Many people would be glad for a one-year anniversary. The day they met their best friend; their wedding day; when they passed their driving test; a niece or nephew’s first birthday; the day they left high school… the list could go on. And in some way or other, they’d want to be saying “Happy Birthday!”
For others, first anniversaries are really tough. The loss of a partner; the onset of an illness; the day they had to have the dog put down. “Happy” is definitely not appropriate.
What about us at St Matthew’s? We’ve passed our first anniversary of John and Basma leaving us for the far North! What does it feel like?
Well, I haven’t seen anyone waving balloons or heard any firecrackers. (You’ll be glad of that, J+B, if you’re reading this.) It’s been longer than we expected to have to wait with no hard news.
But what’s important is this: where are we now?
What have we achieved for God?
What new things have we found or nurtured in our church?
Have we been faithful to God over this year?
Have we been faithful to each other this year?
And what of my own life with Jesus?
Am I closer to him now than I was a year ago?
Have I learned more of what it means to be a disciple this year?
Have I got to know people in St Matthew’s I didn’t know before?
Am I deeply involved in the life of the church?
I’ve been asking myself questions like these, and that’s why I share them with you (as I did briefly a few Sundays ago).
Sometimes, maybe it’s felt easier just to run along in the grooves that are already there, to live within the status quo. Sometimes we’ve had the courage to try something new. Some people have taken on lots of extra stuff, or a new task, so that we can continue the ministry we have here.
And that’s the important thing.
It’s not whether we still go to church and do what is expected of us: it’s whether we are engaged in the mission of Jesus in our community here around the church, and in the communities we are part of day by day. We need to be in church on Sundays not because it’s the done thing, but because we need to grow together and help each other to be proactive in our desire to reach our communities for Christ. The writer to the Hebrews put it this way:
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. And he continues: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…
As we have met together over this year, I hope we have been learning more about God and his ways for us and the world, and been encouraged to carry on strongly holding out the story of Jesus in our everyday lives.
We don’t know how much longer we have to wait before we have a full time vicar here, but meantime let’s keep stirring each other up to keep running, not to give up, to strengthen our ties as members of the family of Christ here in St Matthew’s and to welcome and integrate the many who come to us looking for a spiritual home.
Yes—we’ve had a good year. But we pray that this year will be different, as God sends us his person for