening. 'There is something about the momentum of travel', he says, 'that makes you want to keep moving, to never stop'.

We might not share his enthusiasm for travelling. For some of us, travel might be the mundane to-ing and fro-ing of our daily lives, shuttling between the people and places we're involved with. For others of us, we might think more naturally of taking a break or visiting a place on holiday - perhaps craving the stability and refreshment of a change of scene rather than the anxiety, tedium and time taken by the actual 'travelling'. The question, 'are we nearly there yet?' isn't only heard on the lips of small children.  Our ability to travel is often constrained by lack of money, concern about our carbon foot print, commitments that demand our time or concerns about our own health.

Nevertheless, all of us find ourselves caught up in the human business of leaving and journeying; finding resting points and destinations.  In this season of Advent, we are acutely aware of the momentum of travelling through a season, of looking forward to something with eager anticipation.  We're aware of the pressures too: of expectations within families and the strains on our budgets; the  shopping, catering, singing, cleaning, decorating. Our waiting is a journey. Perhaps we sigh, 'are we nearly there yet?'

What does it mean to 'travel faithfully' this Advent and beyond?  Walking up the hill, I spotted a sign in a bank offering a product: For Christmas, for new year, for life ahead. That's true of the good news we carry and share on our journey too.Travelling faithfully; travelling full of faith.  What might it mean for us to see ourselves as a pilgrim people? Perhaps there's something we can learn from aids to physical travel that help us keep our attention fixed on God and God's Kingdom, whilst also helping us pay attention to what's going on around us.

Map reading, we're told, is a dying skill.  Satnavs and google maps have taken over.  As a child, I remember being fascinated by Ordinance Survey maps and the road atlas kept in my dad's van. There was a sense of space and scale; familiar place names and sprawling cities. The contours and symbols were fascinating and I had to learn how do decode them. Thanks to GCSE geography and time as RAF cadet, I learnt how use a compass; how to map what I was seeing on paper onto the world.

Paying attention to the detail of what we see. Interpreting what's going on around us. Picking up on the hopes, challenges and expectations of our culture. Noticing what's going on in people's lives. Responding with practical support, friendship, a prayer.  We read the signs of the times - and we act as translators of Gods love. We have to be bi-lingual. Making sense and making connections.

We're travellers. With a map and compass at our disposal - things passed on to us as our inheritance of faith; treasures old and new.  We have our scriptures: biblical texts which tell of the ways in which God communicates his love to us. From the goodness of creation and the gift of creaturely freedom to the heart of the commandments of love; from the prophetic challenge to remember justice and mercy to the psalmist's lament and hope. We have the Gospels' witness to Jesus Christ - the one who is God with us, revealing the breadth and depth of God's love at a wedding in Cana and to a woman at a well; in teaching, healing, suffering, dying and rising the Word made flesh speaks God's love.  We hear of the outpouring of a daring and creative Spirit kindling in us the fire of that same love; fruit of joy, kindness, generosity...

And all that is distilled, expressed, recalled: in creeds and hymns, art and music, prayers and silences, sermons and service, in books and gestures, in bread and wine. In us. The body of Christ.

Bodies need to be fed and cared for; bodies move and interact. If in baptism, we are called by name into this fragile and beautiful body, it is in the Eucharist that we gather to be nourished.  At the Eucharist we are gathered up, drawn into communion with God and one another in touch and taste; and we are sent out.  Dismissed, dispersed into the world.  We walk as pilgrims; as a body.

This map and compass of word and sacrament, along with all our rucksack of inspiration, wisdom and witness of previous generations are not only honest about God. Our map and compass, also reveal to us the complexity of our humanity.  Our stories are woven into God's story along with that of Eve and David, Ruth and Jonah, Peter and Mary, Lydia and Stephen.  There's an honesty about how we get caught up in power;  how our desires get misdirected. There are moments of confusion, betrayal and utter generosity; times of strength, wisdom and energy. And everything in between.

Our map is full of contours and colour; places we won't visit, some where we abide for a while; others we might wish to flee from.  Our map multi-layered. It is both this worldly - actual people and places; real experiences and emotions. It is also a map of God's Kingdom. A Kingdom that breaks into this world; a Kingdom we seek and wait for with patience and longing.

Laying our compass on this keeps us faithful.  It helps us keep our attention fixed on 'north', on the love of God. It's the assurance that we need as we travel, taking unexpected detours or discern the 'what next'.   We're never abandoned: keeping our eyes fixed on Christ, with the Spirit to guide, prompt and sustain, we walk in God's ways.  Rather than ditching the satnav completely, there is a sense in which we are travelling faithfully by aligning all that we are with God's will.  There's trust, purpose and conviction; seeking yo live well. Yet proper attention to God means our faithful travelling is connected to where we are.  We are more than a series of autonomous  pulsing blue dots set buzzing along the A3 or stuck on the one way system, eyes fixed on a screen.

Our horizon is bigger: God's love and the hope that all things will be drawn together. Our horizon is more intimate: the person next to you, the lunch we'll share, what happens when we leave this place.

Our travelling faithful might be an arduous journey; it might be exhilarating. Our faithfulness might mean we travel light; paying attention perhaps to the intensity of now.

This Advent, as always, we travel faithfully with those we remember as we light candles on our wreath.



  

We remember Abraham and Sarah: who responded to God's call as stepped out into the unknown. May we be granted their strength as we hold onto God's promises in our leave taking, in arduous journeying or when the destination is uncertain.

We remember the prophets: who challenged people to return to God's ways, restoring a vision of loving-kindness and justice as exile and at times of complacency. May we have the courage to speak words of hope with both passion and compassion to those who're displaced and seeking refuge; to the comfortable and powerful.

We remember John the Baptist: was called into the expanse of the wilderness and the confines of the prison as he pointed others to Christ. May we also prepare the way for others by living lives that are distinctive 'sign posts' for God love.

We remember Mary: who responded to God's call with trust, joy and humility, who left her home, sheltered in a stable and sought refugee in a foreign land. May we too be God-bearers in our homes and communities, and continue to ponder the mystery of God's love.

As we travel faithfully, we pay deep attention to the contours of our world and the cries of the people around us; we pay deep attention to the love of God and his will for us. With our map and compass, we are rooted in prayer and reshaped in Christ-like relationships; may we become ambassadors of reconciliation.  In the power of the Spirit, let us witness to the love of God made manifest in the crying of the Christ-Child

That is good news for our generation.




©  Julie Gittoes 2015

Sunday, 6 December 2015

He will come... to bring life

We are waiting.

He will come.

The Word made flesh.

All things came into being through him and without him not one thing was made.  Amidst the richness of John's words we glimpse the Word: light, hope, grace and truth.

In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

That life was known in his infancy: crying, disruptive, demanding our attention.
That life is promised to us in abundance: as he lays down his life for us.

John 10:10. I remember my bishop teaching us that reference in a school assembly about assurance and hope. There was clarity and purpose; a call to relationship, growth and fruitfulness.

John 10:10 is more than words. It is an expression of God's Kingdom.

It's an expression of assurance and a mandate to love: to love God, love others and to love words. Or, in terms of Archbishop Justin's priorities, it's a call to prayer, reconciliation and witness.

We have been entrusted with good news; it's compelling, attractive and radical. It demands attention to God - and the expectation that those who hear it might wish to hear more.  We're inviting people to choose life.

'It's my life': isn't a phrase restricted to tempestuous teenage years as we renegotiate relationships, push against boundaries and figure out what it is we want to do, or who we are.

In the public life of our communities, in the intimacy marriages and the diversity of friendships; in how we spend our time, our money and our resources our culture prizes personal autonomy. In the face of deteriorating health and death itself, 'it's my life' is corrosive.

Rather than hermetically sealed autonomy, we invite others into communion, human and divine.

Amidst disordered desires, we name the freedom of life in Christ.

In the face of self-absorption, we pray that the Spirit will kindle the fire of his love.

John 10:11 doesn't role off the tongue in the same way but it takes us to the heart of the cost of this fullness of life.  That cost is there in Chris Gollon's 'Virgin and Child'.  In the arms of a young woman we see a child who looks at us with a stead gaze; with a depth of love; with a startling maturity.  Mary holds him as if already preparing to let him go.


  
Virgin and Child - Chris Gollon (2014)

This is love, actually: a love that brings both judgement and mercy. Jesus gives us all we need to live: he calls us into openness to God, recognising our faults and seeking forgiveness. He says to a baying crowd, whoever is without sin cast the first stone; he says to an accused woman go and sin no more.

This love is cruciform; love that reconciles the world to God.  The love of a servant king, who brings healing as he is lifted up on the cross; who says "Father, forgive" in the face of sin, alienation and death. Such love is our plumb line; it's a different sort of measure - a Gospel metric, the paradoxical letting go of life that leads to abundance.

The good shepherd is leading us to oneness with God.  But to abide in his life and love is also a calling to grow in responsibility to others in service and witness.   Such spiritual maturity is at the heart of our Common Purpose.  It's a radical way of life; it's costly.

Perhaps in our common life, it feels as if the CofE is buffering. Dare we wait without anxiety on God? Dare we seek his kingdom with a patient impatience?

Our waiting together today raises questions of mission and unity; truth and holiness.

He will come as child. He will come to bring life.

Abundant life demands servant leadership. There's an urgency to our call.

Will we who are in Christ open ourselves to the renewing, reforming Spirit?

A headline in The Guardian reads: We need the Church of England more than ever. That's why we need it to die.  Describing the CofE as the 'NHS of the soul', Peter Ormerod commends our social engagement whilst noting collective estrangement from the gospel. He asks: have we muted our world changing message in a generation craving 'something they can relate to and be nourished by'?

If Christ is the light of the world - the source of hope, forgiveness, love and joy - we cannot as Father Raniero said in his sermon at General Synod, be unconcerned that 'the majority of people around us live and die as if He had never existed'.

This time of waiting is an opportunity to draw near to the one who promises abundant life.  We are invited to put our love for Jesus Christ centre stage, even in the face of disagreement. This is for our own sake - but also for the sake of the world.  The words of Father Raniero again: 'The Word of God, once it is proclaimed, remains forever alive; it transcends situations and centuries, each time casting new light.'

Our calling is to witness in the power of the Spirit to the love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ. He teaches us to live and love: to give all that we are.

In our daily lives - in our work, our prayer, our leadership and friendships Jesus is present. In moments of exhilaration and times of loneliness, Jesus is with us.  He's with us calling us to grow in faith and love. He calls us to follow him - to follow his example.

How might our discipleship, our leadership offer a model for forgiveness? Do we draw others into communion, to greater maturity, compassion and acceptance?

We all have need of each other in prayer, reconciliation and witness.  For our shepherding has as its source, and as its goal, communion with God. Our shepherding leads us into life and truth.

Trusting in God, means risking our life - letting go of all that holds us back from sharing his love.

We are invited to grow as ministers of the Gospel in a church called to renewal: in holiness, self-giving, fearless witness.  It's a responsibility that leads us where we may not wish to go. Like Peter, we are both penitent and restored; we face death and receive life.  As we wait, for his coming like child, we face one question, in silence of hearts. As we wait for his coming to bring life, we are offered a commission in public witness. Let's hear those words afresh:

Do you love me?

Do you love me?

Do you love me?

Feed lambs. Tend sheep. Feed sheep.

Follow me.



©  Julie Gittoes  2015