Earlier in January I had the privilege to attend the licensing of the Revd Paul Clarke as the Rector of the Walton and Trimley benefice. It was a joyous occasion to see Paul being formally licensed in the role and to pray for him and the benefice as they begin their ministry together. It was also an occasion where I was able to meet with colleagues and it was special meet up with the vicar who helped train both Paul and me when we were in curacy. It was good to share stories about the past and discuss hopes for the future.
It was also interesting to reflect that, since I arrived in Felixstowe a little under two years ago, there have been two further rectors/vicars who have been welcomed to the town. We as a church in Old Felixstowe Parish make a point of praying for the ministry of all the other churches in town and pray that their ministers may flourish in their time here. It is also interesting to reflect back on the previous two years, but more of that next month.
One of the many blessings of the licensing service was the opportunity to hear Bishop Mike preach on the nature of our calling as followers of Jesus. He spoke about how we all have stories and narratives that inform our lives. Some-times these are positive but sometimes they run counter to God’s story. So often we see our own story in a way that differs from what God says. At times we fail to understand how much God loves us and what he has already done for us in the person of Jesus Christ. We inhabit stories about ourselves that either inflate or belittle ourselves, rather than allow God’s view of us to shape how we react.
St Paul, when writing to the church in Ephesus, prayed for the congregation and as Bishop Mike pointed out, it was interesting to see what he prayed for. It was not success, or rescue from danger, or even church growth, it was in-stead this:
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
His prayer was that those who followed Jesus would grasp and understand a different narrative that is shaped by the love God has for each of us. And this is my prayer for each of us as we journey forward.
I wonder what stories shape your life. How do you see who you are and what you do? Do you allow God’s narrative and image of you to help shape and direct how you live? If you would like to discover more about this, please do be in touch.