In three days you’ll all be opening your Christmas presents. Do you know what you’re getting? Have you been dropping hints? Or are you leaving it all to chance and hoping that you’ll get something you actually want, or at least that you can genuinely say is a nice surprise? Because the problem with Christmas presents isn’t just that you can’t always get what you want but that too often you do get what you really don’t want!
Christmas will soon be over. And we’ll be counting the cost of all those unwanted Christmas gifts.
A few years back I bought the most beautiful, religious Advent Calendar I had ever had. It was a crib scene in the style of the old masters – no Santa Claus and elves and definitely no chocolate. This Advent Calendar would, I was sure, keep me focused on what Advent was really about.
But when I opened the first window, I was dismayed to see on the inside of the window the words 24 days to go. My lovely religious Advent Calendar was to be my count down, moving relentlessly on, not quite saying 24 shopping days to Christmas, but certainly reminding me daily of those words we hear so often. It ended up being the most depressing Advent Calendar I had ever had – 12 days to go, 11 days to go, 10 days to go – it was just a relentless reminder of how many days I had left to do everything on my list. As a child this count down to Christmas was so exciting and it went so slowly. Now the count down just whizzes by and the 24 days fly past in a whirl. Such is the effect of ageing.
There’s always someone, it seems, who believes that they know
when the end of the world is coming! All kinds of predictions have been made
down the centuries about when the end of the world as we know it was coming,
only for nothing to happen.
Take Ronald Weinland, for example. Ronald Weinland is the head of a Christian denomination with the rather long title: Church of God, Preparing for the Kingdom of God. He founded it in 1998 in the United States. So much easier to just be able to say you’re a member of the Church of England. Weinland started predicting that the end of the world was due at any moment in 2008. And then declared that Christ would return and the end of the world would come on the feast of Pentecost in the year 2012.
When that didn’t happen, he changed his prophecy of the end of the world to Pentecost 2013. When that didn’t happen, he then prophesied that the end of the world would happen at Pentecost 2019. Yes – you, like me, may have noticed something of a pattern emerging here. Weinland hasn’t yet got it right yet. Of course, Weinland’s credibility with his fellow church members may have been somewhat undermined by the fact that in 2013 he was imprisoned for 3½ years for tax evasion – something he apparently didn’t see coming.
Last year we all, our community and the country, made such an effort for Remembrance. The 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War saw us uniting to remember those millions who died, and especially those who died from this community of Caterham. The ghostly figures of the “here but not here” installation appeared in church for the first time and we made the wonderful poppy display which we have been able to use again. These acts of commemoration of the centenary of that war will be used for years to come.
We all follow Jesus. And at St John’s over the last three Sundays, we have been exploring our Mission Statement and particularly the three words which form our action points as, as a Church, we work out what it means to follow Jesus each day. Our mission statement is … I’m not expecting anyone to know it off by heart, but it is: St John’s is called by God to be his people through faith in Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit: Worshipping – Growing – Serving. Having previously thought about those three words, our final sermon this week is called: We are a Jesus community – and as this Sunday was All Saints Sunday it’s a particularly appropriate theme for the week.
A quick recap. Here at St John’s over the last two Sundays, today and next Sunday, we are exploring in more detail our Mission Statement and particularly the three words which form our action points.
Our mission statement is … I’m not expecting anyone to know it off by heart, but it is: St John’s is called by God to be his people through faith in Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit: Worshipping – Growing – Serving.
We have already explored Worshipping and Growing in the sermon slot on the last two Sundays. If you missed either of those, they are up on our website for you to read. Today we are exploring “Serving” – what it might mean to be a serving community.
I realise many of you will find this hard to believe, but I was a very well-behaved child. Despite that, I learnt from a very early age that my mother would often ask questions when she thought I wasn’t behaving as she would wish – questions which, however much I felt deserved an answer, I knew would result in her wrath if I tried to give one. Questions like: Am I talking to a brick wall? Are you deaf or something? How many times do I have to tell you? What did your last servant die of? Do you think I’m made of money?
And then – well all else had failed – as a last resort she would come
out with: Why don’t you just grow up! Bit
difficult really, when you’re only ten years old, but I was old enough to know
that telling her that was not going to get me anywhere or help the situation!